SDGs Need Governance Model for the Practitioner

Governance…a topic traditionally reserved for governmental and institutional policy-makers is now within reach of private practitioners.  And it is also a fair statement to say that our global SDGs can not be achieved until the private practitioners; those that work the land and oceans for the livelihoods, take a hands-on approach to governance.

Governance does not have to be imagined as a vague and confusing topic, but it can be understood as a tangible aspect of society consisting of actors, styles and frameworks as described as the science of collaborative governance.

Yes, governance is often a structure imposed on the masses as recognized by United Nations Goal #16 , but it is as much as an emergent quality of complex social systems.

As an emergent quality, governance is an intimate aspect of Goals #1-15 and a shared governance model aptly describes the intentions of Goal #17.

A renewed perspective on the science of collaborative governance can initiate a new interest in governance from the practitioners perspective.  We are now an interconnected world.  One where organizational boundaries are becoming more porous and social boundaries less clear.  Solutions emerge from networks of actors on a on-going basis.  We and SDGs need a shared governance model that is robust enough to describe and define this dynamic activity.

We must be able to clearly define governance of sustainability supply chains, governmental programs and NGO efforts.  We must put sustainability governance within reach of the practitioners.

Tim Gieseke has decades of experience in agriculture landscape sustainability as a public policy-maker, private policy-maker, public practitioner and private practitioner.  He envisioned the governance compass several years ago while applying a shared governance approach to account for and value ecosystem services from agriculture lands.

His book, Shared Governance for Sustainable Working Landscapes, (Taylor and Francis/CRC Press) was released in August 2016.  It introduces the world’s first method to describe an unlimited number of governance frameworks of socially complex systems using the two variables of actors and styles.  With this governance compass, he analyzes the governance actors, styles and frameworks of eleven agriculture sustainability case studies from the corporate, government, utility, and NGO sectors


IPMN, FairVoteMN discuss strategies for renewed relevancy, tackle wicked problems

A top issue discussed Saturday at the Independence Party of Minnesota (IPMN) state convention was how voters of Minnesota and the IPMN themselves can be more relevant in the coming elections despite the overwhelming control the two party system has on the election process. And it is extensive. Despite congress’s 13% approval rating they maintain a 94% re-election rate. How is this possible?

While it is generally agreed the enormous sums of campaign money exasperate this problem, it is not the root cause. Even if we could pass campaign finance reforms, overturn Citizen United and set term limits it would not change the stranglehold. The reason is these efforts are really just simple tame solutions being applied to a complex, wicked problem.

Wicked problems in this sense do not denote evil, but on-going social problems seemingly impossible to resolve. Tame problems are their opposite. Tame problems may be difficult, like putting a human on the moon, but if enough resources are applied to the problem, it can be solved and the solution can be replicated. Tame solutions can be engineered, wicked solutions cannot – yet we continually try with proposed reforms that are immediately cancelled out. It is like an election process whack-a-mole.

The root cause of this wicked problem; this paradox of a failing congress getting re-elected, is the lack of access and meaningful participation by other parties, people and candidates in the election process. Sounds simple enough, right? The solution then resides in providing optimism, access and a renewed relevance for other political parties.

Rank Choice Voting (RCV) is considered the solution to renewed relevancy. RCV is a voting system where voters rank their top three choices – favorite to least favorite. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the votes, then the second choices are added in and then third choice, if needed. Minneapolis and St. Paul use RCV.

At Saturday’s convention Tim Penny, former IPMN governor candidate says RCV is voter friendly because no votes are wasted, 3rd party candidates become relevant, mud-slinging is reduced and less money is needed to win. Really, how so?

Carol Rudie of FairVote Mn, a system-thinker and a long-time RCV advocate explained that since a successful candidate in a RCV race must garner more than 50% of the vote they often have to rely on not just the first choice of a voter, but the second choices as well. This small change in the election process causes significant changes in candidate behavior. And citizens, potential candidates and third parties are immediately empowered. Money is less influential and negative ads are apt to backfire.

