Case Studies

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City of Alexandria
Center for Economic Support

Challenge
Organizations traditionally have well-designed approaches in place for onboarding individuals, but onboarding a new team can be more complex. It requires a strategic focus on building new relationships among current and new leaders in a way that also establishes excitement for a common vision.

This was the core challenge Lesa Gilbert, the Director of the City of Alexandria’s Center for Economic Support (CES), considered as she assumed her new role with the agency in 2016. CES is a division of the Department of Human and Community Services (DHCS), and it provides Public Benefits, Community Services, and Employment and Training services to Alexandria residents.

Solution

Gilbert worked closely with the DHCS Director of Organizational Development and Equity, Allyson Coleman, and Waterford’s Beth Offenbacker to craft a comprehensive program focused on developing effective working relationships across the Center’s new leadership team. A systems-thinking orientation was a guiding emphasis of this organizational and leadership development project.

 

The project goals included:

  • Build and support a cohesive, high-performing leadership team

  • Develop a leadership philosophy reflective of the mission and vision of the organization

  • Integrate services and programs across the Center and the Department.

 

The CES project elements consisted of:

  • Multiple planning sessions between Gilbert, Coleman, and Offenbacker, focusing on project strategy, session design, and progress assessment as the project proceeded

  • Five 90-minute leadership workshops for CES leaders, complete with learning games and interactive exercises

  • One-on-one coaching sessions with leadership team members

  • Each leadership team member prepared an individual Leadership Philosophy

  • Collective work on a team contract to guide the team’s future work together

  • Creation of a shared leadership philosophy

  • Short pre-test and post-test surveys tracked key metrics, indicating areas of progress and areas where more emphasis might be needed in the future

Examples of the strategic questions that Gilbert, Coleman, and Offenbacker addressed in planning sessions throughout the project included:

  • What makes a team an Effective Team?

  • The unique context of the work that CES does with its clients as a City agency, and how that shapes the leadership focus of the Center

  • How systems thinking and relationship intelligence benefits individuals, teams, and the organization

  • What strategies and tools provide the best mix for building productive engagement in the workshops?

  • The three-way connection between an individual’s own leadership philosophy, the Center’s measures of success, and productive job performance

 

Results

This six-month consulting engagement successfully achieved the stated goals of the project, with data showing improvements on 5 of 10 indicators measured.

 

The CES indicators measured also were reflective of existing DCHS core competencies and behavioral anchors, and included statements such as, “I am a key part of making our Center vision happen” and “I can count on my colleagues in the Center when I need help.”

 

Leadership team members subsequently telescoped key strategies, tools, and insights gained from this project across CES’ three program areas, which further enhanced team cohesion in support of the CES mission and vision.

 

Working with Waterford’s Beth Offenbacker

"The CES leadership team had an amazing transformational experience working with Beth. We learned about each other as individuals and how to work together as a team to achieve common goals. Still today, four years later, we continue to build on the structure that Beth helped us lift. The Philosophy is the North Star for how we engage and execute within the Center for Economic Support. Beth’s collaborative approach to the project helped me develop critical leadership skills, which enhanced my confidence to trust my instincts and take risk. I will be forever grateful to Beth for sharing her time and talents with us." – Lesa Gilbert, City of Alexandria Center for Economic Support

Click HERE to download.

 
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Leaders in Energy

A core element of the Leaders in Energy strategic plan emphasizes Green Careers and Green Leadership,
although as a nonprofit founded in 2014, this part of LE’s workplan had not yet been developed. Executive
Director Janine Finnell approached Waterford’s Beth Offenbacker for assistance with creating a portfolio of
professional development programs and activities that further this aspect of LE’s strategic mission.

Solution
Waterford designed and structured a comprehensive Training & Development program that serves LE's
strategic objectives. The firm advises LE on its Green Career and Green Leadership portfolio and takes the
lead on the steps necessary to develop and build out a continuum of training and development programs.
These programs also are intended to enhance the organization’s own internal leadership development efforts
with volunteers.

Working closely with LE’s Executive Director, project deliverables include:

  • Co-design and facilitation of two Green Career Workshops, which serve people who are entering or looking to move up into Green Jobs, and Green Career Momentum, a 6-session small group program providing customized support and coaching for existing and new Green Career professionals.

  • Planning, event coordination, and co-hosting of a one-day 2017 Green Leaders Summit, designed to foster and build leadership skills for sustainability-focused individuals.

  • Planning, event coordination, and facilitating an EQ for Green Leaders training program, focused on building emotional intelligence skills in support of sustainable outcomes for individual leaders.

  • Planning and co-hosting a quarterly “alumni” event for Green Career participants, as a means to facilitate greater involvement in LE and build strong connections with colleagues in our industry. Each event includes a guest speaker on a career topic and time for small group networking.

  • Coordinating and moderating a Green Recruiters panel at LE’s 2020 Green Job Forum, and collaborating with Executive Director Janine Finnell on preparing speakers for a panel focusing on Green Job trends.

