Vermont Urban & Community Forestry Program’s Guiding Principles and Tenets of Collaboration
The Vermont Urban & Community Forestry Program (VT UCF) to lead citizens, businesses, and governments in understanding the value of urban and community forests and to promote civic responsibility for and participation in the stewardship of these resources for this and future generations. In our efforts to accomplish this mission, we feel that it is important to state the principles that guide our work, as well as the conditions under which we hope to work as colleagues that support, motivate, and celebrate each other.
- We will strive to establish a common vision for our work, which we will revisit and reevaluate annually.
- We will strive to provide space and time to understand how our work and ourselves as professionals in the field of urban forestry fit into the “big picture”.
- We will develop and work off of an annual workplan that prioritizes tasks and defines roles for each individual, establishing clear professional expectations and accountability.
- We will meet quarterly for Program quality, progress, and recalibration purposes, and to strengthen our team.
- We will support autonomy based on the annual workplan.
- We will reserve and respect the prerogative of one member of our team to call on the others when focused work or support on a specific topic or program is needed.
- We will strive for clarity about how decisions are made within our program, in particular around what needs to come back to the whole team and when individual decisions can be made.
- We will strive for clarity about how decisions are made within the larger bureaucratic systems with which we are associated (namely the VT Agency of Natural Resources, the USDA Forest Service, UVM Extension, and the VT Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets).
- We will be honest about needs and tensions that may need to be addressed within the bureaucracy and will strive to recognize how we can work most effectively as part of a system.
Communication & Feedback
- We will recognize the importance of effective and honest communication with each other in order to produce high quality work and achieve the mission of UCF.
- We will strive to maintain regular communication, including:
- Weekly emails from each individual highlighting current work and needs,
- Weekly conference calls,
- Quarterly in-person meetings.
- We will encourage and support constructive feedback, based on the understanding that we are challenging each other and not competing with each other.
- We will discourage and address counterproductive modes of conflict resolution.
- In situations of conflict, we will support openness about discomfort and insecurities, but will also expect each other to be honest and proactive in engaging and addressing the tension.
- We will support each other’s needs and encourage asking for help and/or indicating when there is too much on our plates.
- We will strive to promote a professional atmosphere where our ideas are heard, acknowledged, and respected, and will establish mechanisms for asserting when we feel that this is not happening.
- We will support, protect, and stand up for each other and each other’s work.
- We will engage in activities and conversations that strive to build and enhance trust, and allow for reflection about the quality and development of our collaboration.
- We will be receptive to feedback about our programs and work that is offered by our Advisory Council.
Recognition & Celebration
- We will recognize, praise, and celebrate each other’s strengths and successes, and will engage in our work under the expectation and understanding that we are all doing our best.
- We will encourage our supervisors to acknowledge our value through annual evaluations and work planning processes.
- When appropriate, we will strive to nominate – and advocate – team members for awards to acknowledge their good work.
- We will prioritize building in time to celebrate our successes after major programs, campaigns, or events, resisting the urge to just move on to the next thing.
Personal, Professional, and Programmatic Growth
- We will encourage and acknowledge each other’s professional, personal, and collaborative growth.
- We will make every effort to recognize our personal and programmatic capacities, acknowledge limits to growth, and strive for sustainability.
- We will respect and acknowledge that each of us highly values work/life balance.
- We will strive to support maintenance of work/life balance, and will celebrate our efforts and ability to do so.
- We will allocate time to team building at our quarterly Program meetings and annual Program retreat.
These guiding principles and tenets of collaboration were originally generated by UCF’s staff – Danielle Fitzko, Kate Forrer, Caitlin Cusack, and Elise Schadler – at a May 2013 retreat at Seyon Lodge. They were revisited and revised at an August 2015 retreat at Seyon Lodge by current staff: Danielle Fitzko, Kate Forrer, Elise Schadler, Gwen Kozlowski, and Mollie Klepack.