Collaboration Toolkit

« Back to the Main Stages of Collaboration

Keep Partners Motivated and Engaged

Collaboratives are dynamic entities: priorities, opportunities, partners, resources and capabilities are constantly changing. It’s only natural that the energy may ebb and flow after years of collaboration.

While the tips below offer useful suggestions, one action is critical at this stage: communicating a clear plan of action. Partners may feel appreciated, but if they don’t think their contributions are worthwhile, the collaborative will languish.

Common Causes of Collaboration Fatigue

  • Too much talk and not enough action.
  • Too many meetings with little progress.
  • Too many demands.
  • Overwhelming or unrealistic goals.
  • Unclear expectations and communication.
  • Feeling unheard.
  • Lack of leadership.
  • Lack of trust.

Recognize Individual Partner Support

  • Make contributions visible. Acknowledge substantial contributions of key members in group emails or key meetings.
  • In today’s world of e-communication, send personal letters or cards thanking partners for their contributions.

Celebrating Success & Recognizing Accomplishments

It is important to promote the visibility of your collaborative and its accomplishments. Not only is this helpful for maintaining the forward momentum and energy of the collaborative, but it also serves to promote the value of drinking water, and incentivize source water protection practices.

Re-Commitment and New Member Signing Ceremonies »

These types of ceremonies are a great way to re-invigorate and raise the profile of the collaborative and its mission. The organizers will want to ensure that this type of ceremony has meaning and purpose for the members by providing a role for each of the collaborative members. This allows each of them to talk about the importance of the collaborative’s mission and actions, and feel a sense of pride in its progress and accomplishments. It is also helpful to tack a meeting on to these types of ceremonies, where you can take advantage of the time each member has taken out of their daily work schedule to discuss current collaborative actions and business needs.

  • Example:
    The Decentralized MOU Workgroup Partnership Renewal Ceremony was held in November 2011 to celebrate the partnership and welcome two new member organizations. The partnership, which brings together organizations to promote decentralized wastewater treatment, originally began with eight original partners in 2005 and grew over time to its current 16 members. The renewal ceremony was held in EPA’s prestigious and historic meeting hall, and featured a warm welcome from the EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Water, as well as verbal statements of commitment from each of the member organizations’ leaders.
  • Example:
    In April 2013 the National SWC hosted a Celebration and New Member Signing Ceremony, along with an afternoon meeting. This celebration commemorated the expansion of the group, from the 13 original members in 2006 to then 25 members. The celebration also provided a venue for welcoming the two newest members, showcasing the successes of the Collaborative to date, renewing the spirit of the SWC, and planning priorities and related activities for 2013 and beyond.

National and Local Promotional Events »

National and local events, media, and press releases are a great way to promote the value of drinking water and source water protection. They also provide an avenue to advertise the existence and function of the collaborative and any or all of its efforts and programs, and especially its award and recognition programs. These events and activities can be conducted by the collaborative and/or its members, and can take place at (or in tandem with) other types of public events.

  • National Events Yearly national events offer great cross-promotion opportunities to showcase the existence and efforts of a collaborative. Some of these possible national events include:
  • Local Events and Gatherings A collaborative can consider hosting its own events, or getting involved in local or state-wide events hosted by other entities or communities for various causes. These types of events provide a venue where the collaborative can promote its efforts or engage citizens and organizations to take action. Some examples of these types of events include:
    • State fairs, community events and town festivals.
    • Field tours and educational field trips hosted by the collaborative.
    • Informal gatherings that promote relationship building.
    • Example:
      The Salmon Falls Watershed Collaborative has hosted a variety of events, as well as participated in events of other organizations including:

      • Coastal Training Program Workshops are hosted by a variety of partners and are designed for people who need to communicate with public audiences about water resources, watershed management, and land conservation both on the coast and in inland waterways. A recent workshop focused on economic incentives of Low Impact Development.
      • Salmon Falls River Canoe Trip provided participants with information about the history of the river, as well as the wildlife, water quality, source water protection practices, and issues affecting the river’s ecosystem.
      • Woods, Water, and Wildlife Festival
        This annual festival is hosted by a land conservation group. It is a family-friendly celebration of the natural world, featuring fun and educational outdoor activities including a hayride to the Salmon Falls River, a corn maze and crafts, as well as opportunities to learn about wildlife.

Awards Ceremonies »

Awards ceremonies provide a great venue for attracting local media attention. These types of ceremonies can create energy and motivation through competition, particularly when the recipient is congratulated at a meeting or conference where their peers are in attendance. It is also helpful to acknowledge past award recipients by profiling their efforts.

