Here's what we've been up to lately:

Facilitating the Somerville, MA, Community Forum on Policing  

CBI recently facilitated a public meeting to provide residents of Somerville, MA, with opportunities to voice their thoughts on how to improve relationships with the community’s law enforcement. The meeting was held in the wake of concerns raised by Somerville community members about the actions of some Somerville police officers who aided the Boston Police Department in managing counter-protest efforts at the Straight Pride Parade in Boston last summer. In response to voiced concerns, the city first conducted an investigation into officer actions and generated an after-action report. In the face of lingering community tensions, the city then asked CBI Managing Director Stacie Smith and Senior Associate Toby Berkman to help design a meeting to give residents:

  • an opportunity to share experiences of what it was like to be at the counter protest or any other interactions they've had with the police that they wanted to share,
  • a chance to listen and engage with each other, and
  • a space to develop proposed additional steps the city should be taking to prevent similar situations in the future and improve relationships between residents and law enforcement.

One hundred participants attended the meeting at a local school and CBI generated a Draft Report on Community Feedback, available here. As a result of the dialogue, the city has begun changing local policies and advocating for statewide changes.  In response to concerns about the city’s policies on asset forfeiture (laws allowing police to seize possessions of people accused of crimes), the city agreed to no longer accept funds derived from state-level cases without convictions and committed to dedicating funds from federal asset forfeiture exclusively to programs that divert people from the criminal justice system or provide progressive training for officers. Additional changes include withdrawing from the Department of Defense program providing military grade weapons to local police, instituting steps to build a civilian oversight and advisory structure for the Somerville Police Department, pushing for body cameras, and advocating for a state-level independent prosecutor to investigate and prosecute potentially criminal cases of misconduct by officers.

Photo: Wikimedia/Straight Pride Parade in Boston by GorillaWarfare, CC BY-SA 4.0 (cropped)


Celebrating Orleans, MA, as it Advances its Commitments to Wastewater Management

In 2014-15, Managing Director Stacie Smith worked with the town of Orleans, MA, to build consensus on a hybrid approach to meeting its water quality requirements. The approach included reduced-size sewer footprints and a commitment to maximize the use of non-traditional technologies in the rest of the town, within an adaptive management approach and monitoring framework. At the conclusion of CBI’s engagement in May 2015, residents agreed to the framework and the first phase of work, with unanimous support at town meeting and approval in the town referendum. Since that time, stakeholders who were once at odds have continued to work together to define additional steps and phases of work. On Saturday, June 20, 2020, residents of Orleans, at the town’s annual town meeting (outdoors and sitting physically distanced apart in the blazing hot sun), approved nearly unanimously to fund and approve contracts to begin construction of their downtown sewer system facilities and wastewater treatment plant.

Photo: Wikimedia/ Orleans Town Hall, Orleans, Massachusetts by ToddC4176, CC BY-SA 3.0 (cropped)


Facilitating the Maine Climate Council

Over the past several months, CBI has been facilitating a statewide effort, including large public virtual engagements and working group meetings, to help the recently-formed Maine Climate Council develop a set of recommendations for meeting the state’s new targets for emissions reduction and climate resilience. The state of Maine is facing myriad climate vulnerabilities, including concerns about the future of its forests, fishing industry, and coastal communities. At the same time, youth organizations and other groups are urging the state to demonstrate leadership around reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. In this context, last year, Governor Janet Mills convened the Maine Climate Council to develop specific, locally-appropriate recommendations for climate adaptation and resilience. CBI Senior Mediator David Plumb, with support from Junior Associate Sofia Soto Reyes, is leading a team that is providing facilitation and process design support to the council and its six thematic working groups charged with developing recommendations on energy; transportation; buildings, infrastructure, and housing; coastal and marine issues; natural and working lands; community resiliency, planning, public health, and emergency management.

CBI Senior Mediator David Plumb recently moved back to his hometown of Portland, Maine, and is increasingly working on Maine challenges, such as climate adaptation and mitigation, fishing, and air quality.

Photo: Flickr/ Old Port, Portland, Maine by R Boed, CC BY 2.0


Assessing the Implementation of UNDP’s Social and Environmental Standards

CBI has been working with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to assess the implementation of UNDP's Social and Environmental Standards (SES). In 2015, UNDP began implementing the SES to ensure that UNDP-supported projects and programs meet high standards for human rights (including labor rights and Indigenous peoples' rights), environmental protection (including climate and biodiversity), and community impact (including displacement, cultural heritage, health, safety and livelihoods). To ensure its own accountability for implementing the SES, UNDP also created a global grievance mechanism for local stakeholders who are concerned about social or environmental impacts of UNDP-supported projects, the Stakeholder Response Mechanism (SRM). CBI helped design and now supports the SRM. Since late 2019, CBI has been working with UNDP management and staff around the world to assess the first five years of SES and SRM implementation. CBI Managing Director David Fairman, Senior Mediator David Plumb, and Senior Associate Toby Berkman have talked with staff in UNDP Country Offices around the world and with UNDP regional and global managers about:

  • their experiences assessing social and environmental risks as part of project design;
  • developing, budgeting, and implementing risk management plans; and
  • responding to stakeholder concerns through the SRM.