As odd as that sounds, this is one characteristic of a wicked problem; sometimes they can be resolved by making a relatively small tweak to gigantic, seemingly unwieldy systems such as the multi-billion dollar election cycle.

The wicked solution to our highly dysfunctional election process is RCV. Now let’s try to prove this wrong.

An Economic ‘Free Lunch’, but not dessert, too.


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Economists who like to tout the “no free lunch” phrase made popular by Friedman are often the first to stammer when it comes to the environment.  I think the ecological system, the (literal) mother of all economics, intimidates economists.

Many economic textbooks have a paragraph or two, maybe even a chapter, explaining that environmental management is often best left up to the government.  But they still have a hard time calling it “natural capital”, probably out of fear that they would have to address it.

And its hard to blame them for the fear.  In 2014, ecological economists Robert Costanza, et al estimated the value of natural capital output to be $124T/yearly.  The global GDP was a mere $75T.  “How could something be of greater value than the money in the world, as no one would be ‘willing (or able)-to-pay’ for something at that price”.  The argument against natural capital valuation could be made by the inability of the economic financial capital to pay for it.

But economists, don’t fear.  Of that $124T, it is estimated that only about 15% of its value would have to be economically accounted for – so that the natural capital remains robust and sustains the economic system.

So economists, you still get your “free ecological lunch” but you will have to pay for dessert.

Finally, the Perfect Environmental Index…

This is the moment many government agencies, corporate supply chainers, NGOs, Green Bonders and some environmentalists have been waiting for – the creation of the PEI – the Perfect Environmental Index.

The ability to measure ecosystem goods, such as bushels of corn, board-ft of lumber, tons of alfalfa have allowed easy and efficient transactions of values; an economist’s dream.

The inability to measure ecosystem services, such as cleansing water, supporting biodiversity, increasing pollination, and the betterment of soil condition has had to rely on landscape management indices.  A Soil Conditioning Index, Water Quality Index and Habitat Suitability Indices – and none of them could measure soil, water,or  habitat with the economic effectiveness as valuing a bushel of corn.

Until now, of course.

To get access to the PEI, there is one catch.  You need to describe how you will use the PEI to achieve the objective that was not attainable before the PEI era – and also describe which technical, scientific, political and governance obstacles the PEI broke through.

Ditch the “Legalese”


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The public debate on EPA’s Waters of the United States (WOTUS) began several months ago with agriculture’s “Ditch the Rule” campaign claiming it was an EPA land grab. It was answered with “Ditch the Myth” campaign claiming nothing is going to change.

Because this debate did not provide me with much other than a request to adopt one opinion or another, I tossed in a “Ditch the Bitching” campaign which I received both praise and scolding.

After attending the Rural Legislative Forum at South Central College in Mankato December 4th, I think I found a starting point for a productive debate – – – Is the word “ephemeral” as in ephemeral stream (those streams that only occur during times of rain within the field boundaries) an addition to the WOTUS proposal?

If it is a new term, then there is significant reasons to ditch the rule as a federally-administered program focusing on millions of miles of streams that may or may not exist due to daily and/or seasonally variations in weather could not possibly meet its intended purposes even if the federal government could control the weather.

If “ephemeral” is not a new term, then the agriculture concerns may need to be based on other potential non-mythical facts, such would this WOTUS proposal would shift control from the states to the federal government?

These are two simple, yet significant issues, that anyone on either side of the issue should be interested in and this information should be readily accessible by reading the WOTUS proposal – and it isn’t.  Then the issue is broader than WOTUS and it comes down to legal competency – –

As it is “simple to make things complicated” and it is “complicated to make things simple”.

Writing a mass amount of indecipherable legalese is not the mark of intelligence and not being able to decipher it is not the mark of stupidity.

Ditch the “Legalese” – it is a myth that rules need to be complicated.