  • Example:
    US Water Prize: The US Water Alliance holds an award ceremony & reception every year honoring its US Water Prize recipients. In 2013, the ceremony and reception was held on Earth Day at the impressive National Geographic Headquarters in Washington, DC. Prize recipients, members, sponsors, and environmental leaders gathered to honor the awardees for their outstanding achievement in the advancement of sustainable solutions to our nation’s water challenges.
  • Example:
    AWWA Exemplary Source Water Protection Award: These awards are presented to water system recipients each year at the American Water Works Association’s Annual Conference and Exposition where thousands of their peers from across the nation are in attendance.

Recognition Programs »

Recognition programs can provide a competitive incentive for public water systems and communities to implement source water protection projects and land conservation practices. Successful programs like this are frequently coordinated with organizations and/or companies that have a common mission and can contribute to the prestige of the awards or recognition program, as well as have the capacity to sponsor, publicize, and promote it. To take advantage of these opportunities, a collaborative will want to consider one or more options for developing a new program, and/or engaging in existing programs.

Develop New Awards and Recognition Programs

An award program may be directed at multiple audiences who can be recognized for their efforts to reduce and mitigate the impacts of potential contamination sources and to implement land use strategies and conservation. These programs can be directed at multiple audiences such as public water systems (PWSs), landowners, communities, developers, businesses, and others depending on the purpose and what types of actions and practices are being awarded and recognized. Some examples might include:

  • Public Water System Awards (PWS) Programs (directed by the state)
    A state drinking water program or collaborative may want to work with their water utility association affiliates to develop and facilitate a state source water protection awards program for water systems in various size categories (based on the population served). Partnering with the state water utility associations provides greater opportunities for publicizing the awards program and conducting outreach. These state associations regularly communicate with many of the water systems in the state and would also therefore be able to nominate and suggest PWSs for the awards.

    • Example:
      New Hampshire (NH) Awards Program. Each year the NH Department of Environmental Services recognizes a water system, municipality, organization, or person for exemplary efforts to protect drinking water resources through a Source Water Protection Award. Additionally, in 2010 the state issued its first new Source Water Sustainability Award to recognize work to preserve the sustainability of drinking water resources.
    • Example:
      The North Carolina Source Water Collaborative is starting a new PWS Awards Program that they are aiming to kick off in 2014.
  • Agricultural and Forest Landowners
    Awards or recognition can highlight appreciation for landowners in upstream rural areas who invest in livestock, agricultural and land management practices that protect water quality. This type of award or recognition program could be coordinated with local Soil and Water Conservation Districts to identify program partners and sponsors that could contribute to the prestige of such an award and have the capacity to publicize it.

    • Example:
      Texas Parks and Wildlife administers the Lone Star Land Steward Awards Program to honor private landowners for habitat management and wildlife conservation practices. Criteria for the awards include whether the landowner is following recommendations of state habitat and conservation plans, as well as additional activities that demonstrate public spiritedness.
  • Community Development and/or Innovative Developers
    This type of recognition program can be used to encourage innovation in areas of the state where land conversion and development pose the greatest threat to drinking water sources. Coordination with state and local land use agencies, and potential program sponsors such as real estate professionals, environmental organizations, and watershed groups can help to develop goals and ideas for motivating innovative land development efforts that include source water protection elements.

  • Businesses
    Companies who institute business practices to keep pollutants out of waterways, and the sewer and trash systems can be recognized for their efforts. Local governments and public utilities can consider and develop the goals, criteria, and promotional opportunities that incentivize good drinking water friendly business practices.
  • Promote and Engage in Existing Awards Programs
    A state or local collaborative should consider nominating water systems and communities for stewardship awards.

    • Example:
      AWWA Exemplary Source Water Protection Award provides up to three awards for different sized organizations and drinking water systems to recognize their efforts to develop and implement exemplary source water protection programs.

      • The City of Wilmington, Delaware has been a past recipient of both the local Brandywine Christina Conservation award and the AWWA Exemplary Source Water Protection Award.
  • Embed Source Water Considerations into Existing Land Stewardship and Conservation Recognition and Awards Programs
    Embedding source water protection in the framework of existing programs will make it more recognizable and relevant to a much larger group of professionals.

    • Example:
      Each year, Groundwater Guardians are recognized nationally by The Groundwater Foundation for the work they do to educate the public and protect groundwater. Find out how your team could be recognized by becoming a Groundwater Guardian here.
  • Examples from North Carolina:
    The following award programs are supported by a team of public and private-sector sponsors, including local, regional and state governments, homebuilders, realtors, and others. Both programs use detailed criteria to evaluate applicants on a wide range of design, construction and management practices, including water quality protection.

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