Institute for Environmental Negotiation

Empowering communities to create shared solutions

Safety and Health in Facilitating a Transition (SHIFT)


Between July and November of 2013, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) convened a stakeholder group of 25 individuals representing nine interest groups to make recommendations for the future of its onsite septic program. The Safety and Health in Facilitating a Transition (SHIFT) process was planned through a collaborative effort involving the VDH, IEN as independent facilitator, and a six-person planning team representing diverse stakeholder interests.

IEN began the process by conducting interviews with members of the committee, representing the following sectors: builders and realtors, environmental interests, homeowners/citizens, installers, local government, manufacturers, onsite soil evaluators (OSEs) and professional engineers, well drillers, and VDH staff. The committee—aided by state agency staff serving in a resource capacity—met five times and progressed through gathering and sharing information, identifying issues, developing a range of ideas, refining them into a set of draft proposals, then testing for consensus and refining and building consensus recommendations. Committee discussions revealed a complex history and differing perceptions of need from the various stakeholder constituencies.

Although the committee had considerable diversity of opinion, it ultimately agreed to seven consensus recommendations and discussed a number of additional recommendations, all described in a final report produced by IEN.