Proposed Abstract Title

Identifying Barriers to Green Infrastructure in Puget Sound Municipalities: An Ethnographic Approach

Presenter/Author Information

Thomas W. Murphy, Edmonds CCFollow

Type of Presentation

Oral

Session Title

Behavior Change and the Salish Sea: Science and Application

Location

2016SSEC

Description

Historically ethnographic research took anthropologists to the remote corners of the world to study little known indigenous cultures. Ethnographic methods developed in those disparate contexts can be honed and streamlined for rapid assessments of applied problems in complex cultures in contemporary settings. Mixed methods of participant observation, document analysis, interviews, focus groups, and an online survey have yielded intriguing insights into barriers faced by municipal employees as they implement green infrastructure in the Puget Sound region. Maintenance, especially when public agencies need to ensure that it is occurring on private property, appears as the most persistent barrier. Uncertainties in cost and performance increase risk and liability and drive up project costs, posing another widely recognized barrier. The challenge of retrofitting legacy infrastructure appears persistently across all methods of analysis. Communication across municipal divisions, especially those dividing public works from planning and community development, can be challenging for many municipalities. Potential solutions also emerged from the analysis. Reduction of risk and uncertainty with cost, benefit, and performance analyses is widely desired. Making developers responsible for environmental damage through better enforcement has broad appeal. Municipal employees would like better internal and external communication. Grants and other financial assistance for retrofitting legacy infrastructure and for staff, training, and green infrastructure projects are desirable. An ecosystems services approach to municipal and project accounting may help reduce perceptions of higher costs. These findings suggest the utility of ethnographic approaches to the challenging problem of human behavior change in the Salish Sea basin.

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Identifying Barriers to Green Infrastructure in Puget Sound Municipalities: An Ethnographic Approach

2016SSEC

Historically ethnographic research took anthropologists to the remote corners of the world to study little known indigenous cultures. Ethnographic methods developed in those disparate contexts can be honed and streamlined for rapid assessments of applied problems in complex cultures in contemporary settings. Mixed methods of participant observation, document analysis, interviews, focus groups, and an online survey have yielded intriguing insights into barriers faced by municipal employees as they implement green infrastructure in the Puget Sound region. Maintenance, especially when public agencies need to ensure that it is occurring on private property, appears as the most persistent barrier. Uncertainties in cost and performance increase risk and liability and drive up project costs, posing another widely recognized barrier. The challenge of retrofitting legacy infrastructure appears persistently across all methods of analysis. Communication across municipal divisions, especially those dividing public works from planning and community development, can be challenging for many municipalities. Potential solutions also emerged from the analysis. Reduction of risk and uncertainty with cost, benefit, and performance analyses is widely desired. Making developers responsible for environmental damage through better enforcement has broad appeal. Municipal employees would like better internal and external communication. Grants and other financial assistance for retrofitting legacy infrastructure and for staff, training, and green infrastructure projects are desirable. An ecosystems services approach to municipal and project accounting may help reduce perceptions of higher costs. These findings suggest the utility of ethnographic approaches to the challenging problem of human behavior change in the Salish Sea basin.