River Rally Workshop Library

We can’t wait for the next time we gather in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 2024! In the meantime, check out our catalog of select workshop recordings from River Rally 2020, 2021, and 2022.

Click on session titles to open the video recordings, or jump to a River Rally track.

Keynotes & Panels

Getting Unstuck: Stepping Into Power with Philanthropy

In 2021, River Network began exploring trust-based philanthropy. As River Rally 2022 approached, we knew this topic would be a powerful, important, and timely one for a plenary panel. Panelists Mike Harris, Melanie Allen, Teresa Davis, Arthur Johnson, Tyeshia Wilson, and moderator Ronda Chapman encouraged us to rethink our relationships to wealth and community and shared inspiring stories about novel approaches that both democratize philanthropy from the ground up and use trust as a vehicle for shifting power. If you missed the panel at Rally or weren’t with us in DC, we’re thrilled to share the panel in full, free and accessible to all.

Environmental Justice is Also Racial Justice

Catherine Coleman Flowers, 2020 River Hero, MacArthur Fellow, and author of Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret, discusses how environmental justice will protect rivers as well as ensure equity for communities that have been left behind.

From Rivers Catching Fire to Rivers Getting Rights

Sandra Postel, River Network board member and 2021 Stockholm Water Prize awardee presents a brief look back at where we’ve been, where we stand today, and where we can go with this community leading the charge.

Rivers and Water for All — Our Evolution

Moderator Ronda Chapman (Trust for Public Land) will guide panelists Raj Shukla (The Nature Conservancy), Tom Kiernan (American Rivers), Nicole Silk (River Network), and Na’Taki Osborne Jelks (West Atlanta Watershed Alliance and Spellman College) through a reflective conversation about the evolution of river conservation and justice over the past 10-20 years, the biggest challenges and opportunities NOW, and hope on the journey ahead towards clean water and healthy rivers for all.

Drinking Water

Building Trust Between Communities and Utilities for an Equitable Future

Amy Weinfurter, Caroline Koch, and Georgia Beesmyer (WaterNow Alliance); April Ingle (River Network); Elizabeth Barlik (Cleveland Division of Water); and Kairsten Nitsch (CHN Housing Partners)

Learn how water utilities are engaging with at-risk populations to build trust. Cleveland’s Water Champion program, which aims to avoid shutoffs, will be featured. Attendees will be introduced to trust building programs, learn to identify effective practices, and apply learnings to their own work.

“The Building Blocks of Trust and Project Accelerator initiatives have both continued to support the development of utility-community partnerships. For instance, an Accelerator project with Walnut Valley Water District led the utility to then partner with the Chinese American Association of Walnut to co-develop a Water Summit catered to the needs of the community. A partnership between Healthy Community Services and New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board installed a trash collecting boom in a neighborhood canal and held a demonstration day to show neighbors how the boom works and tour their local pump station. River Network and WaterNow have also held in-depth Building Blocks of Trust trainings for the Duke WILD and Transformative Water Leadership Academy programs. These trainings for emerging water utility leaders explored the why and how of building genuine, trust-based partnerships.”

En Espanol: How to Reach and Activate Latino Communities

Felipe Benitez (Corazón Latino) and Sheyda Esnaashari (River Network)

The session will serve as both the launch of the newly-developed Drinking Water Spanish-language Guide, as well as a case study to review, discuss, and analyze methodologies to create culturally relevant outreach materials and educational tools to empower Latino audiences and other diverse communities around water-related issues.

Holistic Approaches to Keep Toxic PFAS “Forever Chemicals” Out of Our Drinking Water Sources

Jennifer Peters (Clean Water Action) and Dierdre White (Association of State Drinking Water Administrators)

In this interactive workshop participants will learn about the many federal laws, state policies, and other initiatives available to protect water from per-and poly-flouroalkyl substances (PFAS). Participants will also explore how to use mapping tools to identify source waters vulnerable to PFAS.

In 2022, EPA issued a strong guidance memo directing states to use water pollution permits to limit discharges of PFAS to rivers, streams, lakes, and other water bodies. the Clean Water Act has many tools that can—and should—be used to keep these toxic fluorinated “forever chemicals” out of our water. Using the Clean Water Act (CWA) to address PFAS has many benefits, including shifting the burden away from drinking water systems and communities to clean-up PFAS and back on to the industries that financially benefit from using these chemicals.