Duluth (MN) Chamber’s Governors Debate: It’s Not That Simple


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Duluth Chamber’s Governor Debate: It’s Not That Simple

The governor debate sponsors; Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce and Duluth News Tribune set a bad precedence for Minnesota’s political debates when it elected to exclude the Independence Party of Minnesota from the gubernatorial debates and presumably attempt to start a two-party political horse race.

The gubernatorial debates in Rochester and Moorhead included the state’s three major parties with Dayton, Johnson and Nicollet each presenting unique perspectives and policy ambitions in several topic areas.   An email received by the Nicollet campaign on Friday from Duluth Area Chamber’s David Ross stated that the Independence Party will be excluded from the Duluth debate because including IPM’s Nicollet “would be a violation of the trust we were afforded by the Dayton and Johnson teams. It is that simple.”

From my perspective, nothing about a gubernatorial debate is “simple”.    The list of logistical and political aspects is long.  The debate sponsors decided on aspects related to timing, venue, topics and fairness.  The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce endorsed GOP’s Johnson.  At the conclusion of the Rochester debate, Governor Dayton stated Nicollet should be afforded the same debate opportunities as previous major party governor candidates.  The election process is complex and dynamic.

In the two previous debates, Nicollet presented fiscally-conservative strategies including an elimination of corporate taxes and a fresh approach to the social issues that push independent-minded voters away from the GOP.

So the decision on who to lead Minnesota’s political and governance future is never “that simple”.

Unfortunately, excluding the IPM candidate from the gubernatorial debate denies Minnesota voters an opportunity to learn more about all three major party candidates and leaves the media with a less representative two-party gubernatorial horserace to cover.  It is that simple.

Tim Gieseke

Lt. Governor Candidate

Nicollet for Governor

Independence Party of Minnesota


Ditch the Bitching

The US EPA and agriculture leaders are having a fight over water.

The story in most US states: Water, a public resource, flows off of land, a private resource, into privately owned ditches that flow into public navigable waters of the nation. Sure, it gets a bit complex, but what social issue isn’t?

The ag groups are yelling, “Ditch the Rule”, because they state the EPA wants to regulate every puddle of water. The EPA is yelling, “Ditch the Myth”, because they state the rule has not extended their authority one bit.

As the Independence Party Lt. Gov candidate on the campaign trail, I have witnessed the yelling on both sides. Several voters at these functions shake their head at the nonsense. I ask, “If the EPA wins, could anyone imagine a top-down permitting process working? – – Or if the ag groups win, does anyone think water is going to go away as a major national issue?” No and No are the answers.

So maybe this is just a courting phase, or probably a phase before court, or just human nature…I could get our kids to pick up this act in a heartbeat.

What we have is a lot of people standing in a transition between a time that water was not much of deal and moving into a time that water is a big deal. During this shift, the policy managers on both sides have pretty much stayed the same. And that causes problems. Because when one shifts from one paradigm to another, it is time to get rid of the old managers and time to recruit and elect new leaders.

Taking the “Non” Out of Non-Violent Crimes

There are a variety of activities in our culture that are deemed inappropriate, yet very human.  Often this inappropriateness is related to people relieving mental stress through a variety of alcohol, drugs and activities.  People also have sex drives and seek out sex partners as they see necessary.  People of great wealth are not more or less human than non-wealthy people and they have the means to address their humanness in the manner they see fit.

Others, many others, do not meet their needs as gracefully. But if these are done in a manner that does not bring harm to another individual, one could consider it a non-violent activity.

If society makes these socially inappropriate activities illegal, the humanness still prevails.  These activities become much higher risk and the occupations related to this aspect of humanness becomes more lucrative.  Lucrative occupations generate a supply of interested applications.  Lucrative, illegal occupations generate a supply of a different type of applicant; often one that is able to deliver force and violence to maintain market share.

It is the best strategy, perhaps only strategy, to take “non” out of non-violent activities and make them violent crimes.

It is not humane.