True Collaboration

The President’s Hoot
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
March 2013

What I learned from a recent, excellent, and very informative Indian River Community Foundation Workshop on True Collaboration, is that collaborating to achieve common goals is a process that requires a special effort, up front.  This has to happen within an organization by board members and all members as a part of its mission and as part of its business to foster effective working relationships. Some folks can collaborate naturally, but most of us must learn these valuable skills that involve:

  • Building a consensus instead of competing
  • Engaging others from diverse backgrounds instead of working alone
  • Thinking about larger strategies and outcomes instead of just services and programs
  • Demanding long-termed results verses short-term accomplishments

PIAS is a strong chapter having won “Best Audubon Chapter in Florida” twice in the last eight years.  But we can accomplish much more by greater collaboration generating new ideas and new solutions for our community.  Our current PIAS collaboration with other agencies and organizations in which we need your help and expertise are:

  • PIAS board member Dr. John Orcutt and Doug Graybill (Yale Club) initiated the Indian River Lagoon Coalition “Call to Action” Plan.  Over 27 organizations have signed this letter.  A copy is on our website and available at our meetings.  We hope that you may be able to get other organizations to sign on as well.
  • PIAS board member Peter Sutherland suggested and heads up our 4×4 square foot gardening project supported by a grant from National Audubon’s Toyota TogetherGreen Program.  He is collaborating with 13 Indian River County Schools involving many students and teachers.  It has been very rewarding to all to see kids including those with special needs-for example speech impediments, behavior problems, and kids lifted off of wheelchairs- all actively participating and learning about what it takes to grow healthy foods in over 70 school gardens.  We hope the students will take the square foot garden concept home for their parents to enjoy. Gardeners and organizers, please call to volunteer to help us to continue this sustainable gardening project for at least one more year.
  • PIAS members George and Mary Ester Bollis (also Indian River Photo Club members) and Judy Orcutt (former PIAS president) are collaborating with the Vero Beach Choral Society’s spring concert, “Voices on the Water,” paying tribute to local lagoon recovery efforts.  This multi-media, multi-sensory event under the baton of Dr. Jason Hobratschk will be April 5, at 7:30pm at the Trinity Episcopal Church, 2365 Pine Avenue in Vero Beach.  At The River and Shenandoah will be visually enhanced by a video presentation of the Bollis’ photography.
  • PIAS is collaborating with Debbie Avery, from the Cultural Council of Indian River County to hold the 2nd Annual Treasure Coast Birding Festival on April 5-6, 2013 at the UF Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory on Oslo Road east of US1.  It will include a bird art show, birding field trips, lectures on birds and fish, canoe trips, pontoon boat rides to a rookery island, free kids events, tours of the Laboratory, and free guided trips in Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area (ORCA). Enter your art and volunteer, bringing people to nature!
  • Bob Bruce (PIAS board member) and others wrote a grant funded by National Audubon to provide signs for our Nation’s first national wildlife refuge, Pelican Island NWR.  These signs contain QR Codes that guide a smartphone user to text and videos by Bob Montanaro (PIAS office manager), Kevin Lowry and Suzanne Valencia (PINWR), Janice Broda (Native Plant Society), Doug Carlson (IR Mosquito Control), Dr. Grant Gilmore (Estuarine, Coastal, and Ocean Science), and Richard Thomas (Fisherman).  These signs will provide information about the refuge history, wildlife, and environment of PINWR.
  • PIAS continues to be vigilant after its strong support from 14 state and federal agencies, non-profits (Sierra Club, Save the Manatee Club, Marine Resources Council) and scientists together we stopped a dredge and fill project at the Oslo Road boat ramp.  This project, initiated by Indian River County, would remove some of the Lagoon’s most important remaining seagrass, mangrove fish nurseries and habitat.
  • PIAS again collaborated with the Janice Broda and others at the UF Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory to provide training, volunteer with stewardship, and core classes for ORCA.  We will be expanding these classes with our Audubon Community Center program to include all of the county’s conservation lands. 
  • Karen and Don Schuster (PIAS volunteers) and Bob Montanaro worked with Terese Harber at the Sebastian Inlet State Park to produce and print a PIAS/ FL State Park Service pamphlet showing fishermen how to remove a fishhook from a Brown Pelican’s bill.
  • PIAS board member Graham Cox has tapped into the knowledge and advice of more than 20 community leaders for suggestions of our quality of life sustainable indicators project that can only succeed with help, guidance, and collaboration from many other organizations in the county.

There is so much to be done in Indian River County, but with a priority towards collaborating with other organizations, PIAS can expand its accomplishments and actions.  We would appreciate your ideas, time, efforts, and input where you feel PIAS can collaborate with other organizations for the betterment of our community. So find your niche and join us in doing what you think is important.

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