Conference Complete | NEONESTT Strategic Planning Conference for a Research Facility at Morgan Swamp:

March 2nd-3rd, 2020 at The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake 4888 North Broadway, Geneva, Ohio 44041

A strategic planning and partnership building conference funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.  This conference will serve as the initial gathering of the North East Ohio Natural and Environmental Science Think Tank (NEONESTT).

The goal of this conference is to bring regional constituents from K-12, higher ed, government, non-government, and industry organizations together to help Lake Erie College and The Nature Conservancy develop a strategic plan for a research and educational facility.  Our goal is to provide a central hub for regional environmental data in a way that can serve our communities and we need your help!  The conference will kick off on March 2nd with registration, dinner, and a keynote speaker and March 3 will be devoted to developing a strategic plan for the facility. 

All meals are provided as is overnight accommodations for one guest from your organization (additional guests can reserve rooms at a reduced rate).  Please find instructions below on how to book your room. We look forward to seeing you there!

For any questions or concerns regarding the conference, please contact Dr. John Tedesco at

About Our Partnership

The purpose of this project is to create a unique research and educational facility, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, to provide expanded educational opportunities for our regional K-12 and institutions of higher education in an effort to promote environmental awareness and sound conservation practices.  To achieve this, we envision a consortium of partners from several constituent groups uniting to provide the insight and ideas that will make this facility a robust and viable community resource.

HOW YOU CAN HELP The Lake Erie College School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics recently hosted a planning conference sponsored by the National Science Foundation.  This conference has informed the genesis of the North East Ohio Research and Education Think Tank (NEONESTT).  NEONESTT will be helping to guide the renovation of the research center and its use and we always welcome new ideas.

The Nature Conservancy conducted a master plan of the Grand River Conservation Campus at their Morgan Swamp Preserve and is in the process of making improvements to Campus facilities and amenities. Lake Erie College is partnering with them on the renovation of an existing facility at the Campus that will include laboratories, office space and support infrastructure.  We are looking for your ideas on what is needed in the region and how to accomplish this renovation, and that means we need your thoughts!  Please consider joining us to help shape the future of environmental research and education in our region.

NEONESTT Documentation:

NEONESTT Strategic Plan (Ongoing) Sections of Grant of Interest

Summary Report

On March 2-3 2020, Lake Erie College (LEC) hosted a planning conference at the Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake.  The purpose of this conference was to bring constituents from five identified groups together to establish the Northeast Ohio Natural and Environmental Science Think Tank (NEONESTT).  Job one for this new group was to discuss the development of a unique educational and research facility to serve the region's established needs.  This facility is proposed to be created in an existing structure on The Nature Conservancy (TNC) held Grand River Campus in Ashtabula County.  The building requires substantial renovation, allowing for the constituents to have a say and a stake in the design and implementation process.  Representatives from each group - K-12 education, higher education, government organizations, industry, and non-government organizations/citizen - worked first within their group to identify needs specific to each constituent group and then as a member of mixed groups to identify needs for the facility and benefits to the region.    The general themes for regional benefit from the mixed group exercises focused on improving regional education, regional economies and tourism, transparency and community involvement, environmental awareness, and environmental and individual health.

Additionally, all participants were asked to reflect and identify means by which they could individually contribute to bringing the vision of the space to fruition.  Participants from each constituent group volunteered to take on various roles, with the most frequent being (1) serving on a board or committee,  (2) curriculum development, (3) grant writing, and (4) research, and (5) building collaboration across constituent groups.  This information has allowed representatives from LEC and TNC to form a steering committee to help inform the renovation and usage of the facility as well as beginning to identify subcommittees that will aid in the renovation process.  Currently identified subcommittee goals, based on participant feedback, are grant writing, K-12 curriculum development, research focused on understanding and sustaining the regional ecosystems, and collaboration/promotion. 

The Appreciative Inquiry Approach

The Appreciative Inquiry approach was used to guide idea development, gather data, and help participants identify how they will be able to continue to participate in NEONESTT beyond this initial conference. This method focuses on positive building of ideas rather than identifying weaknesses that need to be overcome.  As a result, participants were focused on what could be accomplished through this project without negative feedback on ideas.  This positive organizational approach provided for the collection of both quantitative and qualitative data.  Data regarding 1) the capacity of constituents to communicate and form partnerships, 2) a detailed list of organizations, and 3) corresponding benefits specific to that organization along with benefits to entire community were collected.  In addition, a description of what can result from successful collaboration, aligned partnerships, and innovative, creative community/group efforts was created. A list of committed stakeholders was established.

In Closing

This conference successfully framed the needs and benefits of the renovation project through ongoing NEONESTT collaborations.  The overall result was that 43 of the 60 participants (72 percent) listed at least one way in which they would like to help as part of NEONESTT moving forward with at least one representative from each constituent group.  Of those 43, 17 (40 percent) listed multiple ways in which they would be willing to serve as part of NEONESTT post-conference.  This suggests that our regional constituents have a strong interest in seeing this project completed.  Further, these results indicate that the Appreciative Inquiry approach created the desired positive environment and that most participants felt engaged and heard as they are willing to continue.  As such, the NEONESTT planning conference was viewed as a success and may serve as a model for similar projects in the future.  Comprehensive data can be found at for public reference.