CBI's initial review found areas for improvement both in UNDP's internal capacities and systems, and in its engagement with national governments and other implementing partners to ensure that they understand and embrace the SES and the SRM as risk management tools. CBI is now supporting a UNDP corporate task force to develop a work plan and budget for strengthening implementation of the SES and SRM, and expects that the plan will be completed in the second half of 2020.

Photo: Flickr/ United Nations Development Programme, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Fostering a Collaborative Approach to Water Quality in the Los Angeles Region

Over the winter, CBI worked with the Los Angeles Regional Water Control Board (LA Water Board) and its stakeholders to assist the Board in developing a consolidated stormwater permit for roughly 100 municipalities in the region. The new permit is designed to support local governments in capturing and cleaning stormwater in innovative, resilient ways on a regional scale, by using the cleaned stormwater for groundwater recharge, domestic water, parks, wetlands, and multiple other green benefits for local communities. Litigation has challenged related permit terms for being too lenient or too onerous, complicating possibilities for dialogue among many of the parties. CBI’s Senior Mediator Ryan Golten was engaged to convene LA Water Board staff, permittees, and stakeholders to explore creative, multi-benefit solutions for the new permit that satisfy diverse stakeholder needs. After interviewing multiple parties, drafting a convening paper, and working with agency and stakeholder representatives to identify key issues, CBI facilitated an all-day workshop of more than 100 permittees, stakeholders, and the LA Water Board in early 2020 to discuss stakeholder interests regarding core aspects of the permit. The LA Water Board incorporated the feedback into its draft permit and hopes to use the process as an example of dialogue and collaboration on which to build in the months ahead.

Photo: Flickr/ Los Angeles River by USFWS Pacific Southwest Region, CC BY 2.0


Strengthening Stakeholder Engagement with the IFC

As the International Finance Corporation (IFC) invests in growing, high-impact emerging markets, there’s greater potential for challenging project-related issues that concern stakeholders. In this context, senior management at IFC sought CBI’s expertise in helping the institution build capacity to be more responsive – both in terms of addressing community and civil society organization complaints proactively and systematically, and de-escalating conflicts where possible. CBI’s four-element framework (Acknowledgment, Agency, Reciprocity, Clarity – or AARC) is underpinned by the belief that understanding and responding proactively to stakeholders' core needs helps to diffuse tensions and open spaces for productive engagement. Using this stakeholder engagement approach, CBI Senior Mediators Merrick Hoben and Michael Brown have already completed four training workshops with the IFC as well as series of case-specific coaching sessions for staff. With the onset of the pandemic, CBI is now being asked to evolve the course into a virtual format with both static and facilitated components that will significantly extend the reach, accessibility and impact of the course to IFC Country Offices and managers across the globe.


Creating a Consensus Playbook for ICANN

CBI West Director and Senior Mediator Gina Bartlett and Senior Associate Toby Berkman have been helping the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) manage multi-stakeholder consensus building processes effectively and efficiently across the organization. ICANN regulates the names and numbers system of the Internet through a consensus-based model involving multiple stakeholder groups. As ICANN has grown and issues have become more challenging, complex, and high-stakes, many of these multi-stakeholder consensus processes have become more difficult. ICANN asked CBI mediators to create a Consensus Playbook to help build capacity for consensus building within the organization. CBI gathered guidance from within the ICANN ecosystem through interviews with long-standing, experienced ICANN leaders who have been members of such processes in the past, dissecting challenges they’ve faced and what has worked for them. ICANN's lessons learned were then integrated with CBI's best practices to create a customized playbook with actionable advice and guidance for all stages of a multi-stakeholder consensus building process.


Developing a Strategic Plan for the Vermont Agency for Agriculture, Food, and Markets

CBI recently completed facilitating the creation of a strategic plan for the Vermont Agency for Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM) Division of Food Safety, Animal Health, and Weights and Measures. The division wanted greater consistency across its sections, to raise the visibility of the division’s work with state leaders, and to fulfill the governor’s request for cogent, clear, and efficient strategies for all state agencies. CBI Senior Mediator Pat Field and Associate Elizabeth Cooper met with and surveyed section managers and staff to elicit feedback on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and visions for the division as a whole as well as for specific sections. CBI then synthesized all inputs received and drafted a strategic plan for the division, complete with a mission statement, tagline, and values statement as well as goals, actions, and metrics at the division and section levels. An infographic was also developed to effectively convey the work of the division and its work.