Natural Resources Leadership Institute

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Leadership Development

The NRLI Leadership Development Program brings together people from across North Carolina to develop leadership competencies for effectively engaging in today’s complex, and often controversial policy environment.  Since 1995, hundreds of professionals who are involved in NRLI Fellows at workshopnatural resources policy, planning, education, and management have participated in the Institute, building skills and knowledge in conflict resolution and multi-party negotiation, critical thinking, and collaborative problem solving. Our goal is to enhance leadership in environmental management and policy development, leadership that will influence workable solutions to complex, often contentious environmental issues.

The strength of the institute lies in the diversity of our participants.  Men and women from across North Carolina and beyond reflect the varied  life experiences of those who have a stake in the sustainability of our communities and environment.  Out of this diversity comes new and enduring professional networks.  Among our Institute Fellows are: 

    NRLI Fellows discussion strategy at ropes course
  • Federal & state resource professionals
  • Resource professionals in business & industry
  • Environmental nonprofit leaders
  • Local government resource managers
  • Community leaders
  • Landowners
  • Educators
  • Elected officials
  • Policy specialists
  • Affiliates in other states


The Curriculum

The Leadership Development curriculum spans 18 months and consists of six three-day workshops, and two half-day practicum review sessions.  Approximately 140 hours are spent in NRLI Fellow speaking at workshopinstruction time.  Teaching methods are predominantly experiential where participants engage in role plays, negotiation sessions, group discussions, and skills practice.  To enhance relevance and interest, skills instruction is built around topical natural resource issues such as property rights, endangered species, and water quality protection.  Sessions are taught by NC State University faculty, experts from other universities and private firms, natural resource professionals and dispute mediation practitioners.

The curriculum is designed to develop leaders who are able to achieve positive outcomes to controversial natural resource issues by...

  • Understanding and applying collaborative, win-win approaches to problem solving
  • Becoming skilled in working with people who have different interests, values, and philosophies on issues involving natural resources.
  • Understanding natural resource policy and decision-making processes, and take into account the biological, economic, social and political implications of natural resource management decisions.

Participants are engaged in hands-on training and are active in their own leadership development including engaging in an applied leadership project, also known as a practicum.

We offer two expanded curriculum options: (1) Faciliatative Leader / Facilitator, and (2) Principled Stakeholder / Negotiator. The purpose of the expanded curriculum option is to provide participants with additional opportunities to explore subjects to a greater degree than can be accommodated during the regular workshop sessions.

Workshop Sessions & Learning Objectives

Session 1. Building Working Relationships and Communicating for Agreement I

  • Understand the mission, vision, and programs of the Institute.
  • Build working relationships with fellow participants.
  • Develop an understanding about leadership through self discovery and assessment from others.
  • Learn about conflict theory, styles, and one's preferred approach to resolving conflict.

Session 2. Collaborative Problem Solving and Small Group Facilitation

  • Increase awareness and understanding of the socioeconomic, environmental, and scientific complexities of a selected natural resource issue in North Carolina.  
  • Learn techniques of small-group problem solving in environmental management and policy.
  • Learn and apply facilitation skills for group problem solving.
  • Learn about your leadership qualities through a comprehensive leadership assessment and identify areas of personal improvement and change.

Session 3. Public Policy Negotiation I & Communicating for Agreement II

  • Mary Lou Addor teaching in the Blue Ridge mountainsLearn to apply a collaborative problem-solving model through review and discussion of case studies and exercises.
  • Develop skills in principled negotiation through role-play applications.
  • Learn to manage and reframe conflict in a negotiation setting.
  • Learn to facilitate a complex, multi-party negotiation.
  • Enhance your capacity for leadership through continued self assessment and improvement.

Session 4. Conflict in Public Policy and Public Policy Negotiation II

  • Continue to improve your principled negotiation skills in multi-party, multi-issue simulations.
  • Learn and practice the final stages of collaborative problem solving: final bargaining, achieving formal settlements, and strategies for dealing with special situations
  • Understand the role of “informal” conflict resolution processes in public policy
  • Gain additional confidence in facilitating complex, multi-party public policy negotiations.

Session 5. Washington D.C. Field Trip on Federal Environmental Policy

  • Increase your understanding about federal environmental policy and administrative governance.
  • Learn about how various federal agencies approach rulemaking, public involvement, and environmental conflict resolution.
  • Become acquainted with individuals working with or within federal government on issues related to your interests.
  • Familiarize yourself with emerging federal issues that may impact public policy in North Carolina.
  • Gather information to assist in the development of your practicum projects.

Session 6. Communicating with the Media and Collaborative Leadership

  • Learn to effectively communicate through the mass media on controversial issues.
  • Sharpen your presentation skills through active coaching.
  • Prepare to begin practicum projects

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Expanded Curriculum Options

The NRLI course curriculum is designed to provide participants with sufficient knowledge, skills, and abilities to actively and effectively participate in collaborative problem-solving processes. The purpose of the expanded curriculum option is to provide NRLI participants with additional opportunities to explore subjects to a greater degree than can be accommodated during the regular workshop sessions. 

Facilitative Leader / Facilitator Option

  • Participants advance learning of basic and mid-level third-party facilitation skills to create opportunities for convening collaborative processes and solving public problems.

  • Learn facilitation tools and techniques to help groups define a problem, develop inclusive solutions, strive for consensus, and create durable agreements.

  • Explore formal roles of leadership and how those roles can influence others to accomplish what they want or need to accomplish.

  • Learn how managers, supervisors, chairs, and other decision-based roles can work as facilitative leaders.

  • Increase awareness of group and organizational dynamics, and the inherent dynamics and constraints between facilitating and leading.

  • Develop skills to create inter and intra organizational-wide involvement processes which enable members within and between organizations to more fully utilize their potential.

Principled Stakeholder / Negotiator Option

  • Learn mid-level skills in multi-party, interest-based negotiation.

  • Learn basic theoretical concepts of negotiation derived from decision analysis, behavioral decision theory, and game theory.

  • Learn how to prepare to negotiate, including deciding whether to negotiate, what to negotiate, and with whom.

  • Identify and use the concepts of distributive (competitive), congruent and integrative interests.

  • Understand the distinction between interests and positions and how to use underlying interests to seek joint gains.

  • Understand negotiation concepts – zone of agreement, reservation value/BATNA, Pareto frontier, post-settlement settlement.

  • Understand benefits and perils of coalitions.

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The Practicum

An essential component of the Natural Resources Leadership Institute (NRLI) is the practicum project. Under the guidance and instruction of the NRLI program faculty, participants have the opportunity to apply the skills and information gained in the classroom to situations they face at work, in their organizations, or in their communities. The objective of the practicum requirement is to seek collaborative solutions to community issues with others who have a stake in the outcome.

The role of the participant in the practicum varies.  Typically, a participant assumes one of the three leadership roles or a combination thereof throughout the practicum: 1) principled stakeholder or negotiator, one who helps shape the deliberative process; 2) principled convenor or facilitative leader, one who brings interested parties together to work on a community or organizational issue; and 3) principled third-party neutral or facilitator and mediator, one who facilitates the process for a  deliberative group that is working toward an end product.  Some participants team up to carry out a group project, while others work individually.

Go to the NRLI Fellows and Practicums page to learn about the projects that NRLI Fellows have undertaken since 1995.

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