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Catalyzing municipal stakeholder engagement for stormwater funding solutions
Twichell, J., K. Mulvaney, M. ten Brink, C. Hulet, A. Leiby, AND J. Secunda. Catalyzing municipal stakeholder engagement for stormwater funding solutions. Social Coast Forum, Charleston, SC, February 05 - 08, 2018.
Stakeholder engagement is a principal barrier for municipalities trying to implement targeted stormwater funding to cover their stormwater management costs. Social science methods were used to evaluate a pilot stakeholder engagement roundtable series for municipal leaders in charge of stormwater management. The evaluations ensured that (1) incremental outcomes and project objectives were met, (2) transferable participants’ and facilitators’ curricula were developed, and (3) future iterations of the roundtables will better assist municipalities in achieving compliance and implementing stormwater management practices through improved community engagement.
Stormwater runoff contributes to a range of water quality issues in coastal systems, including eutrophication, contamination of water resources, and reduced value to coastal residents. However, managing runoff sources and meeting permit requirements can be costly. Municipalities often lack targeted funding to cover their stormwater costs and implementing such funding mechanisms can be controversial among stakeholders. Prior work has shown a lack of appropriate public engagement as a primary indicator of eventual failure to secure funding. In response, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Consensus Building Institute collaborated to develop and launch a pilot roundtable series focused on stakeholder engagement in stormwater funding. The audience was municipal participants in charge of stormwater management. The curriculum employed lectures, visiting speakers, group collaboration, and fieldwork. Objectives were to help participants to (1) learn stakeholder engagement skills necessary to successfully implement stormwater utilities or other funding mechanisms, (2) galvanize their progression toward implementing stormwater funding, and (3) build their community of practice. We conducted a formal evaluation of the pilot effort using social science methods. Theory of change was employed to both guide curriculum development and map a chronological series of achievable outcomes progressing toward desired long-term goals relating to water quality and compliance. Using outcome and process analyses, we evaluated whether incremental goals and overall expectations for the series were met and assessed how different components of the roundtables were received by participants. The evaluation also informed documentation of transferable, road-tested participants’ and facilitators’ curricula for continued implementation of the roundtable series. Good program evaluation ensures the roundtables will better assist municipalities in tackling compliance and stormwater management practices through improved community engagement.