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Case Study: Environmental Priorities Coalition

The Environmental Priorities Coalition is a project of Washington State's environmental community to build bipartisan support for common sense legislative priorities.

After watching a decade of environmental protection rollbacks, and suffering regular defeat at the hands of opponents that had perfected a “divide and conquer” strategy, Washington’s environmental community decided in 2003 to coordinate their efforts and push for a coordinated, proactive environmental agenda. They created the first ever community-wide set of environmental legislative priorities called the "Environmental Priorities Coalition"—a combined effort that involves nearly every major environmental group in the state.

The Environmental Priorities Coalition has worked hard over the last several years to establish shared protocols for decision-making, improved public messaging and advocacy coordination.

Early on, the community recognized the need to present a unified public face to the world.  That’s where Groundwire stepped in. Groundwire provided the technology and strategy advice to help Washington environmental groups:

  • Create a combined email alert system that allows the environmental community to instantly respond to fast-moving events in Olympia by activating its entire online activist base in a coordinated way

  • Generate activist phone lists for mobilizing volunteers for higher level advocacy activities

  • Present the Environmental Priorities Coalition to the public, the press and to legislators via a joint website that draws together information from many different groups, and allows environmental organizers to work together to update the site content

  • Coordinate and collaborate across organizational boundaries by hosting email discussion lists for environmental group executive directors, field organizers, and lobbyists.

Through this combined outreach and the high levels of trust and close collaboration among its members, the coalition has built strong brand recognition for the “environmental priorities” with legislators, the press, and activists. After several extremely successful years, the collaboration achieved unprecedented success in the 2007 legislative session, with passage of all four of the community’s priorities:

  • Clean Air/Clean Fuels
  • Save our Sound
  • $100 Million for the Wildlife and Recreation Program
  • Eliminating Toxic Flame Retardants

Groundwire's contribution to this success came through helping to facilitate coordination of the coalition members through hosted email discussion lists, the joint website (which serviced in excess of 5,000 unique visitors over the course of the legislative session), phone lists (which aided in the mobilization of activists for events like the annual Legislative Workshop and Environmental Lobby Day in Olympia), and the more than 8,000 email messages from concerned citizens sent to legislators through the coalition’s combined email alert system. 

Joan Crooks, Executive Director of Washington Environmental Council, says,joan-crooks.jpg "Groundwire has been a crucial part our efforts to get information out to people so they take action. They have helped us build an effective and streamlined one-stop-shop for anyone who wants to get involved in the most important environmental issues in play in the state legislature."

Gregg Small, Executive Director of  Climate Solutions, observes, "The Legislature is now organizing their work around our agenda.  When the Governor and key legislators speak, they talk/services/articles_related_to_services/case_study_environmental_priorities_coalition/gregg_small.jpg about our priorities. That's because we've become far more effective at communicating our agenda to our elected officials." Perhaps even more importantly, the Environmental Priorities Coalition effort has built up the human relationships that are the key to movement success.  "We all know each other better as a result of this process, and that makes a big difference.   By working together, we've built trust among our organizations and that makes us more effective," reports Gregg Small.


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