February 2016
NRLI Class XV in Key Largo. Photo by Jessica Ireland.
Director's Corner
Jonathan Dain
Sea Level Rise, the Wisdom of Crowds, and Facilitation

The Florida Keys are often described as ground zero for sea level rise impacts. Gazing out at the water while driving on Route 1 to Key Largo, it is easy to see why. The latest computer models (shared with us by Rhonda Haag, Sustainability Director for Monroe County) predict that large swaths of the Keys will be impacted, regardless of whether sea levels rise 9" (low scenario) or 24" (high scenario) over the next 50 years. The largest impacts will not occur from levels increasing at a slow, steady pace like a bathtub with the faucet on, but rather in hard-to-predict fits and starts as storm surges and other events impact property, livelihoods, and ecosystems. Intelligent decisions will need to be made for communities to adapt to or mitigate sea level rise impacts. 

In 2005, James Surowiecki wrote a best-selling book called The Wisdom of Crowds. Its basic premise was that groups are smarter than individuals. It was not a new idea; humans are social beings and depend on each other for survival. However, it did pull together considerable research showing that, if we want to foster innovative and effective planning when surrounded by unpredictability, we ought to work in groups. He also made it clear that groups are smarter than individuals only when everyone's input is considered. So, how do we work to assure smart decisions when, in practice, many groups actually inhibit group wisdom? 

Kenneth Benne and Paul Sheats (early pioneers of group dynamics research, 1948) found that maximizing group wisdom required attention to both task (getting things done) and maintenance (creating an atmosphere where everyone feels they are part of the solution) needs. When emphasis is placed only on task needs, groups can make poor decisions. On the other hand, when emphasis is placed only on maintenance needs, groups can get mired in do-nothingness. Benne and Sheats also identified individual behaviors that can interfere with group task and maintenance needs; we are all familiar with situations where domineering personalities, power imbalances, disruptive group members, and an inability to listen to each other make group work frustrating and ineffective. 

Which brings us to the concept of facilitation. Facilitation means helping groups and organizations do what they need to do. It means helping groups do their best thinking by making sure that both task needs and maintenance needs are addressed. It means understanding that it is normal for groups to get stuck in "Groan Zones" when dealing with decision-making (Kaner et al. 2014) and that difficult behaviors are more-often than not due to group dynamics, not difficult people. Not all groups need facilitators, but all groups do need people who know how to make them as efficient and effective as possible. While visiting Key Largo, Fellows witnessed endless issues that require the attention of groups. Facilitation is a core NRLI skill, and NRLI graduates are well-equipped to help their groups be inclusive and wise. Let's use our training to tap into the wisdom of the crowd and make good group decisions.
In This Issue
Quick Links

Class XV Session 5 Newsletter

Key Largo: Sea level rise

In this issue...

Session Overview

Curriculum Focus: Understanding group dynamics and applying effective facilitation skills

Fellows' Article
Cheryl Millett & Tracy Wyman
Class XV Fellow Spotlight
  • Brad Austin, Dairy Farmer & Co-owner, Cindale Farms
  • Angela Collins, Sea Grant Agent, UF/IFAS Extension/Sea Grant Manatee County

NRLI Alumni Spotlight

  • Jennifer Jurado, Director, Broward County Environmental Planning and Community Resilience Division
Click here to download a PDF. 
General Joe Joyce Family Endowment
for Natural Resources Leadership
Upon his retirement from UF/IFAS, Dr. Joe Joyce established an endowment to support the Florida Natural Resources Leadership Institute. This is NRLI's first endowment and will support scholarships and program support. To make a gift to this endowment:
Mail: checks may be mailed to:
UF/IFAS Development
PO Box 110170
Gainesville, FL 32611

Please make checks payable to the University of Florida Foundation.
Include "FNRLI-Joyce Endowment" in the memo line. 
Future Class XV Sessions
February 4-6, 2016
Endangered species & recreation
Crystal River
March 10-12, 2016
Agriculture south of Lake Okeechobee
April 7-9, 2016
Graduation & practicum presentations
NRLI Class XVI (2016-2017)
We are currently accepting applications for NRLI Class XVI (2016-2017)!
The application deadline is April 1, 2016. Class size is limited; applicants are strongly encouraged to apply as early as possible.

For additional information, including a complete schedule and application instructions, please visit the Class XVI page on the NRLI website ( or
contact Jessica Ireland, NRLI Program Coordinator.
Phone: (352) 294-7643