The National Policy Process Seminar for Professional Development Participants is designed especially for policy makers and staff whose professional lives focus on energy and environmental policy, salmon recovery, and river management in the Pacific Northwest and the Columbia River Basin. The Corps of Engineers, Bonneville Power Administration, and the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission and its member tribes have been the primary clients for this first seminar. Northwest utility staff members have also participated in recent years.
Our primary objective is to understand the process of how national policy is made in Washington, particularly in the water resource, energy, environmental, and natural resource policy domains. Through readings and lectures during our pre-trip sessions, seminar participants are introduced to a variety of academic models and theories of the national policy process that are far more interesting and useful than those that were available to most of us when we were in school. They “test” these models during the trip to Washington, and reconsider them during the post-trip review session in January.
During the course of the seminar, we focus on the actors and the action of policy process and give special attention to the institutionalization of that process. While our most important objective is to develop a deep understanding of the complex nature of the national policy making process, we appreciate that participants find the learning process more interesting when we use examples from “live” case studies that are relevant to their professional lives. We try to select case studies that are representative of a broad range of water resource, energy, environmental and natural resource policy issues, and that can add intriguing “flesh” to the drier theoretical “bones” of the policy process models. We ask our guest speakers in Washington to use examples from their own involvement in our case studies to help them describe their roles in the national policy process.