Sunday, July 6, 2014

I Was Country... When Country Wasn't Cool

Barbara Mandrell sang it..."I was country when country wasn't coo-ooool"....(try getting THAT outta your head now...)

Long before the words Cohesive Strategy were even mentioned in the same sentence, the words Collaboration, Coordination and Cooperation were uttered by fire and land managers, non governmental organizations (NGOs) and community members seeking ways to resolve wildland fire issues and mitigate risk. 

Many communities, groups and agencies have engaged in collaborative behaviors that have resulted in cultural and paradigm shifts in attitudes (and resulting actions!) about wildland fire. It's no secret that a collaborative effort among stakeholders usually results in greater success and achievement than what one person or one agency can accomplish alone.  


We often hear from successful, high capacity, highly collaborative, highly productive groups (some that have been in existence for over 20 years!) who ask: What is the Cohesive Strategy and why do we have to do things differently?

The answer is remarkably simple.   

It's a framework to capture what you're all doing well (translation: don't change what's working well) and provide a reason for looking at yourselves, your organizations, your policies, and your practices to determine where you can do better (translation: stop doing what's not working well and try something different).  Sounds simple right?  

Changing cultures and attitudes is a long-term, often complicated, that witnesses great loss and great sacrifice along with baby steps of progress and achievement over the long haul (wow, sounds a lot like that other commitment...). Just ask the folks who were Country When Country Wasn't Coo-ooool: Fire Safe Council members; Firewise, Fire Adapted Communities, FireFree, Living with Fire and Fire Smart followers (we should start a cult!) and the hundreds of ranchers and farmers who knew what "defensible space" was before Jack Cohen gave it a name. There are many more. 

Those who've marched in this parade before us have paved the way and convinced us that the commitment is worth it. We can point to hundreds of areas, organizations and agencies across the country where the cultures have changed.  Google any of the F-words above and see for yourself.  But there are still thousands of areas where the culture of cohesiveness and the three C's above are not as embraced and the culture is still evolving. 

Cohesive Strategy is not a new theory.  But one that embraces these successful forerunners and stretches her long arms around the rest of us to gather up all the achievement and progress, and commit to the long haul and baby steps of cultural change because she knows it's worth it.  If we keep "working better together" our landscapes will be healthier and more resilient, our communities will be adapted to the reality of wildfire, and our fire response will be safer and more effective.  Of this she is certain. 

So thanks Babs, for the song that I can't get out of my head, and to all of you who recognized the benefits of "working better together" and gave the Cohesive Strategy a running start at changing the culture of fire and how we conduct the business of land and fire management in this country.  

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