Natural Resources Leadership Institute

a specialized leadership training program

geared toward natural resource professionals

In Florida, time-consuming and expensive disputes often emerge over issues such as endangered species, land use, coastal and marine resources, and water quality and quantity. Effective leadership in managing such issues requires a specialized set of skills, tools, and strategies to build trust and promote collaboration among competing interests. In recognition of this need, the Florida Natural Resources Leadership Institute (NRLI) was founded in 1998. Its mission is to bring together professionals from sectors that impact or are impacted by natural resource issues and provide them with the training required to find inclusive solutions to seemingly intractable problems.

About the Institute

NRLI is an eight month professional development program. Each intensive three-day session is held in a different part of the state and focuses on a specific and contentious natural resource issue. Sessions include:

A briefing by a qualified expert on the natural resource issue under study;

An on-the-ground tour of the issue site;

Experiential training in skills, concepts, tools, and strategies related to collaborative decision making, conflict management, communication, and negotiation.

Engagement with stakeholders from diverse institutions/ organizations and perspectives.

Facilitated discussion among Fellows on lessons learned and questions raised or answered at the venue; and

Directed work on individual practicum projects.

The Practicum

To assure that the skills learned in NRLI go beyond the classroom, a practicum is built into the program. You will develop a project to apply skills and concepts learned in NRLI to actual conflict, decision making, or leadership situations in your organizations or communities.

Download the curriculum & objectives

  • NRLI was a life-changing experience for me. After working in sharply polarizing environments for decades, I felt like I had finally found a community that could see a different way forward. I now experience the world differently both personally and professionally.

    NRLI Alumna, Private Environmental Consulting Firm

  • NRLI has helped me improve how I assess my own interests and biases and how I interact with many other people who may have very different views. I think my ability to assess situations is better and I have new tools to use to try to work with others to achieve mutually acceptable outcomes.

    NRLI Alumnus, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission

  • The program provided the safe space necessary to practice engagement and facilitation techniques. The exposure to the diversity of Fellows and communities helped me learn to place higher value on critical stakeholder processes, personal interactions and planning and preparation. The program absolutely improved my capacity as a leader in local government.

    NRLI Alumna, Broward County Environmental Planning & Community Resilience Division

  • The program is beneficial on a number of levels. First, it provides an opportunity to learn about how localities around the state are dealing with resource management issues. Second, it provides the tools, skills, and confidence needed for one to successfully participate in or assume a leadership role in decision-making processes. Third, it offers excellent opportunities for collaborative networking.

    NRLI Alumnus, Florida Sea Grant

  • NRLI is beneficial on a number of levels. First, it provides an opportunity to learn about how localities around the state are dealing with resource management issues. Second, it provides the tools, skills, and confidence needed for one to successfully participate in or assume a leadership role in decision-making processes. Third, it offers excellent opportunities for collaborative networking.

    Anonymous, 2013 Alumni Survey

  • [NRLI] has given tangible tools I can use to design and facilitate effective meetings, engage diverse stakeholders, collaborate, negotiate, and move through contentious issues. The project team is impressive with the amount of experience and knowledge they bring to the table - I’ve had the privilege of being part of a network of individuals who value effective dialogue and collaboration.

    Jessica Mendes, Florida Gulf Coast University, NRLI Class XIV

  • Before entering the NRLI class, I thought about the skills taught, but never really knew how to put them all together. By going through the course, I now feel like there are very few conflicts in my professional and personal life that I have not been well equipped to skillfully manage. I truly believe that participating in the NRLI course was a life changing event.

    Clay Coarsey, Suwannee River Water Management District, NRLI Class XIV

  • NRLI offers an excellent opportunity for professional and personal growth and is a great way to meet and interact with diverse audiences. Another benefit of the program is that NRLI maintains an active alumni group across the state. As we face increasing budget issues…the need to partner and collaborate with outside agencies to achieve our work goals is more important than ever. NRLI fellows have at their fingertips a statewide network of professionals with expertise in everything from resource and agriculture economics to community development and ecosystem management.

    Brian Fluech, University of Georgia Extension, NRLI Class VIII

  • [NRLI] helped me to be a clearer, more concise spokesperson for collaborative approaches; it gives me an example/a resource to refer back to when persuading clients to use more consensus based, collaborative approaches.

