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Idea Exchanges Join the River Rally Program

River Rally 2019 featured the first Idea Exchanges: unique opportunities for attendees to connect during River Rally and beyond, to build their knowledge and network related to specific issues their communities may be facing. Skilled facilitators led structured conversations around Civic Engagement and four key issues: Safe, Clean, and Affordable Drinking Water; Water Laws and Policies; Building Resilient Cities and Communities; and Healthy Rivers in Agricultural Landscapes.

Each session used the following questions to frame its discussion:

  • What would help you make more or faster progress on this issue in your community?
  • What should we work on collectively to achieve bigger impact across our network on this issue?
  • What is the biggest priority for this collaborative work?

Using this framework, participants explored ways to support each other’s efforts and spark new alliances working toward common goals. “We are excited to help our network do more together to achieve a future that is more equitable for all and more sustainable for our nation’s rivers,” says Nicole Silk, President of River Network. “This vision motivates us to go deeper on the key issues critical to addressing today’s water crisis, and bring our network’s ideas and potential influence forward.”

An additional session, Our Vision for the Network of the Future, took a different approach. This Exchange looked forward at the evolution of the broader water leaders network over the next 5-10 years. With the demographics of our country changing rapidly and the water issues our communities face becoming increasingly complex, today’s water leaders have an urgent opportunity to be intentional about how we evolve to secure water protection and water equity in the future. Our Vision for the Network embraced this opportunity by soliciting feedback to understand – from all attendee perspectives – how the culture of this nationwide network should evolve, who should be part of it, how it should operate, and how it can be inclusive and engaging for black and brown leaders, as well as young leaders.

River Network’s Nicole Seltzer presenting takeaways and priorities from the Idea Exchanges on the last day of Rally.

To close River Rally, facilitators recapped takeaways and priorities from each of the sessions. Among the shared themes was a desire to be even more connected as a network: to share and learn from each other’s work so that successes can be replicated and challenges avoided more quickly, to deploy trainings and other means of support to help organizations across the network increase engagement in their communities, to develop more impactful storytelling tactics and other resources and toolkits, and to support emerging leadership.

Each exchange also asked, “Would you or your organization be willing to dedicate some staff time to work with others and with River Network to move forward on any of these topics?” and many groups and individuals have already volunteered. Facilitators are now developing next steps for collaboration and will be reaching out with information on follow-up calls, surveys, and/or meetings to help define priorities further and to begin implementing some of the actions identified around each key issue soon. These continued conversations will further explore how we build on the priorities we, as a nationwide network, identified at Rally, and how we bring those to other River Network members who were not part of these discussions in Cleveland.

Whether you attended Rally or not, we encourage and warmly welcome all who are interested to offer continued input and thoughts on these key issues and the network vision. It is our hope that these discussions lead to more connectivity and collaboration across the broader national network to further each key issue most effectively and build the network we all envision.

Read more on the Idea Exchanges here and stay tuned for further updates. If you would like to be part of the ongoing discussion, please contact the lead facilitator for the issue(s) in which you are interested:

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