High Plains Regional Climate Center


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Workshop Report, June 8-9, 2011, Chicago, Illinois


The first step in managing large-scale (national) collaborations and networks is to consider and address how a group and a potential partnership may match up (Luther, 2005). To explore this concept and many other collaborative concepts, the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) hosted a workshop, “Building a Sustainable Network of Drought Communities,” which was facilitated by the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) in Chicago, IL, June 8-9, 2011.

The workshop explored current examples of good communication and lessons learned within the realm of drought planning in order to address a future NIDIS Engaging Preparedness Communities (EPC) working group that is solution-focused and collaborative. With the diversity and experience of the participants at this meeting, a wealth of good practices or lessons learned in drought planning, preparedness, and general stakeholder engagement set the pathway for building a sustainable community of drought practitioners.

In his opening remarks, NIDIS Director Roger Pulwarty noted that adaptive institutions can show robustness in the following ways: Levels of alertness—monitoring the external world for early warning signs that key assumptions are likely to verify/fail and a commitment to rigorous monitoring of performance; Agility—the ability to react to early warning signs of problems or opportunities; flow of knowledge across components, and to adjust strategies and tactics rapidly to meet changes in the environment; and Alignment—the ability to align the whole organization (and partners) to its mission-policies and practices that give rise to failures/successes. Through an interactive workshop format that used Appreciative Inquiry (framing breakout sessions on success), the group was able to effectively discuss topics such as: • Integrating Planning Efforts • Planning Under Uncertainty • Evaluating, Assessing, and Updating Drought Plans • Leveraging Resources for Risk Management • Implementing Plans and Planning Information • Synthesizing Success Stories and Lessons Learned • Creating a Sustainable Network of Drought Professionals

The most common themes resulting from the workshop included: • Importance of networking and collaboration—this is a necessity. Figuring out how to make it seamless is the main goal that the NIDIS EPC Community should foster. Good communication is the key among the drought practitioners and their stakeholders. • Celebrate success—in this future drought network, successes related to drought efforts should be highlighted within the community and to the public. This will help drive future positive interactions and collaborations. It also gives the community a sense of pride. • “Stakeholder Buy-In”—why should stakeholders stay engaged in an ongoing drought community? Especially when there is no drought? Again, good communication and collaborations with other multi-hazard, sustainability, and natural resources planning efforts will help keep drought a priority. • Economic, environmental, and social aspects of planning for drought—these should always be considered. This was a recurrent theme in the workshop. • Planners should not “reinvent the wheel”—planners involved in climate adaptation work can and should reference the best drought planning resources and case studies to help them incorporate drought in their overall planning efforts. • “Have a plan for the plan”—how and who will make it happen? What kind of leadership is needed within the NIDIS EPC community to track its progress and success? • Sharing of resources—as budgets become slimmer, a central location of available resources and the sharing of resources in the area of drought preparedness and mitigation is necessary. Communication regarding these potential resources should also be integrated into this NIDIS EPC community.

Since the occurrence of the workshop, several EPC-related activities have taken place, including a webinar in December 2011. This workshop report and additional EPC updates will be placed on the U.S. Drought portal (www.drought.gov). Currently, the American Planning Association (APA), NIDIS and the NDMC are collaborating to produce a Planning Advisory Service (PAS) Report to connect drought mitigation resources with the planning practices of local, regional, tribal and state governments. This builds on the work of the APA’s Hazard Planning Center, which produced a similar PAS Report (sponsored by FEMA) on how to integrate multi-hazard planning into planning practices. In May 2012: The APA’s drought planning project webpage went live and can be found at: http://www.planning.org/research/drought/index.htm