Institute for Water Resources

Home > Missions > Collaboration and Conflict Resolution > Shared Vision Planning > National Drought Study > National Drought Study - Step 1

Shared Vision Planning

NDS - Step 1 - Building a Team

Decision making should include all affected interest groups.

— Long’s Peak Working Group

(America’s Waters:  A New Era of Sustainability, 1992)

The first step in the Drought Preparedness Study (DPS) method is to assemble a planning team.  Managing Water for Drought expands this step into problem identification, but here we will focus on the concepts behind team building.

 There is a natural, physical integration of water problems in a river basin; the challenge is to assemble a problem solving team that can work with a corresponding wholeness.  The first step in the DPS method was designed to overcome two common shortcomings in water management:  the separation between stakeholders and the problem solving process, and the subdivision of natural resources management by limited agency missions.  Each problem will affect a group of stakeholders and be managed by one or more agencies.  

The underlying concept behind building a team is an approach called “Circles of Influence.”   

Conceptualization of Circles of Influence

Figure 1:  Conceptualization of Circles of Influence

Individuals involved in a DPS can be described as belonging to one of three circles, A through C (Figure 1).  Each successive circle from A through C has broader representation but less personal involvement. If one were to develop a composite of the four DPS’s of the National Drought Study, Circle A managed the study and did most of the actual work. Circle A included the Corps study leader, as well as 2 to 4 others from outside the Corps.  They spoke several times a week, managed contracts, arranged meetings of larger groups, built models, did research, and wrote letters, papers, and reports.

Circle B includes Circle A as well as one representative from each major stakeholder group (such as industrial users). The ideal circle B participant will be active in professional or issues-oriented organizations. They would also be trusted and respected by others whose interests he or she represents. The activity of the participant outside the DPS is important because it takes advantage of existing channels of communication. And if the Circle B participant is trusted and respected, stakeholders outside Circle B will be more willing to support the study despite their decision to be less directly involved in the study.  Circle B members will probably need to meet a few times a year. They may review and revise draft papers from Circle A.

Circle C includes a representative from each major stakeholder group, each management agency and each advocacy group. For the DPSs, Circle C participants numbered from 20 to 60 and met twice a year in fairly formal workshop settings.

 Regional decision makers (agency heads and elected officials) constitute a fourth circle, “D.” During the DPS, they were involved formally at the beginning and end and were kept informed during the study through their study representatives.

 Table 1 illustrates the examples of the types of people that might work in each of the circles of influence.

Table 1: The Types of People that Might Work in each of the Circles of Influence
A B - includes A,
C - includes B,
D: Decision Makers
Agencies Corps, City and State Water Department Staff State Fisheries staff Other Corps, State offices, city water departments Mayor, Governor, Chief of Engineers or authorized designate
Users Hydropower industry staffer One professional from each purpose (e.g., the Hydropower Industry) Technical representatives from all corporate users CEO's Electorate
Advocates Professional citizen representative Environmental Group representative One representative from all relevant environmental groups  
Experts University: Hydrologist/Environmental Engineer/Resource Economist   Political scientists, engineers  

Every stakeholder and decision maker outside Circle A should be connected to Circle A in an identifiable chain. During the DPSs these connections were usually through common work places, related work groups or professional organizations.  The connections were based on a combination of trust and communication.  Individuals who wanted more influence or oversight were free to move into the central circles if they were able to contribute more time to study tasks.

Circles of influence provide a solid conceptual framework for building a team for Shared Vision Planning. Circles of influence can also create new ways for people to interact in situations where existing organizations are too restrictive to deal with water issues in a holistic manner. In such situations people can interact without destroying old organizations or their responsibilities and advantages.