Leadership Wisconsin Group XVII to Study Water Issues

Written by Linda ZIllmer, Signature Program Group XVII

Inspired and motivated by November’s successful Food Systems seminar held in LaCrosse, Leadership Wisconsin Signature Program Group XVII fellows have been hard at work to deliver a second fellow-planned and fellow-led seminar on Natural Resources in February. This seminar will be held February 21-23, 2018 Stevens Point and will focus on water issues in Wisconsin’s Central Sands.

Our (fellow-identified) seminar learning objectives are to:

  • Better understand the social, economic and environmental implications of regional water use now and in the future.
  • Examine the role of community and personal values in shaping water/land use decisions.
  • Explore successful models or processes for integrating social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable water use.

When the Leadership Wisconsin Board provided Group XVII fellows with the opportunity to pioneer planning and delivery of two in-state seminars, Leadership Wisconsin staff adjusted the July 2017 seminar to cover skills fellows would need to be successful in developing their own programming. Fellows are grateful for the opportunity, support and the tools current and former staff created to organize the seminar planning and delivery process. There is a lot of behind the scenes work and coordination involved with creating an exceptional learning experience.

Working as two separate planning teams to deliver the Food Systems and Natural Resources seminars, Group XVII fellows have applied skills learned throughout their Signature Program experience. Understanding ourselves and others, our values, leadership and followership styles, preferred communication and learning styles, working from strengths, stages of team development, building trust and using our networks have all come in to play.

Asking Powerful Questions and understanding Crucial Conversations are skills especially useful for having dialogue and finding common ground as we explore issues. As part of issue exploration, we also consider issues through the lenses of changing demographics, equity and developing community and economy.

Group XVII has been using communications tools to connect throughout our Signature Program, from orientation, to self-directed team exploration of state and national policy in our areas of passion, to fellow-led seminar planning. Google Hangout supports planning calls. Google+ Community allows link sharing and commenting on skills and issues topics. Google Drive is a place to organize and share Google Docs. Google Docs allows collaboration and document sharing to create and edit planning and seminar materials. Many of us had not used all these applications prior to the Signature Program. Fellows and staff have supported each other through the learning curves and we have come a long way since August, 2016!

With all these skills and tools under our belt, the team planning the Natural Resources – Water seminar are excited about our agenda, and the opportunity for others to participate with us. Here is a preview to whet your appetite.

Bill Berry, writer, editor, communications specialist, contributor to The Capital Times and author of Banning DDT: How Citizen Activists in Wisconsin Led the Way will lay the groundwork for the seminar and provide broad context on natural resources in Wisconsin. Through navigating water history in Wisconsin, seminar participants will understand the impact of settlement and development on natural resources, and Wisconsin’s legacy as a leader in conservation efforts and in defining a land ethic. As a contributor to many land use and natural resources initiatives, Berry can provide insight and offer his observations on current trends and perspectives on prospects for the future.

Eric Olson, Director and Lakes Specialist, UW-Extension Lakes at University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, and Jeremy Solin, Wisconsin ThinkWater Coordinator, UWEX will guide seminar participants through an introduction on how systems thinking and meta mapping can be used to tackle wicked problems. Participants will then apply systems thinking and meta mapping to identify the many distinctions, relationships, systems and perspectives represented in the Little Plover River watershed.

Olson and Solin will also share how ThinkWater and Wisconsin’s own WaterThinkers are engaging others in water issues.

ThinkWater is a national campaign supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help people of all backgrounds and ages think and care deeply about water. It does so by applying systems thinking to existing water education and research efforts and by actively engaging people in a new way around water issues.

As the flagship state for ThinkWater implementation, Wisconsin is innovating, piloting, and researching new strategies and compiling resources and research to share with other states, regions, Tribal Nations, and territories in the United States. Primary components of ThinkWater implementation thus far include the Wisconsin ThinkWater School and the Wisconsin Water Thinkers Network, along with multiple overlapping outreach and professional development efforts engaging small and large groups and institutions throughout the state

Throughout the seminar, participants will engage in hands-on activities and continue to refine the systems mapping to reflect what they learn about balancing land and water uses and as their understanding of the issues and stakeholders’ perspectives evolves. Stakeholders representing producers, industry, municipalities, lakeshore owners, educators, scientists and environmentalists will contribute to the second and third day’s activities. We will learn about the organizations they represent and how organizations are networking and aligning to develop solutions for the Little Plover River watershed.

If this sounds interesting to you, watch for upcoming information on how to participate. You can also email us at leadershipwisconsin@ces.uwex.edu to let us know you are interested in learning more about how to join us for a portion of the seminar. Group XVII fellows would be excited for you to learn along with us and share in this experience.

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