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Case Studies

These cases are real and most are local. People's names will not be used except statewide and national elected officials and Presidential appointees - we may use organization and position within an organization. Information will be from the public domain except the instructor's own experience.

Case Studies will feature both controversial campaigns and non-controversial campaigns — showing how each can be an effective approach to changing how society works and illustrating the reasons why different campaigns take different approaches. Each category will have major campaigns and local campaigns. The major campaigns may look overwhelming, but you will get the tools that work even for these. These real-life cases will serve as examples throughout the course. Some were successful and some were not.

I attempt to present cases that are diverse enough so that each participant will find at least one case advocating an issue they agree with and at least one they disagree with.


The cases include the viewpoint of citizen activism, private-public collaboration, and how institutions and governments can effectively respond to controversy. 


Each group of 3-4 people will select one of each (Controversial and Non-controversial). Each will have a Case Study packet. As we go through the course, each group will apply their specific case to the subject matter being discussed.

Controversial         Non-controversial

CITIZEN ACTIVISM - Major Campaigns


How the Bitterroot Valley got a Bike Path. 

Its been in newspapers — the 2-lane is going to be expanded to an undivided 4-lane. A popular bumper sticker says, "Pray for me, I drive Highway 93." A half dozen people are sitting in your living room and ask how to stop the expansion and promote a "Super 2." You agree to help.

This campaign involved extensive NEPA participation, litigation, and coalition building — but went far beyond litigation in public participation and consensus-building. The theme is how several significant and long-lasting positive outcomes came out of a campaign that failed in its stated primary mission. Draft Environmental Impact Statement Link.


From Inside the Beltway. 

A meeting was arranged with the Forest Supervisor — a small group of forest activists present. A couple of them had been out in the field with representatives of two timber harvesting companies — identifying stands of good timber that preserved roadless areas. 

The largest timber sale in the country had been announced — a salvage sale from the results of the 2000 fires. The Supervisor suggested opposing this proposal could be dangerous.


"This is going to be everybody's [environmental groups] favorite project this year. We both know you cannot even mark that many trees. Why not do a series of small sales, we will all do what we need to do, and there will be plenty of trees to harvest." But, at that moment you realize the Supervisor has nothing to do with the decision. 

This campaign involved a loose (mostly) coalition of local, regional, and national groups — the local group was asked to coordinate it. The emphasis in the case will be how to coordinate the activities of multiple groups with different objectives, skill-sets, and willingness to engage with other groups — engaging simultaneously in NEPA/litigation, mass public education, field-work, public forums, science panels, and local and national press. Burned Area Recovery FEIS.


Germs, Funds, and Steel. 

You attend a meeting at the local Senior Center. You meet people from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) who tell the attendees that they have decided to upgrade the Rocky Mountain Laboratories to BSL-4 – facilities that contain the most dangerous pathogens in the world and create bio-warfare weapons. You know this predetermination at the beginning of the NEPA process is illegal. They must think we are country bumpkins. You tell the leader of the NIH group that they are in one of the most sophisticated political environments they are likely to encounter.

This campaign involves NEPA/Litigation and a response to an agency that was pretty sophisticated in public persuasion. BSL_4 Final EIS.


CITIZEN ACTIVISM - Local Campaigns


Not as Safe as it Looks. 

Noxious weeds are taking over. You attend a Weed Board meeting — the idea of notifying the public where and when they will be spraying is dismissed out of hand.


Help your neighbors. 

You are asked by a long-term mentor to come to a meeting at a conference room at a local restaurant. You don't see too many familiar faces among the 50 or so people. They ask your advice.


Show support when there is no clinic. 

The nearest clinic is in Missoula, so it is difficult to get a continuous campaign going. But, it is important to show that Bitterrooter's are pro-life.


Access and Damage. 

Fences mended when you help build a coalition as your group does extensive fieldwork. Surprises as contenders plow common ground.



It's not what it looks like. 

The book, Zapping of America had been circulating for several years. The Clamshell Alliance had created a massive protest against a nuclear power plant just up north. Your best friend worked on another program, a big radar on Cape Cod — and you had watched as the Colonel had blown off the small group of activists — now he was conducting town meetings in Sandwich. 

You are a Captain in the Air Force and are the Deputy Program Manager for the Spy Ship — and its three-story high radar. Your boss, a GS-14, calls you into his office. You remember this, years later, when, as a civilian, a Danish Admiral flew all the way up to Thule, Greenland to drop a bombshell at your feet. 


Stand your ground in our hometown. 

You are on the board of the Farmer's Market. You show up on the first day and find that a booth has an AR-15 set up on a tripod. There was a school walkout not too long before.  

This scenario will deal with two activist camps as well as the reactions of two institutions.




CITIZEN ACTIVISM - Major Campaigns


From "not a crime" to "best in Montana." 

You don't know why they asked, but they did. The newly formed non-profit domestic abuse shelter. You knew how to run a business, maybe that was it. You reminded them that you were controversial because of your activism. They didn't care. All they wanted to know was, "Are you a feminist?"

This campaign will trace the quiet work of women working one on one with people in the justice system, how an effective response requires multiple agencies working in the same direction, and the need to build an institutional infrastructure for a fast-growing outfit.


Everyone wanted it except... 

You read in the paper that there is a competitive state grant for a community based mental health crisis center.


You remember sitting next to the Sheriff at the courthouse watching local election results, asking him what his biggest problem was. It wasn't meth, it wasn't a crime, it was someone who was mentally ill who had not committed a crime. You said you would work on it someday. The day had come; you knew nothing about it.

This campaign will focus on what it takes to learn how the process works for the government, institutions, and for the peers who are in the system — and how to respond to each of the different institution's needs and constraints. 

CITIZEN ACTIVISM - Local Campaigns


Not as easy as it looks, nor as hard as it seems 

A small thinning sale. 

This will focus on coming to an agreement on specifics without agreeing on principles.


They found a niche and delivered the goods.

PUBLIC-PRIVATE - Double Bottom Line


Wood Products that eat Plastic. 

You provide a home for a grand idea - built a factory in Darby — small diameter wood, recycled plastic, and jobs.



Schooling in Performing Arts Production. 

A teacher has built a performing arts series that books Grammy award-winning acts at the High School theater. You are asked to help transition it to a non-profit. But, when you meet the prospective board members it is clear that they are not ready to fully commit to what it will take to transfer the enterprise. Your company has some cash coming in from a big customer.


Have a process, need a building. 

The Executive Director approaches you, saying they have a grant for a new interview process that reduces the trauma for child victims of crime, but cannot find a rental space that is suitable – other programs are located in places like hospitals - she wants a home-like setting. You cannot afford to donate the money, but you find a way to say, "Let's go shopping."


Filling the holes in the system. 

One of your tenants at your office building is the victim advocate. One of her clients is going to get a rent subsidy when the paperwork gets done being processed, but she is going to get kicked out tomorrow. The only solution is to hand her a check for $200. Then you realize that this is not a one-time problem.



It must come from the top. 

You have deployed a crew to defense plant — the crew came from several locations. You come into work one day, and a young woman tells you her friend had assaulted. Several years later you would write a letter to the president of a university telling him what he was doing wrong.




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