    Anonymous quote from 2013 NRLI Alumni Survey

  • I believe I am better at listening to opposing perspectives and at being patient at the beginning of interactions. I find it easier to investigate the interests of the other side and to look for common ground. I have a host of interactive exercises and group facilitation scenarios to make meetings and teaching situations fun, interesting, and effective. I met a great group of people and got to see firsthand the many ways public and private natural resource and agricultural organizations and industries in Florida are integrating concerns for the environment with profitable business strategies.

    Anonymous quote from 2013 NRLI Alumni Survey

  • It would be difficult to succinctly describe everything I’ve learned. In short, however, I have learned a lot about group dynamics, the importance of active and empathic listening, and the need to consider the views and interests of all stakeholders. I have been exposed to many different tools for engaging stakeholders and working through difficult dynamics. My abilities to identify and work with stakeholders to discuss and address conflict situations has been greatly improved.

    Anonymous quote from 2013 NRLI Alumni Survey

  • I feel that I have a much better understanding of natural resource issues in Florida, stakeholder groups, and the complexity of these issues. I also feel that I have a much better understanding of how to engage people and stakeholders in discussing and trying to address these problems and conflicts.

    Anonymous quote from 2013 NRLI Alumni Survey

  • I really enjoyed participating in the program, and I feel the NRLI team did an amazing job of making sure we were all comfortable, happy, and got as much out of our time in each of the sessions as possible.

    Anonymous quote from 2013 NRLI Alumni Survey

  • The investment I made will have longterm impact on my development and my ability to create the space to allow for more open, creative, and solution oriented dialogue.

    Elizabeth Dieveney, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, NRLI Class XIV

  • NRLI is a program worth celebrating, developing further, and finding ways to model in other states and agency leadership programs. I will be practicing my NRLI skills as I help create the future for marine resource management in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

    Elizabeth Dieveney, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, NRLI Class XIV

  • NRLI has allowed me to see and understand issues from a variety of perspectives; to not just listen to clients, but to hear the why behind their thoughts and ideas; to know that consensus is a process and unanimity is a goal.

    Lara Milligan, UF/IFAS Extension, Pinellas County, NRLI Class XIII

  • [NRLI] helped me understand the complexity of natural resource issues in Florida and gave me tools and skills…to help resolve environmental controversies…NRLI has given me a network of natural resources professionals who, together, can make good, informed decisions that will benefit our entire state.

    Gregg Eason, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, NRLI Class XI

  • NRLI showed me that resolution is possible if constituents from different sides of the issue work together to solve the complicated issues and make decisions for the betterment of Florida and its citizens as a whole.

    Deborah Burr, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, NRLI Class IV

  • Florida’s agricultural industry values the precious resources we have been given. While economic viability and protection of the state’s natural resource are often perceived to be in conflict, NRLI gave me the tools to work with stakeholders to help find solutions to the challenges facing agriculture while effectively managing our natural resources to create a sustainable future for Florida.

    Staci Sims, Florida Farm Bureau Federation, NRLI Class IX

  • I'd recommend [NRLI] as a leadership course particularly for folks dealing with contentious natural resource issues involving multiple stakeholders with differing values and perceptions. The course structure of combining a field trip, stakeholder panel, readings, expert speakers, and discussion/exercises is a powerful mix for learning. Having the course spread over 8 months allows participants to practice some of the skills between sessions and then polish those skills over time and get feedback from course mentors. Plus, all fellows become part of a network of natural resource professionals (past participants) who can serve as contacts for information, collaboration, etc.

    Nicole Wulff Dodds, NRLI Class X

  • My participation in NRLI enriched my communication skills through onsite and handson learning activities. NRLI provides the platform for emerging and experienced natural resource leaders to learn from each other by providing the building blocks for consensus. If there were NRLI Part II, I would be the first to sign up.

    Joshua Wilks, National Park Service, NRLI Class IX

  • NRLI helped me to learn how to listen and think about concerns of others, including people not in agriculture.

    Jacob Larson, Larson Dairy, Inc., NRLI Class XII

  • Winston Churchill once said, Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. The genius of the NRLI program is in the axe sharpening. Every detail is carefully planned and executed to the degree that learning seems incidental. As a former teacher, I understand and appreciate the countless hours this team has devoted to each of us on behalf of the university. I hope to use this gift to encourage others to apply for this fellowship. This program has sharpened our axes by equipping us with the tools necessary to better deal with conflict as we represent our respective institutions.

    Carolyn Cox, Florida Climate Institute, University of Florida, NRLI Class XII

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Natural Resources Leadership Institute