Bobby Cochran Takes Fellowship, Sara O’Brien Steps Up
Willamette Partnership has some exciting news. Beginning August 1, 2018, I’ll be pursuing a research fellowship with Portland State University’s National Policy Consensus Center (NPCC). The Board has named Sara O’Brien as Interim Executive Director effective July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2019.
The fellowship will give me an opportunity to focus my time exploring what Wallace Stegner called “rugged cooperation,” how it works in Oregon, and how it could work better. I’ll conduct research that can contribute to building new strategies around two themes:
- How do we support ongoing collaborative systems (e.g., Coordinated Care Organizations or forest collaboratives) so that states and communities have the capacity to address rapidly evolving problems stemming from economic, climate, and other disruption; and
- How can we structure social impact and public finance so that communities can access the capital they need to innovate on their solutions using their leadership, especially for water infrastructure and health equity.
I’m excited as well about the opportunity for Sara O’Brien to step into a new leadership role. Sara has been Willamette Partnership’s Director of Strategy since 2013. She brings a wealth of knowledge in conservation policy and biology, an ability to work with business, agriculture, and environmental advocates, and a genuine interest in building cultures of cooperation. She has helped develop mitigation plans for the conservation of Greater sage-grouse in Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, and leads the Partnership’s Smarter Floodplains Initiative.
Sara O’Brien led the development of the Partnership’s current strategic plan. She will be focusing her efforts for the year on our organizational vision of building a world where people create resilient ecosystems, healthy communities, and vibrant economies by investing in nature. We expect this to involve a strong focus on how investing in natural infrastructure – from floodplains to water quality treatment wetlands to parks and open spaces – can help make both urban and rural communities better places to live and work.
While I’ll be working at NPCC rather than the Partnership’s office for the next year, my fellowship can help contribute to building collaborative strategies that will strengthen our future work and help communities in Oregon and throughout the West face some of the significant challenges ahead. Building and supporting effective, collaborative institutions will be key to dealing with climate change, water infrastructure, health equity, and many more of the issues that confront us today. I look forward to returning in the summer of 2019 to a strong and forward-looking Willamette Partnership that can help put those strategies into action.