Case Study: Iowa

R3 Organizational Summary

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages fish and wildlife programs, ensures the health of Iowa’s forests and prairies, provides recreational opportunities in Iowa’s state parks, and encourages the enjoyment and stewardship of natural resources. Iowa’s R3 Program is located within the Conservation and Recreation Division (CRD) of the DNR and the core team is comprised primarily of staff from the Law Enforcement and Fisheries Bureaus. This team coordinates R3 work among the agency and with its external stakeholders. The core team meets every 6-8 weeks to discuss needs and strategies related to R3 work across the state. Each core team member oversees a Task Force Subcommittee and leads work and discussions primarily via calls and emails on priorities related to access (land and water), shooting sports and ranges, marketing and communications, education and outreach, and research and evaluation. The entire task force meets annually to provide updates, collaborate, and set priorities for the following year. An annual R3 summit is held each year to provide R3 internal and external stakeholders with updates on progress, innovations, case studies, tools, and training on key topics of interest. It also provides a forum for discussion and collaboration among attendees.

iowa case studyThe Plan

  • Took approximately a year to complete from start to finish.
  • Gathered input from internal and external stakeholders through conducting a program inventory survey, hosting a statewide R3 workshop, and deploying a post-workshop survey. The information gathered through these efforts set the framework for the plan development.
  • Based on the feedback received, content was broken into six topic areas: access (land, water, ranges), community outreach, mentoring, marketing, education, and technical (laws, licenses, research). Over a couple weeks, internal and external subject matter experts on these topics were brought in and conducted facilitated discussions and exercises with them to begin flushing out specific strategies and action items for the plan.
  • After a review and comment period with the subject matter experts, the agency developed a small team of internal and external stakeholders to serve in the role as the Plan Development Workgroup. This group’s main responsibilities were to identify gaps, duplication of efforts, and begin prioritizing the strategies and actions identified.
  • The agency’s core team then furthered refined the work that the Plan Development Workgroup did and began drafting the plan. During this time period one-on-one in person meetings were held with each CRD Bureau Chiefs for feedback. This was highly beneficial and a much needed step for internal buy-in.
  • The finalized strategies and action items were sent out to internal and external stakeholders for one last review before the plan was completed.
  • The final plan was then rolled out at our first Iowa R3 Summit where a facilitated discussion was conducted and small group exercises on what resources individual groups and organizations could bring to the table for implementation of various elements of the plan itself.

The Task Force

After a couple of years of collaborating statewide on R3 efforts, it became apparent that there was a need to pull together a team of both internal and external stakeholders to work on various aspects of R3 in Iowa on a more regular basis versus just once a year at our annual summit. Even though the agency would continue to remain the primary driving force behind statewide R3 efforts, there still was a need for fresh eyes, different perspectives, and outside experts in our various topic areas to bring continuity, scalability, and provide us with a broader more diverse reach.

The annual summit is still a viable tool in our toolbox in regard to generating interest, excitement, and sharing of ideas and resources but the task force has allowed for more successful execution of the efforts, thus providing deliverables and other direct outputs.

Lessons Learned

  • Writing a statewide R3 plan is a journey. To achieve buy-in from both internal and external R3 stakeholders, the process to develop a plan will take weeks if not months. The process to develop the necessary buy-in will differ from state to state and the best approach to develop a plan, one with incorporated elements into an existing plan or the creation of a stand-alone plan, will also vary depending on the organization and its partners.
  • Dedicate the time to achieve buy-in from both internal and external stakeholders. Garner support from as many stakeholders as you can, and then move forward. Some partners may take longer to support the effort, but they can join the organization’s R3 efforts when they are ready.
  • Use the National Plan and other state/organizations R3 plans as reference tools. These resources can help to develop ideas and thoughts, but they should not dictate the complete actions for your organization.
  • Learn from other’s successes and failures, and adapt those examples to work for your agency or organization.
  • Ask for help. Use the resources available to avoid reinventing the wheel. We can all learn, grow, and adapt from each other.
  • Be prepared for feedback – both good and bad. If stakeholders feel they have been heard and have contributed to the effort, they will be more supportive and willing to do what’s needed down the road.
  • Make sure to step back and listen. Even R3 Coordinators have a lot to learn.
  • Time is and always will be a challenge for everyone. Whether solely dedicated to R3 or multiple responsibilities, time will continue to be a huge determinant of the progress made. Prioritization will be a necessity!
  • Communication is key, even when it feels as if it is falling on deaf ears. One primary agency or organization will do the heavy lifting for R3, but without other staff and partners it will be hard to build scalable efforts.
  • Realize that a statewide plan and/or organizational structure won’t be perfect. Adaptive management will be imperative to all aspects of R3. Agencies and organizations will need to evolve and adapt over time, even after failures and changes are made.
  • Maintain momentum as much as possible. A dedicated R3 coordinator is critical to maintain momentum, but an organization can and must still make progress without one. A team of professionals can tackle small tasks and demonstrate to stakeholders that progress is being made to maintain and then build support and buy-in.
  • Utilizing facilitators not directly related to R3 was extremely beneficial to getting started. This approach allowed the Iowa Core R3 Team to listen during parts of the planning and organizational process and also allowed us to actively participate during meetings to represent the programs we are responsible for without it feeling like we were controlling or biasing the effort.

For additional Iowa R3 resources click here.