Florida Sea Grant Extension in Collier County

Welcome to the Collier County Sea Grant Extension Blog

This blog is an opportunity for me to share with you my extension outreach efforts and useful information to make you a more informed coastal citizen. If you have any questions about what you see, feel free to contact me at fluech@ufl.edu.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Helping Counties Deal with Public Issues and Manage Conflict

Recently, my colleagues and I were in Palmetto, Florida teaching a workshop on managing public issues and conflict to county and municipality employees. Although we have taught this workshop in the past to other UF Extension employees, this was the first time we have taught it to outside audiences. The 2-day workshop provided training on the basics of facilitation, meeting management, and group dynamics. It also addressed the differences between a content specialist and a facilitator and provided skills, tips and tools to:
  • Convene stakeholders and the public
  • Summarize and frame issues
  • Address feelings, values, interests and positions
  • Create a process that encourages full participation in decision making
  • Recognize and address difficult dynamics in a group meetings
The training consisted of a mixture of presentations, group brainstorms, and small and large group interactive exercises designed to give participants experience in using the tools provided. We had 15 attendees, many of them managers and/or planners who routinely interact with the public.

You might be wondering why UF Extension faculty (especially me, a marine science agent) are involved in such a training. Public issues, particularly ones dealing with natural resources can quickly become contentious when diverse values, interests and views related to the issues are expressed by different individuals and groups. When these issues involve benefits and costs that are little understood, it becomes important to define the interests of the public in those issues. UF Extension, particularly in southwest Florida, is expanding beyond its traditional content-provider role and providing more public issues education to help citizens and other stakeholders make better-informed policy choices in the face of controversial issues. If you would like to learn more feel free to give me a call!
"Steps to Here" Ice breaker to help participants get to know one another

Participants play "Lost in the Jungle" to learn about group dynamics

One of many small group activities; active listening skills

Reflection activity to think about the concepts and skills learned during the day

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