  • Planning and coordination for LE’s Four Generations Awards, including visioning the theme, developing survey questions, serving on the Nominating Committee, and coordinating event technology for the 2020 Four Generations Awards online ceremony. This program supports the intergenerational mentoring goals of LE’s strategic plan.

Results
Since 2017, more than 200 individuals have attended LE’s Green Career and Green Leadership programs, including its flagship Green Career 1.0 and 2.0 workshops, the Green Career Momentum program,  the Green Leaders Summit, and the EQ for Green Leaders workshop. Several have landed positions in the industry as a result of their participation.


Attendees also have shared positive feedback about the quality and impact of these offerings. They are a
membership attractor for the organization, as many have indicated they learned about LE via the organization’s Green Career and Green Leadership programs.

Click HERE to download.

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Potomac Yard
Trunk Sewer Project

Stakeholder engagement services targeting residents, businesses, elected officials, municipal staff and the media regarding the building of a 1.5 mile $10 million Potomac Yard Trunk Sewer Project.  This project was a public-private partnership between master developer Crescent Resources, LLC and the City of Alexandria and required close coordination of all outreach efforts and information.

 

Challenge

Communication with the public about the need for ongoing construction of a 1.5-mile trunk-sewer line under the CSX and Metro rail corridors, through the established neighborhoods and historic Old Town streets of Alexandria, Virginia—all while keeping traffic flowing and neighborhood services intact for residents—presented formidable challenges to the project team.

 

Solution

The Trunk Sewer Community Outreach team, consisting of public agency and private sector members, created a multi-step program that was designed to educate the community about the benefits it would provide to each neighborhood.  The program was designed to help the community remain informed, to maintain open lines of communication, and to minimize construction disruption to the community.  Waterford worked closely with team members to create and implement a multi-faceted engagement plan.

 

Project team members: Beth Offenbacker, Paul Coelus

Click HERE to download.

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Monroe Street Bridge Project

Stakeholder engagement in support of a public involvement process for the redesign and rebuilding of this arterial bridge that carries US Route 1 traffic between the Beltway in Alexandria and the Crystal City/Pentagon area in Arlington.

 

Challenge

After a lengthy public process engaging the public in discussions about neighborhood transportation challenges, the local government and the project’s developer sought to engage the public in a dialogue about what it would take to tear down the bridge and replace it with a new structure.

 

Solution

Working in conjunction with a public agency’s Planning and Transportation staffs and a private developer, Waterford created a plan that included stakeholder identification and cultivation, planning and logistical coordination of a large community meeting, creation and dissemination of educational materials, placement of newspaper advertisements promoting the community meeting, mailings to promote meeting attendance, media relations activities with local media, civic association presentations and community consensus building.

 

Project team member: Beth Offenbacker

Click HERE to download.

 
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Potomac Yard

Stakeholder engagement services for the redevelopment of a former railway yard straddling Arlington County and the City of Alexandria.  At 350 acres, Potomac Yard was the largest undeveloped tract of land inside the Beltway in Northern Virginia.  Located in an urban environment, the site is adjacent to established neighborhoods, major transportation arteries and public facilities, including National Airport, Route 1 and the George Washington Parkway.

 

Challenge

Waterford began work on this project following more than six failed proposals for the redevelopment of the site (including one proposal to build a new Redskins Stadium).  Earlier proposals were mired in controversy, replete with public demonstrations and a highly active anti-growth community that successfully lobbied against all the plans proposed.

 

Solution

Waterford developed and implemented an innovative public participation program in support of a new proposal to redevelop the site.  Over a two-and-a-half year period, Waterford designed and implemented two complementary public participation processes (one for each jurisdiction) that effectively educated and involved the public about the proposed development plan, its opportunities, and challenges.  As a New Urbanist community, light rail, Metrorail and the impact of development on transportation patterns and road systems were a significant part of our educational efforts on behalf of our client.

 

The process culminated in public consensus in both jurisdictions in favor of the redevelopment proposal by local citizens, civic and business leaders.  Following public hearings with strong citizen turnout (the Alexandria hearings, for example, each had more than 50 speakers in support of the project), both Alexandria and Arlington approved the proposal.  Support remained strong for the plan, many years after it was approved by public bodies, in large part because of the significant education and outreach that was conducted.

 

Project team member: Beth Offenbacker

Click HERE to download.

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Landmark Mall

Stakeholder engagement services in support of plans to redevelop an underperforming 52-acre shopping mall adjacent to I-395.

 

Challenge

Landmark Mall was an underperforming property in General Growth’s portfolio, despite the fact that 260,000 cars pass the mall each day.  Constructed in the 1960s and enclosed in the early 1990s, Landmark is a suburban-style shopping center located in an urban environment.  A number of factors contributed to its decline, including an out of date physical structure, changes in both the nature of retail in Northern Virginia and the demographics of the community it serves and serious transportation, transit, and pedestrian accessibility challenges due to the site’s current configuration. 

 

The City of Alexandria was also concerned about the mall’s economic decline, as both jobs and tax revenue were being lost to neighboring jurisdictions.  The accessibility issue highlighted a dilemma for local residents: while redevelopment may improve the mall’s economic condition and provide an opportunity to address some long-standing transportation problems, it may also bring more traffic.

