September 17th, 2012

A Phase 2 for the Delta Dialogues?

by

The first phase of the Delta Dialogues consists of five calls and seven monthly in-person meetings, the last of which is scheduled for October 26.

What will come next?

It’s unclear. But participants in the Dialogues have begun discussing a second phase of the process. The desire to go forward was expressed forcefully near the end of the August 24 meeting, when participants said they needed more time to build the shared understanding that is the goal of the dialogues.

It also was the topic of a call among participants the afternoon of August 31. Among the suggestions for Phase 2 were more field trips to important parts of the Delta, so participants can see the places and issues they’re talking about; community workshops that “export” the Dialogues outside the participants; and longer in-person meetings, perhaps even meetings that went beyond just one day.

Participants and facilitators are already working on plans for Phase 2, and are preparing to apply for funding. They seem to be casting a wide net. One of the Dialogues’ facilitators, Eugene Eric Kim of Groupaya, even asked your storyteller’s opinion about Phase 2 on a late-night phone call.

My own answer: Mostly more building along the same lines of dialogue we’ve seen so far. But there are three new things I’d like to see in a Phase 2 of the process.

  1. The first is the presence of some of the researchers and scientists who study the Delta. But I don’t want them there just to study the Dialogues. As we’ve seen throughout the Dialogues, researchers and scientists from places like the Public Policy Institute of California have played a big role in shaping perception of the Delta. And there has been real concern expressed in the process about whether research on the Delta is up to date or whether it is a contributor to misunderstanding in the dialogues. In an important way, the scientific community working in the Delta is a Delta stakeholder. I’d like to see them present and part of the conversation.
  2. The second is that I’d like to see if the Dialogues could find a way to permit journalists other than just me to observe the process, while protecting the ability of participants to speaker freely.
  3. The third is that I’d like to see more detailed discussion of specific solutions to the problem. This is not to say that the Dialogues will produce solutions. But as Dialogues’ facilitator Jeff Conklin explains in his book Dialogue Mapping: Building Shared Understanding of Wicked Problems, the act of searching for a solution is how human beings come to shared understanding of problems. So let’s see stakeholders get into the weeds: How should habitat be restored in the Delta in a way that meets the needs of the various Delta stakeholders? What’s the best path forward to levee protection? How can the needs of water users be met without hurting farmers and fish?

My thoughts, of course, are only suggestions. But as the plans are being put together, now is a good time to offer your ideas if you have them — by contacting participants and facilitators, or by offering them directly on this site.


  • Rogene Reynolds

    I respectfully submit that PPIC has entered the Delta discussion with pre-conceived theories (Delta earthquake vulnerability, for example).  Overall, such “experts” have contributed to MISCONCEPTIONS about this Delta.   Your set of dialogues will be meaningless unless Delta interests can be assured that outside priorities do not take precedence over Delta needs.  If that seems selfish – well perhaps it is.  I believe my Delta heritage and my future should be self-determined, not programed and controlled by profiteers.  Thanks for the opportunity to comment.  Rogene Reynolds, Roberts Island, South Delta.

    • Rebecca_Petzel

      Rogene, really appreciate you sharing your perspective. I just wanted to let you know, as someone who’s been supporting the facilitation of the Delta Dialogues, that these very misconceptions have been a central topic of discussion these past 6 months. We’ve invited someone from the PPIC as a stakeholder to the next meeting in hopes of having a more complete discussion about the impacts and misconceptions that exist across all groups.

      A central theme throughout the process has been around bringing in-Delta interests to the table. We’ve spent a lot of time discussing why that hasn’t happened in the past, and the problems that arose from such exclusion. I cannot speak for all the participants, but there seems to be a strong hope that an outcome of this process will be more in-Delta inclusion in the many processes that affect this important place.

  • http://www.facebook.com/burt.wilson Burt Wilson

    Nothing anyone talks about in the dialogues is relevant unless it is framed in the context of the flow of the water into and the flow of the water out of the Delta Estuary. Anything else is just so much sophisticated BS.

    • Jeff Conklin

      That’s a good clarification, Burt.  Joe’s blog was really all about process — issues in the design of the Phase 2 process, which many practical folks would dismiss as just so much BS.  And it certainly can be, I suppose.  Depends on the intent of the process designers.

      Anyway, flow in and flow out.  Seems like an important principle in organizing Phase 2. Thanks!

  • Radha

    As an interested member of the public, I have been following some of the blog posts on the Delta Dialogues. I heartily agree that research and science must be part of the equation on the Delta conversation; evidence and analysis plays a role in any rich discussion. 
    Regarding the discussion that must have taken place during these dialogues, I am curious to  know exactly how the important issues were discussed. What was the substance and content that resulted from the discussion? Did the innovative meeting strategies mentioned in the blog posts yield a “deep dive” into the issues? How do you know? Ultimately, have these meetings been different from other meetings? How?
    I am also interested to know how the stakeholders were selected at the outset. I see that many state and local agencies comprise the participants, as well as some commercial interests (farmers), and that the stakeholders were chosen to build consistent participation. How representative were the dialogues in the end? Is it possible that some important voices were left out (larger commercial ones, scientific ones, farm workers impacted by the policies, tribes, or others)? 

    I also wonder who facilitated the meetings. I see that the Delta Conservancy hosted the meetings, and in the About section of this site, it says on April 27, “we” kicked off the process. Who is “we”? In a subsequent round of Delta Dialogues, increased transparency on the substance of the conversation that took place, fact and analysis brought into the picture, and a wider spectrum of stakeholders engaged to participate would be useful. And I hope to see evidence of a conversation moving forward on a vital infrastructure issue to our state. 

    • http://eekim.com/ Eugene Eric Kim

      Thanks for posting your thoughts, Radha! Fortunately, Ellen Hanak of PPIC will be joining us at our October meeting next week, and we hope to involve many more from the research and science community if we do a second phase.
      To get a sense of how representative the Dialogues have been, click on the participants page. We started with a list that the Delta Conservancy put together, then we went through a process of mapping the stakeholders with those people. Through that process, we uncovered some gaps, at which point the Delta Conservancy sought out people to fill in the gaps. We know there are some holes, and we will continue to look to fill them, but we feel good overall about representation.

      As for who facilitated the meetings, it’s been a partnership of two consultancies: CogNexus and Groupaya. The reason it’s not on the About page yet is that we haven’t updated that page! So we need to do that!

      Thanks for keeping us on our toes, and thanks for your comments! Hope you’ll continue to engage with us on the blog!