Collaborative Edge - Summer 2007
A newsletter of the Center for Collaborative Policy Laura Kaplan, Editor
Keys to success: The Ocean Protection Council Strategic Plan Development
Authored by Mary Selkirk
In 2004 the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, signed the California Ocean Protection Act into law. This law created the Ocean Protection Council (Council), a cabinet-level body whose mission was to coordinate and radically improve all of the State’s efforts to restore and preserve California’s priceless coastline and coastal and ocean habitats.
In order to build a roadmap for carrying out the State’s most pressing ocean stewardship priorities, the Council Chair directed the Council Secretary and his staff to develop a five-year strategic plan for the Council. In a highly visible political climate and under a very aggressive timeline starting in January 2006, CCP staff successfully facilitated the development of the Council’s strategic plan. Strategic plans for public agencies are typically developed through an internal staff process. Because of the central importance of the Council’s mission to the Governor, and because of the high value and visibility of California’s coastal environment to all of its citizens, the CCP team advocated for and facilitated an inclusive public involvement to help shape the strategic plan. In less than four months over two hundred internal (agency) and external stakeholders provided their direct input, and the final plan was adopted unanimously by the Council at their meeting in June 2006.
History and Background
The California Ocean Protection Council (the Council) was established with the passage of the California Ocean Protection Act in 2004. The three voting members of the Council are the California Secretary of Resources, the Secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA), and the Chair of the California State Lands Commission (a position that rotates between the State Controller and the Lieutenant Governor). Two ex-officio members represent the State Senate and the State Assembly. The California Coastal Conservancy serves as Secretary to the Council and provides direct staff support.
As described in the legislation, the role of the Council is to:
- Coordinate activities of ocean-related state agencies to improve the effectiveness of state efforts to protect ocean resources within existing fiscal limitations.
- Establish policies to coordinate the collection and sharing of scientific data related to coast and ocean resources between agencies.
- Identify and recommend to the Legislature changes in law.
- Identify and recommend changes in federal law and policy to the Governor and Legislature.
The Council met for the first time in January 2005. By the time of its third meeting in September 2005, the Council was aware that it lacked a clear roadmap for how to carry out its mandate and set ocean priorities for the State. As a result, Council Chair Mike Chrisman directed the Coastal Conservancy to undertake a process to develop a strategic plan for the Council, to be ready for adoption at their June 2006 meeting. The Conservancy retained the Center for Collaborative Policy to lead the effort on behalf of the Council staff.
Working closely with the Council staff over a six-month period, CCP mediators Mary Selkirk and Susan Sherry facilitated a successful process that resulted in a strategic plan that was adopted by the Council on June 8th, 2006 with broad public and agency support. The strategic plan was officially unveiled at the California and the World Oceans Conference in Long Beach on September 18th.
In undertaking this effort, the CCP team faced two main challenges: First, the high political visibility of this Council and the importance of ocean stewardship to the Schwarzenegger Administration meant that it was critical that the strategic planning process be as open and as inclusive as possible. The process had to include both internal (other state agencies) and external stakeholders, including NGOs, private industry, private funders, and local jurisdictions such as ports. State agencies typically do not include such an extensive level of public scrutiny of their strategic planning efforts. Second, the aggressive timeline for the plan development required the sustained commitment of the entire Council staff, and effective facilitation and project management on the part of CCP to meet the necessary deadlines.
Keys to a Successful Outcome
From the CCP staff perspective, the following factors were key to the plan’s successful development:
- Extensive up-front preparation helped ensure an effective launch. CCP was successful in getting the Conservancy to fund the development of a work plan. The CCP team conducted preliminary interviews with Conservancy and Resources Agency leadership, did an extensive background review of the legislation and other relevant materials, and developed a strawman outline for a strategic plan that was the basis for an initial working session with the staff. This initial work session accomplished two objectives:
- Agreement from staff that the plan needed an overarching vision from which all 5-year objectives and actions would tier off. The necessity for this overarching vision was confirmed over the ensuing months, as feedback from many stakeholders emphasized the need for a clear and inspiring vision to carve out the unique role of the Council.
- General agreement on the overall action categories and level of detail to be included in the plan.
Collaborative Plan Development
- The CCP team presented an overall process for developing the plan design at the initial session. The process design called for authorship of the plan by the Council staff, with reviews by all key state agency staff as well as key stakeholders from the non-profit stakeholder and funding communities. Also at this initial work session, the CCP team worked with Council staff to develop their preliminary outline. This outline was subsequently revised repeatedly but its basic features, through many iterations and with substantial public and interagency comments and suggestions, remained very similar to the original design.
- Widening the lens of authentic public participation While initially skeptical, Resources and Conservancy leadership made a commitment to extensive internal and external interviews and public participation in the review and revision of the strategic plan. Over an eight-week period period, CCP mediators and Council staff together interviewed or held focused sessions with the following: all Council members and/or their key staff, senior staff of all contributing state agencies, numerous private industry and foundation representatives, ocean scientists, and dozens of NGO representatives in Northern and Southern California. (A complete list is included in the Strategic Plan, available on the Council website http://resources.ca.gov/copc/strategic_plan.html).
In addition, CCP staff facilitated two public workshops, one in Northern and one in Southern California, attended by close to one hundred people, to solicit specific recommendations on additions, modifications, and deletions to the draft plan. Council staff reviewed all suggested recommendations and feedback from the focus groups and the public workshops. These changes were reflected in the revised draft presented to the Council at their April 2006 meeting. As a result of public input, major changes to the first draft included the development of a strong vision statement and addition/modification of specific actions and specific performance measures for each category of actions. Final changes to the plan were made over the ensuing month by the newly hired Executive Policy Officer with editing assistance.
All of these factors contributed to fostering an atmosphere of collaboration among not only the participating state agencies but among the many NGOs, scientists, and private funders who participated in the plan development. At the June 2006 meeting of the Council, several members of the public who had participated in the plan development praised the Council for providing such a transparent and authentic public planning process. The Council went on at that meeting to unanimously approve the plan. The plan is available on the Ocean Protection Council website, http://resources.ca.gov/copc/strategic_plan.html.
As a collaborative public policy specialist, Ms. Selkirk has fourteen years of experience in environmental policy, with a focus on water and natural resources. Her environmental policy and mediation experience is complemented by twenty-five years in the fields of clinical and organizational psychology and problem solving.