Increasing Equitable Water Infrastructure Investment in Your Community

Hear from April Ingle, Sheyda Esnaashari, and Katherine Baer (River Network); Stacey Berahzer and Alanna Kinnebrew (IB Environmental); and Anna Wolf (Center for Neighborhood Technology)

Learn about and practice using tools in River Network’s new Equitable Water Infrastructure Investment “Toolkit.” We’ll look at how water infrastructure is funded; how to advocate for equitable and sustainable infrastructure funding; and how to address water affordability and prevent water shut-offs. The workshop will help participants to find, and leverage, common ground between advocates and water utilities. We will look at affordability, as well as how the major funding streams for water projects flow from the federal government to states, and then to local communities.

Organizational Capacity Building

Building Multi-Racial Organizations for Our Waters

Brenda Coley and Kirsten Shead (Milwaukee Water Commons)

We will discuss the differences between diversity, equity, inclusion, and multi-racial leadership and share stories – both successes and challenges-as Milwaukee Water Commons works to build a multi-racial organization focused on our waters. Hear from Brenda Coley and Kirsten Shead (Milwaukee Water Commons).

It’s Not Just What You Say, It’s How You Say It

Brandon Hayes (Bold Bison Communications & Consulting) and Karen Strong (Strong Outcomes, LLC)

Protecting water sometimes involves talking with people who don’t trust you or reaching out to communities that you don’t feel yourself part of. Through a series of fun, interactive exercises, practice crucial communication skills to improve your ability to understand and to be understood.

We’re finding these listening skills are more important than ever as we continue to emerge from isolation and need to bridge division and fear. Since this workshop, Karen has worked with two other colleagues to grow this workshop into a five-session online program to help people talk about climate change. It uses one of the exercises (and many more!) to help participants learn and practice skills in listening, talking, empathy, and presence, all of which can help folks have better conversations about climate change or any other difficult topic. The next program starts in Fall 2023, and folks can learn more at https://www.climateconversations.net/training-series.

The Five Myths of Board Leadership

Amy Zola and Allison Elder (San Antonio River Authority)

This workshop will help you navigate some of the common myths and misconceptions on what it means to be a board member; how to develop, recruit, and retain effective board members; and the vital role the Executive Director plays.

Getting More BANG from Your Strategic Plan

David Allen (Development for Conservation)

The product of strategic planning is not a document; it is the consensus that stands behind it. In this workshop, participants will learn how to organize an inclusive process that will help drive the organization forward with vision and energy.

Stop Shouting Into the Wind: Navigating the New Communications Landscape

Nicole Lampe and Kimiko Martinez (Water Hub at Climate Nexus)

COVID-19 has brought more attention to water challenges while making it harder to advocate for solutions. How can we adapt our communications? The Water Hub will share our analysis of water news now, and top tips for reaching audiences in an increasingly competitive media landscape. Looking for more? Check out the Water Hub’s collection of resources.

Virtual Decision-Making: Leadership for Yes, No, and More

Sarah Clark and Joy Jackson (Institute for Conservation Leadership)

Working virtually creates special challenges and opportunities for leadership of your group’s decisions. This interactive workshop will give leaders of teams, boards and collaborative entities a framework and two specific online tools that enable virtual decision making that yields collaborative thinking, clear direction, and group cohesion.

Securing Grants for Your Nonprofit

Jonathan Poisner (Jonathan Poisner Strategic Consulting)

Too often, river protection nonprofits pursue grants one proposal at a time instead of as a year-round activity involving research, relationship-building, and writing. In this workshop, we’ll outline key steps participants can take to be more successful in pursuit of grants. If you’re looking for a quick read, check out Jonathan’s 8 Tips for Seeking Foundation Grants and Questions for Grant Funders.

Policy & Advocacy

New Voices at the Water Table

Alicia Lehrer (Woonaquatucket River Watershed Council)

Can priority neighborhoods build leadership among their residents? The Woonaquatucket River Watershed Council is working on just that in Providence, RI. Come find out how students engage adults to become leaders in priority neighborhoods.

“Since WRWC launched New Voices at the Water Table or Nuevas Voces, so much has changed. Two of our Year 1 graduates now lead the program and joined our staff. Other graduates of our Year 1 and 2 programs serve on boards and committees all over Providence and some are looking at state board leadership. One moved into a leadership position at a neighborhood association. This year, we just started a next level cohort of 10 Nuevas Voces graduates called Climate Combat Champions or Campeones that are learning about climate adaptation, how projects are sited, developed, constructed and funded. The goal of Campeones is to have residents lead the charge in climate adaptation decision making in their neighborhoods. Campeones is a two year program and follows five (5) projets from idea to construction.”

