Getting Started: Building Local Partnerships
To maximize the likelihood of success of your planning effort and produce a plan that will get results, some preparatory work is highly desirable. But don't let it hold you up too long in getting started; you might lose your best time/opportunity for success, or lose the energy and commitment of your best partners.
Before watershed planning can begin you will need to assemble a local partnership of concerned individuals, local agencies and organizations who have a stake in the condition of their watershed. You may already have a watershed group, but is it functioning like a planning partnership? First, and probably most important, carefully appraise the composition, strengths and maturity of the group. You may want to add members, or fill gaps where some watershed issue or a technical or communications skill is under-represented. Also, think about the place and people that are likely to be affected by a plan. Will the watershed/locality generally welcome your planning effort and its goals? Give some attention to prospective allies the watershed group hopes to enlist in the community.
Partnerships are key to effective watershed planning and management. Through a partnership, different people and organizations work together to address common interests and concerns. Partnerships vary with size, complexity, funding, supporting organization(s), strength of government agency participation, and skill mix, among other things. Developing a watershed management plan is not easy, but a partnership often has improved chances for success because key parties are involved from the beginning.
Partnerships often result in:
- More efficient use of financial resources
- A spirit of sharing and cooperation
- More equitable assignment of management responsibilities based on relative impacts to watershed resources
- More creative and acceptable ways to protect natural resources
- Eventual understanding of conflicting viewpoints.
Partnerships can also be challenging. It takes time and skill to create successful partnerships. Maintaining motivation and enthusiasm is another challenge, especially if positive results don't happen quickly. All the stakeholders must believe their efforts are needed. As you build a local partnership, you will encounter these and other challenges. Remember, the benefits of partnerships usually far outweigh the challenges.