Thanks for a successful NTA Review “Camp”!

By Heather Saunders Benson, Action Agenda Planning Manager

More than 80 dedicated people from around Puget Sound gathered June 6 and 7 at the beautiful Seabeck Conference Center to review and evaluate more than 600 actions for consideration in the 2018 Action Agenda for Puget Sound (Action Agenda). This was a huge success for our Puget Sound recovery community in so many ways. But before I get to that, it might be helpful to explain why this matters, and what exactly is the Action Agenda anyway?

Charting the course for recovery
If you don’t already know, the Action Agenda “charts the course for Puget Sound recovery.” It’s a nice tagline, but what does it really mean? The Action Agenda was created to help coordinate the multitude of recovery efforts taking place around Puget Sound and to communicate the challenges that Puget Sound is facing and the strategies and actions needed to address those challenges. This is a very simple overview of a very complex product and planning process that includes hundreds of partners, but this is the general gist. You can find out more about the Action Agenda here, and if you are interested in learning more about the upcoming Action Agenda for 2018, feel free to stop by here. But on to what I really want to talk about today: NTA “Camp!”

The lovely Habitat Strategic Initiative team

Calling all reviewers
As part of the effort to develop the Action Agenda, we ask people from all over the Puget Sound area to propose projects or programmatic changes, called Near Term Actions (NTAs), that they are willing and ready to do in response to the strategies and actions that are identified as being needed to address Puget Sound recovery. Cue the 600 actions proposed for the 2018 Action Agenda! The Partnership issued a solicitation in November of 2017, putting out a call to propose actions — and boy did we have an overwhelming response! More than 600 partners put forward project proposals to help achieve Puget Sound recovery — which is more than twice the number we have ever had before! This was a huge achievement and a testament to the commitment of our recovery partners. But how does one go about efficiently reviewing and evaluating 600 NTAs?

Reviewers working hard and enjoying the sunshine

Enter NTA Camp. With the extraordinarily high volume of NTA proposals, we needed a creative process to review and evaluate them. So we put out a call for volunteers, and more than 80 professionals from all over Puget Sound offered to volunteer their time, expertise, and knowledge to this effort. In two days, we were able to convene 70 reviewers into 57 review groups and review 513 NTAs. What’s that you say? 70 reviewers, 57 review groups, and 513 NTAs! Well…how did this all go down? And whom do we have to thank?

Dinner and raffle prizes (Left) and socializing at sunset (Right)

Hard work and heartfelt thanks
What began as a idea six months ago, with time, elbow grease, creativity, and — to be honest — some sheer determination, became a successful two-day workshop in a beautiful location, with wonderful people. First and foremost, this wouldn’t have been the fun and successful event that it was without our 70 reviewers, and we cannot thank them enough. If you are one of them, thank you, thank you! This would not have been possible without your time, support, dedication, and sense of adventure and humor. Thank you for all the work you do every day to protect and recover Puget Sound. You have our sincere gratitude.

Reflecting on Day 1

Behind all of this was also the hard work of dedicated staff from the Partnership (especially our one and only Jennifer Pouliotte), and more importantly, from our working partners at the state Departments of Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife, Ecology, and Health, and at Cascadia Consulting Group. Together, our crew of support staff committed to making the idea of NTA Camp happen; recruited people to volunteer; built review teams; jumped in and got all the materials ready; fielded calls and questions; prepared, prepared, prepared; facilitated review groups, juggled last-minute changes to reviewers; organized social festivities (limericks, bonfires, and raffle prizes, oh my!); and did so much data entry and validation. Thank you. Truly. Thank you.

Feedback from our Reflections Wall

Special thanks also go to Jay Manning, the Chair of the Leadership Council, and Sheida Sahandy, the Partnership’s Executive Director, for kicking off our retreat and demonstrating the passion and dedication we all hold in common.

In this together
I could go on about this, but I will let the accompanying photos and this video (Habitat Strategic Initiative) speak for themselves, as well as the word on the street. If you meet anyone who was there (be they staff or volunteer), please be sure to thank them. Their contribution to this effort is what the Action Agenda is all about — bringing our partners together to develop a shared vision and plan for Puget Sound recovery. It’s their contribution to this effort that makes the Action Agenda a truly collaborative effort, and ensures that charting the course for Puget Sound recovery reflects the values, dedication, and commitment of people all over Puget Sound who are working hard every day to protect and restore this body of water that we all love and depend on.

Action Agenda Planning Team. (Left) High fives all around — go team! (Right)

From the bottom of my heart, thank you all. Here’s to the best Action Agenda yet!