– Alicia Lehrer

Using ECHO Database to Find Violations and Stop Pollution

Mike Barrette (EPA) and Phillip Musegaas (San Diego Coastkeeper)

Mike Barrette from US EPA, who invented the Enforcement and Compliance History Online database, joins Phillip Musegaas, Potomac Riverkeeper Network, in explaining how to find the polluters and get them to stop polluting!

Storytelling & Resonance: Creating a Culture of Empathy and Support

Megan Nguyen (Peninsula Open Space Trust)

Creating a culture of empathy and support is an important tool to combat isolation and individualism in our organizations and movements, especially during COVID-19. Join River Network’s 2020 Emerging Leader, Megan Nguyen, as she creates a space for attendees to share stories and listen to others’ perspectives. Come away from this meeting with a better understanding of the value of connecting through storytelling and resonance, and how these tools can be weaved into your advocacy and outreach work.

“I’m grateful to have had the chance to present this workshop at both Virtual Rally 2021 and Rally 2022 in DC. Being in community with participants and seeing them embrace vulnerability and openness was a joy. Though I shared some tough moments in 2021, I’m proud to say now that I feel healed and celebrated for who I am. I’m still sharing my story to create inclusive spaces and have found supportive colleagues who resonate with me. With guidance from wise Auntie Brene Brown, let’s all embrace vulnerability, courage, and storytelling to build a stronger community and work towards a livable future for all.”

– Megan Nguyen

Resilient Communities

Connecting the Dots: Racial Equity, Water Conservation and Organizational Culture

Darryl Haddock (West Atlanta Watershed Alliance) and Jennifer Arnold (Reciprocity Consulting, LLC)

Explore the connections between racial equity and water conservation work, examining how racial inequities surface in the context of water issues. We’ll also look inward at how markers of dominant white culture show up in our organizations and how we can use counter-narratives to challenge the assumptions of dominant culture and advance equity and inclusion.

Learners to Leaders: Environmental Justice Literacy Curriculum

Neambe Leadon (Groundwork Denver) and Maria Brodine (Groundwork USA)

Through engagement with interactive activities from Groundwork USA’s Learners to Leaders: EJ Literacy Curriculum, participants will build their own Water Justice Timeline, and learn directly from youth who are using environmental justice literacy to transform neglected waterways. Since River Rally 2021, Groundwork USA partnered with EcoRise to adapt their lessons into free curriculum materials for middle and high school students. Download these environmental justice lessons for free and learn more about the Urban Waters Learning Network through their story maps.

Watching the Current: Scenario Planning and Community Resilience

Larissa Read (Common Ground Consulting, LLC)

Scenario planning is a tool that helps communities and organizations explore different possible futures and identify actions they might take in those futures. Scenario planning prompts conversations before crises hit and challenges the common assumption that the future will be similar to the past. In this workshop, attendees learn how to use a basic scenario planning tool and work through a short exercise to explore possible futures and resilient actions. Scenario planning is an exciting, growing field of applied planning. In my recent experience with several clients, it is especially helpful to get nonprofit boards thinking about the future in different ways. If you are interested in learning more, check out the Scenario Planning Consortium information hosted by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. If you are considering a scenario planning process for your organization, contact Larissa.

Blue Art Collective: Art, Water, and Social Justice in a Digital Era

Sarah Davidson and Kevin Jeffery (Blue Art Collective), Erin O’Grady (Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay), and Mina Girgis (Nile Project)

This workshop explores two sensory art mechanisms, music, and movement, for bringing communities together, over online platforms or in person, to protect local waterways. Join us to continue the conversation about art, water, and social justice, and get your creative juices flowing!

Workshop Links:

Since this workshop, Blue Art Collective returned to River Rally 2022 in Washington DC with a table full of participatory art resources and activities, and a field trip, Enhancing Connection through Art, aimed at creating a unique community mural with rally attendees that honors water and everything about it we hold dear.  The completed mural is now exhibited at the Aquatic Resources Education Center, a city-run environmental center that hosts visiting school groups throughout the year, located along the Anacostia River in Southeast D.C.  In this way, River Rally organizers and attendees were able to leave a lasting contribution for the DC community in appreciation and reciprocity for hosting us during this conference.  This was done through collaboration with local community members and organizations. Nearly 20 mural artists were asked to consider the questions, What does water give us? and What can we give back to water?  They added their response to the first question on the top half of a wooden fence board and answered the second question on the bottom half.  The 12 boards were then assembled to create a single, cohesive mural titled, Water Unites Us.

