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Virginia Solutions Initiative Seeks To Find Common Ground For Communities In The Commonwealth

August 3, 2005 -- Issues of land use, air quality, education, social resources, water quality and transportation are some of the challenges that every community grapples with, often with great conflict among the various local stakeholders. The question is: How can communities come together to produce successful outcomes through problem solving and create a win-win situation?

To help communities, the University of Virginia’s Institute for Environmental Negotiation and the Virginia Association of Community Conflict Resolution have partnered to create Virginia Solutions, a new statewide initiative that promotes problem solving of complex issues at a local level through a collaborative approach.

         Virginia Solutions aims to:

  • Establish an easy-to-use, cost-effective statewide mechanism for triggering and convening a Virginia Solutions process in a locality.
  • Build on existing dispute resolution services and resources within the state.
  • Strengthen the use of collaborative problem solving within communities and create links among agencies for addressing complex community issues.
  • Create a cross-sector coalition of support for Virginia Solutions inside and outside of state government.
  • Facilitate leveraging of resources for the implementation and follow-through of integrated solutions.
  • Provide a specific mechanism to increase community, environmental and economic sustainability in localities throughout Virginia.

“Virginia Solutions will offer an easy, consistent and recognized framework for collaborative approaches to be initiated in any Virginia community throughout the commonwealth,” said Tanya Denckla Cobb, a senior associate with IEN.

“We believe Virginia Solutions will offer a welcome avenue for communities and agencies to work together to create integrated solutions to community challenges.”

To demonstrate how Virginia Solutions can be used to address different problems, Virginia Solutions initiated two pilot projects: to address wastewater treatment issues in the Eastern Shore watershed and to develop a model riparian easement program in Fauquier County.

Once a local issue is identified and brought to the attention of the Virginia Solutions team at the University of Virginia, it is evaluated to ascertain if it meets criteria to become a Virginia Solutions project. The UVA team identifies an organization local to the project’s community that will provide facilitation and project management, and together they identify a recognized and trusted community person who is appointed as official convener for the project.  To address the community issues, the facilitation team and convener assemble a Solutions Team comprised of key community and agency stakeholders. This Solutions Team works to develop an action plan to resolve the issues and documents this plan in a Declaration of Cooperation. The impartial facilitation team relies on mediation techniques to help stakeholders bridge their differences and develop a consensus agreement.

Virginia Solutions invites participation from all stakeholders; brings people face-to-face to talk about issues; promotes solutions that work for all key interested parties; supports high-quality, legitimate information; focuses on understanding the issues and people involved; and encourages the right process for the particular situation.

“Community solutions reduce and heal community rifts, build social capital and civic participation, foster commitment to implementing decisions and build legitimacy for public actions,” said Frank Dukes, IEN director.

Contact: Jane Ford, (434) 924-4298

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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