 

Solution

Waterford designed and implemented a public involvement plan for the redevelopment of the Landmark Mall.  Preliminary redevelopment plans were focused on an urban village concept for the site.  Our effort necessitated a close working relationship with local government departments of planning & zoning, transportation and environmental services, and parks, recreation, and cultural activities.

 

Waterford’s public involvement plan for this project employed a four-phase approach – Phase 1: Information/Consultation with the Public; Phase 2: Active Involvement of the Public, through community workshops and other initiatives; Phase 3: Collaboration with the Public, using community ambassadors among other tactics; and Phase 4: Empowerment, with special emphasis on community consensus building.

 

Project team members: Beth Offenbacker, Paul Coelus

Click HERE to download.

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Dulles Corridor
Metrorail Project

Waterford provided stakeholder outreach services for the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, a $3.5 billion extension of the Washington Metrorail system from Falls Church to Dulles International Airport and beyond to eastern Loudoun County. 

 

Dulles Metrorail is a joint effort involving partners from the federal, state, regional and private sectors.  The project is led by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT).  The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) serves as DRPT's technical manager.  Dulles Transit Partners, LLC is the contractor charged with designing and constructing the Metrorail service through a public-private partnership.   Additional key partners include the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), Fairfax County, Town of Herndon and Loudoun County.

 

Challenge

Our initial tasking was an intensive two-month effort to develop a comprehensive communications plan for the preliminary engineering phase of the project.  Project officials subsequently worked on various community outreach efforts targeting thousands of residents and businesses along the 23-mile corridor.

 

Solution

The plan created by Waterford defined the development and maintenance of ongoing relationships with hundreds -- if not thousands -- of stakeholders and stakeholder organizations, including the design and creation of a Dulles Metrorail information booth that has since been used at numerous community festivals, planning for community meetings, conducting group presentations, holding one-on-one meetings with key stakeholders and community leaders, and design and distribution of a variety of printed and electronic communications.  Waterford also performed outreach tasks in support of the plan.

 

Project team members: Beth Offenbacker, Paul Coelus

Click HERE to download.

City of Alexandria VA Stormwater Utility

City of Alexandria,
Virginia Stormwater Utility Project

The project goal was to establish and facilitate a stakeholder process that focused on funding stormwater infrastructure costs in support of community safety and wellbeing.

 

Challenge

SWG members tour Alexandria stormwater projects

The challenge before the City was to prioritize maintenance of its aging stormwater infrastructure in ways that addressed pressing environmental needs, assured the necessary funding to address capital and operating maintenance needs and structured the funding to support the need in as fair and equitable a manner as possible.

 

Solution

As a subcontractor to Michael J. Baker Corporation, Waterford worked with the City of Alexandria to establish a Stormwater Working Group (SWG) representing community/civic and business interests throughout the City.

 

In conjunction with and City Transportation and Environmental Services staff, Waterford created and implemented a comprehensive process to inform, educate and consult the SWG about the City’s existing stormwater projects, its unmet operating and capital program needs and potential funding options.

 

Waterford’s Beth Offenbacker served as co-facilitator for the SWG meetings and guided the development of preliminary findings submitted to the City Manager, which included a unanimous recommendation for implementing a stormwater fee.  The SWG process also included plans for hosting several community meetings with stakeholders as the City’s stormwater planning efforts proceed.

 

Project team members: Beth Offenbacker, Paul Coelus

Click HERE to download.

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Fairfax County
Stormwater Management Public/Private Infrastructure Assessment Project

A comprehensive multi-year effort to assess the current condition of all stormwater BMPs in Fairfax County, both publicly and privately owned.

 

Challenge

The County’s assessment and subsequent maintenance activities represented an increase in the level of service for these assets, which necessitates increased public awareness of stormwater management issues and concerns, especially if these constituents will be responsible for maintenance.

 

Solution

Waterford and PBS&J (now Atkins) assisted the County with developing concepts for involvement/outreach efforts geared at informing stakeholders about issues/roles.

 

Project team members: Beth Offenbacker, Paul Coelus

Click HERE to download.

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Fairfax County
Watershed Planning

Stakeholder group engagement and public involvement and outreach project for two Fairfax County watersheds, Pohick Creek and Lower Occoquan.

 

Challenge

Completed in conjunction with prime contractor Atkins (now PBS&J), the project was part of a County-wide watershed planning program undertaken by Fairfax County’s Stormwater Planning Division.

 

Solution

This public involvement and outreach program involved reaching out to stakeholders across each watershed about the planning effort and to collect supplemental information that informed the plan creation.  Following community meetings in two watersheds, Watershed Advisory Groups (WAG) were established that represented a diverse range of community, civic and business stakeholders.

 

Both WAGs met periodically over a one-year period to provide feedback to the County as the watershed plans were crafted.  Once the plan was created, a second wave of outreach shared the draft plan with the public for discussion and review, including a community meeting and an online comment period.

 

Project team members: Beth Offenbacker, Paul Coelus

Click HERE to download.

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