Blue Art Collective continues to add resources for incorporating participatory art into water work and community building on our website.

“Finding ways to use participatory art that is locally relevant, that builds empathy, and ultimately leads to social change in the water sector continues to be both a challenge and a necessary effort to attain water equity. While some projects appear to be more easily transferable from one community to another, like Bioblitz featured in this presentation, the importance of ensuring authentic local connections and cultural relevance cannot be overstated.”

– Sarah Davidson

Science & Climate

Building Smart Citizen Science: Engaging Communities in Credible Water Quality Monitoring

Max Herzog (Cleveland Water Alliance)

Learn about a collaborative network of volunteer-driven monitoring programs in seven Lake Erie communities. Define the tenets of “Smart Citizen Science” together with a panel of expert facilitators. Apply these tenets to your own community through breakout group discussions with other participants. Learn more about Cleveland Water Alliance’s Lake Erie Volunteer Science Network, a regional community of practice that empowers community members to collect, share, and engage with water quality data for the conservation and enrichment of our Great Lake and all who call it home.

Making Water Quality Data Open and Accessible to Support Collaborative Water Stewardship

Carolyn DuBois and Lindsay Day (The Gordon Foundation) and Gabrielle Parent-Doliner (Water Rangers)

When water quality data is open and accessible it can be used to inform water stewardship decisions and action. Learn how open-access tools like DataStream are providing the digital infrastructure for monitoring groups of all shapes and sizes to share and connect results in meaningful ways. Learn more about the tool at https://datastream.org/guide.

“HEP has been working with Riverkeeper in using the same right-of-way protocols within the Hudson River Watershed. Though a smaller scope of sites than previous, it will be interesting to see how the data compares to the rest of the data sets compiled in the estuary. We’ll be posting new material onto our project website. In addition, we finally had our study, “Understanding the factors affecting the quantity and composition of street litter: Implication for management practices,” published in a peer-review journal last month. This highlights the work we completed with Montclair State University who worked with HEP in developing and piloting the right-of-way litter surveys.”

— Rosana Pedra Nobre (New York – New Jersey Harbor & Estuary Program)

“We determined in the years following this presentation that some styrofoam waste does in fact originate on sidewalks, and analysis of the items caught in the trash boom suggests that the most buoyant sidewalk trash is making it down to the river. Most of the MS4 catch basins in Westchester are in disrepair or missing altogether, so they are not catching any debris. We will be launching a campaign with Westchester residents to report these inadequate catch basins for repairs, and in the meantime have been collaborating with local schools, youth organizations, and clubs in Westchester County to perform trash clean ups adjacent to the Bronx River. We are working closely with the County and individual municipal officials to identify priority infrastructure repairs to help address the trash problem, too.”

— Christian Murphy (Bronx River Alliance)

Water & Agriculture

Making the Case for River Friendly Farming

Eric Eckl (Water Words That Work) and Sue Rich (Friends of the Mississippi River)

Many conservationists are exploring agricultural innovations, hoping to protect waterways and improve farm profits. But a big challenge is to win acceptance from skeptical farmers. Join us to learn what Minnesota farmers have to say about new soil stabilizing crops — and how to best pitch the idea. We’ll compare their opinions to farmers in Michigan and Pennsylvania, and draw big picture conclusions about how river advocates can put their best foot forward when working with agriculture.

“Language in this arena is still evolving. Researchers and activists need to be clear in their terminology with one another. Still, we continue to see decision-makers, journalists, farmers and other important audiences and partners using different words to describe essentially the same things. We’ll come to a common understanding of terms someday, but for now, it’s extra important to meet people where they’re at and focus conversations on values, impacts and relationships.”

— Sue Rich (Friends of the Mississippi River)

Soil Health on Working Lands for Resilient Communities

Eva Stricker (Quivira Coalition)

Whether you have a backyard garden or an expansive dryland ranch, or work with those folks, you’ll learn fundamentals of soil physical/biological characteristics (webinars) and try on-the-ground activities. We’ll build community by discussing all results in the healthy soil principles framework.

“One really great resource that I wish more people knew about is rangelands.app. It uses satellite data and some model work to provide functional group cover and biomass across rangelands. Because it’s satellite data, it can go all the way back to 1984! It’s fascinating to pick a spot that you’re already familiar with and to look at changes through time of aboveground vegetation! While it’s not directly related to soil properties, that idea of “maximize biodiversity” and “keep the soil covered” are some things that you can assess by looking at rangelands.app.”

— Eva Stricker