Is a Zero Waste Super Bowl Possible?

Over the years, I’ve had the great pleasure to work with a number of amazing, motivated, brilliant students dedicated to transforming society through their work in Greenlight Solutions student sustainability solutions group.  They work with local organizations to solve sustainability challenges confronting these groups.

One of these wonderful students and Greenlight alum and board member, Nate Gassman, has been working with Jack Groh to make major sporting events zero waste.  Nate’s position at Pepsico has enabled him to continue this work at next week’s Super Bowl.  This work has been featured in an article in Fortune Magazine. There is also a wonderful video with Jack and Nate that can be seen in this Business Insider Article.  For more details (and a silly video of Hines Ward dancing in support of recycling), see this website.

Some of my current students in my undergrad class on governance are engaged in a similar project with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to make the Arizona State Fair a Zero Waste event as well.  I’ll report back in a few months on their efforts.  I look forward to seeing what they do!


Notes from Oaxaca, Mexico

A few weeks ago, November 8-12th, I had the opportunity to go to the lovely city of Oaxaca, Mexico for a conference with the Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS).

monte alban oax 2017

On the 11th, with my wonderful friend and colleague Georgina Cundill, we led a workshop on collaboration.  Our goal was to work towards a typology of how the critical components of successful collaborations changes across diverse contexts.  There have been a number of excellent review articles on what makes for a successful collaboration (see references at the bottom for a smattering of citations).  However, we were interested in how the success factors noted in the literature change under diverse conditions.

We spent some time going over the aggregated list of success factors which will come out soon as a practitioners’ brief.  The brief will elaborate on this blog post to provide guidance for practitioners trying to build collaborative projects in the field. We then tried to identify how context-dependent these factors are.  We are currently exploring cases to look at how different collaboration is whether top-down or bottom-up in origination, whether well-funded or on shoestring budgets, whether legally mandated or organically formed, and other similar contexts.

In the near future, we will have the practitioners’ brief available online.  The workshop benefitted from having a number of practitioners in attendance to provide real world expertise.  We will follow this with more detailed academic findings.  Stay tuned!

References (among many others):

Ansell, C., & Gash, A. (2008). Collaborative governance in theory and practice. Journal of public administration research and theory, 18(4), 543-571.

Armitage, D. R., Plummer, R., Berkes, F., Arthur, R. I., Charles, A. T., Davidson-Hunt, I. J., … & Wollenberg, E. K. (2009). Adaptive co-management for social-ecological complexity. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 7(2), 95-102.

Folke, C., T. Hahn, P. Olsson, and J. Norberg. (2005). Adaptive governance of social-ecological systems. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 30, 441-473.

Plummer, R., Crona, B., Armitage, D. R., Olsson, P., Tengö, M., & Yudina, O. (2012). Adaptive comanagement: a systematic review and analysis. Ecology and Society, 17(3), 11.

Seven Insights from Resilience 2017

Having been back on campus for a couple weeks with time to reflect, I wanted to jot down a list of a few insights and takeaways from the Resilience 2017 conference ( in Stockholm.  I would be delighted to hear and share the insights of others as well.  My list:

  1. A noticeably stronger connection of science with art and the humanities which flowed through the entire conference – the plenaries, the extra events, and the sessions.
  2. Fewer studies and presentations with a clear, consistent grounding in the mathematics of resilience and more qualitative studies
  3. Fewer ecological studies
  4. A great deal more discussion on transformation of social-ecological systems, which was interesting given the Transformations conference the following week in Scotland (
  5. A diverse and broad geographic representation of attendees and presenters
  6. A rapidly growing community of resilience scholars (great news!) and a broadening of the concepts of resilience thinking (mixed blessings)
  7. An uptick in the number of governance scholars engaging in polycentricity and collaboration that seem to be engaging with this community more than traditional venues.

Of course, these are just my insights from the sessions that I was able to attend.  I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Collaboration Lab Web Launch

With the help of friends and collaborators, I’m pleased to announce the launch of my lab group’s website:  CAT Lab.  It’s a work in progress and owes it’s looks to the diligent work of Sechindra Vallury.  You’ll see profiles and case studies from collaborators in Utah, Colorado and Arizona.  The focus is on Collaboration (collaborative governance, adaptive co-management, etc), Adaptation (adaptive capacity, resilience-building) and Transformation.  We’re currently struggling with a name, so if you have thoughts please share.  Our top choices at the moment are CAT Lab and Col-lab.  Please let’s us know what you think.

The goal is to create a place to publicize publications, share case study information, and support a growing community working in this field.  Next week, I’ll add more about the international networks sharing and working together.

Networks of Collaboration

Over the past few months, there have been a number of great research projects on collaboration networks.  In the coming weeks, I’ll highlight some of the work of Mark Lubell (UC-Davis), Ramiro Berardo (Ohio State), Orjan Bodin (Stockholm Resilience Centre), and many others.  For now, I’d just like to share some of my humble efforts.  Drawing on fieldwork that Abby York and I conducted a few years back (ages ago as measured by the number of children we’ve had since then), we put together some simple network metrics to see how networks of collaborating organizations change over time.  The paper is available electronically at:  Open Article (for those without institutional library access, please see my website for proofs).

The main takeaways that I’d like to focus on here are: 1) the power of even some very simple network analyses to gain insight into collaborative endeavors, 2) how organizations can act as policy entrepreneurs and work across multiple cohorts and collaborations to accomplish their broader goals, and 3) how collaborations can be used to share risk.

For now, I’d like to focus on the second of these takeaways.  In southern Arizona, where this research took place, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) played a central role in establishing and coordinating many of these collaborations.  What’s interesting is how an organization’s strategy emerges in the social network.  Here TNC was able to leverage their land ownership and active management into a leadership role in multiple overlapping collaborative networks.  They served as an archetype of a boundary organization, linking science and policy, and brought NGOs, researchers, and government agencies into partnership.

Let me close with a photo from the region and one of the prominent collaborations in the area – the Malpai Borderlands Group – a collaboration of ranchers, federal and state agencies, and TNC, among others.


(with credit to TNC, of course)

Collaboration and Wild Horses

I’ve been remiss in posting about some of the interesting work over the past several months, so I hope to start catching up on wild horse management in Arizona, on green growth in China, on rhino conservation in southern Africa, and a host of other projects that I’ve been working on lately.  For now, let me start with one of the most fun and interesting projects that I’ve had an opportunity to work on lately.

In December, I started working with the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests and Southwest Decision Resources, a skilled group of environmental facilitation, conflict mediation and collaboration professionals.  I was asked to convene a collaborative group to develop a management strategy for the Heber Wild Horse Territory in the Black Mesa Ranger District.  See the map of the Territory from the Forest Service below.


The Territory is roughly 19,700 acres and is home to many (numbers currently being assessed) horses.  Our goal is to develop a management plan through a collaborative process to look for sustainable outcomes that balance the well-being of the horses with multiple uses including cattle ranching (there are two grazing allottments that overlap with the Territory), wildlife, and ecosystem health.  It’s a tall order, but we are excited to get started.

The collaborative working group meets for the first time next week.  We look forward to it.  For anyone interested, we have a public website that discusses what we are doing, provides more information about the horses and the governance/management, and gives a detailed overview.  See

And below are some photos of the horses!

Learn a bit about Social-Ecological Resilience

For those that missed the webinar on resilience a couple weeks ago, here is a link to it:

We had a wonderful session with nearly 300 people listening and following it live.  Please let me know what you think and if I can explain anything that is unclear.  Thanks!!