It all starts with a conversation.
At the heart of the Floodplains by Design approach is the simple idea that complex problems – like managing floodplains in the face of climate change – are solved by working together. We coordinate state and federal investments with locally driven solutions, and we believe each river reach has its own best solutions designed by the people whose lives and livelihoods are connected to the floodplain.
1. Build trust and mutual respect.
Trust and mutual respect are the critical foundation for creative problem-solving. Conflict in floodplain areas often have historical roots and can be connected to core cultural identities. Trust is built through structured conversations that give voice to the values of each interest group which are heard and respected by others.
2. Craft and commit to a shared vision.
Developing lasting solutions begins with identifying common goals and a vision for the future. In the face of urgent problems and future uncertainty, it can be challenging to create space to step back and find a vision and set of actions that includes the needs of others. Increasingly floodplain leaders recognize that although challenging, this process is indeed the true community work necessary to advance complex societal issues.
3. Identify & implement integrated projects.
Bringing the collective vision to bear often entails a collection of on-the-ground projects and implementing policy actions, and securing funding for the full suite of projects that constitute a reach-scale vision. Often the most difficult step can be securing funding for the full suite of projects that constitute a reach-scale vision. With limited funding sources that support multi-benefit efforts it is often necessary to align and time multiple incentive programs in a manner that demonstrates commitment to the various interests.
4. Test, assess and refine.
Integrated management is an iterative process and adaptive management should be anticipated. Developing simple metrics to help each interest group ensure their needs are being adequately addressed is a critical step as a feedback loop for building trust and improving results.
5. Celebrate success, together.
Floodplain projects can easily take 10-30 years to reach construction. Successes along the way need to be celebrated to build momentum, further deepen trusted relationships and inspire continued coordination and leadership. Floodplains leaders have noted the key elements of success are: persistence, flexibility, and patience.