November 3, 2015

The City Upstream and Down

I just returned home from a water convening hosted by the Johnson Foundation at Wingspread in Racine, WI. It was called “The City Upstream and Down: How Integrated Water Resources Management Can Help Cities Manage Water Resources Sustainably.”

The Johnson Foundation has had a long and productive history of hosting convenings to advance smart water policy, and this week’s convening was no exception. They lured several luminaries in the field to share their insights with some of the many urban communities across the U.S. who want to see the benefits of integrated solutions to water management in their own home towns. (See this paper on “One Water” to get a sense of what it might mean for water managers and policy makers.)

We not only listened and learned but we also had a chance to mine the thinking of the group about the challenges we each face and the options for working together with our partners upstream and down to move forward. While there were many learnings from this event, not just one, the central premise appears to be the importance of doing the upfront work of identifying a key issue that will motivate action and developing the collective vision of the community for addressing that issue in a way that will add value for as many people as possible. Easier said than done, of course, but without that collective vision at the outset, it isn’t really possible to move the policy, the funding, and the players to make it happen.

For those of you who didn’t have the good fortune to be in attendance, the agenda and background reading are on the website of the Mayors Innovation Project. Kudos as well to American Rivers, who co-hosted this event, to the Meridian Institute, who facilitated it, and to our co-funders, C.S. Mott and Kresge Foundations.