DEP partners with Australia on Environmental Problem Solving Initiative

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has been working together with Australian colleagues at the Environmental Protection Authority of Victoria to share experiences and problem solving solutions. This spring, EPA Victoria requested assistance from the Department’s Compliance Assurance Program Environmental Administrator Dave Herbster in order to help them take the next step toward managing the new environmental problem solving initiative.

In November 2012, EPA Victoria moved ahead when their management team opened the door for staff to nominate potential problem-solving projects. The result was more than 170 project nominations from a staff of approximately 400. Over the course of three weeks, Dave worked with problem-solving teams, held training sessions and advised senior executive teams in Victoria and in two neighboring states of New South Wales and South Australia.

“It was a pleasure to share and learn,” said Herbster. “The saying goes, ‘we stand on the shoulders of giants.’ In this case, the giants are all the Department problem solvers whose work gave us something important to share in Australia.”

If successful, EPA Victoria and its neighboring agencies will build on the Department’s foundations and will make a measurable difference against problems that will sound very familiar to us such as contaminated sites, stormwater and waste tires. The Department’s experience with problem solving was a key asset in this relationship and provided the makings for a little global diplomacy by the State of Florida and the Department.

The relationship began three years ago, when EPA Victoria CEO Cheryl Batagol approached the Department about sending two ambassadors to Florida. The purpose of the trip was to learn and share information regarding key strategic issues facing each organization. One vital reason for the visit was to discuss Environmental Problem Solving. Environmental Problem Solving is a structured approach to unsolved problems that was introduced to the Department around 1995 by Professor Malcolm Sparrow, Professor of the Practice of Public Management at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

The Aussie’s three-day visit was spent in the Central District. Dozens of Department staff exchanged thoughts with the ambassadors and showcased a variety of the district’s programs, ranging from “Green Yards” (a best management practices initiative at auto salvage yards) to controlled burns at Wekiva Springs State Park. During the visit, it became clear that the challenges and constraints that we share with Australia are remarkably similar – even on different sides of the world. So when the visit was over, it was natural for EPA Victoria’s Adam Beaumont and Mr. Herbster to stay in touch. In doing so, a regular topic of discussion was the implementation of Environmental Problem Solving.

EPA Victoria and agencies in two neighboring states are growing in their commitment to make problem solving part of what they do. The Department’s experience and problem solving guide proved helpful, and we hope that this relationship will continue to benefit both the Department and our partners in Australia.

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