In the face of historic opposition to its land management, a critical success for the Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA) was a series of Forest Management Dialogues. Residents who owned lands near OWASA’s water reservoir for multiple generations opposed its land management plans. Meanwhile, OWASA was committed to maintaining healthy forests near the reservoir to help safeguard water quality.
Hosting more than 60 community members as well as OWASA staff and Board members, my team designed and facilitated dialogues that enabled OWASA to listen, and respond, to local needs.
In a community with dominant voices, the facilitation process ensured all participants had equal opportunity to express insights and local knowledge, incorporated voices of third-party experts, and delivered transparent reporting processes.
The initiative changed OWASA’s community relationship from confrontational to collaborative. The first phase of OWASA’s forest management plan is being implemented, incorporating local knowledge and processes responsive to community needs.