IRM’s Brownfields Pilot Matrices

As part of our cooperative agreement with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Institute for Responsible Management (IRM) prepares matrices to follow the progress of each EPA Brownfields Pilot toward testing the hypothesis that defines the unique experiment it is undertaking. The matrices track specific pilot activities as well as describe what was learned from their particular experience, and what conceptual insights might be drawn from their brownfields work. The information constitutes a major part of the basis for assessing how the individual pilots are each contributing to the overall nationwide brownfields redevelopment effort, and what they are each and all collectively teaching us.

The matrices are prepared by a team of IRM staff. The team first develops draft versions by researching pilot work plans, quarterly reports, notes from field visits IRM staff made to the pilots, official and unofficial documents furnished by pilot managers, periodic conversations with pilot managers, and interviews conducted with pilot managers and their associates for other IRM projects such as the Brownfields EPA Pilots News newsletter.

The drafts are then sent to the pilots for initial review and feedback. This leads to extensive interviews with pilot managers and other pilot staff to better understand each pilot’s conceptual framework, methodology, and lessons learned. An advanced draft version of a matrix is prepared, and sent to the pilot for final approval. The matrix is then forwarded to the appropriate EPA Regional Office for review by the staff person assigned to the pilot for which the matrix has been compiled. Any modification of the matrix suggested by the EPA regional staff is discussed with the pilot manager. No matrix is considered complete until the pilot manager is satisfied that it correctly reflects his or her pilot. The completed matrix is posted to the IRM web site; a copy is also forwarded to EPA/OSWER headquarters.

We are confident that this matrix process will help define the overall scope and success of the nationwide brownfields redevelopment effort, and will enhance IRM’s ability to research issues of significance to the pilots and others. We hope (and are encouraged by the pilots to think) that it helps focus some aspects of pilot work. Development of the matrix is in no way intended to replace or become part of pilot management that is, of course, a regional responsibility. We are encouraged that pilots, other cities and communities, and even some EPA regions are finding the matrix a useful tool in their brownfields redevelopment tasks.

Each matrix is divided into three sections: hypotheses, tables, and summary questions.

  1. The hypotheses, developed by the pilots themselves in conjunction with IRM, reflect the central theoretical premises the pilot is testing through its brownfields work. In some cases, background material on the pilot is also included.
  2. The matrix tables themselves are broken down into five columns. Each row contains information attributed to a single activity, so that each row should be read left to right, tracing each activity from concept through implementation and on to lessons learned.The columns are:
    • Activities: What is the pilot doing? These are the pilot’s tasks and objectives.
    • Indicators: What specific actions were taken to implement the pilot’s methods? How many? How long did it take?
    • Methods: How is the pilot accomplishing the activities? What is the approach, the plan?
    • Results: What happened because of the activity? What did the activity lead to?
    • Lessons Learned: Upon reflection, what insights were gained from the experiences associated with the particular activity?
  3. Finally, the summary questions below the matrix seek to extend the lessons learned by asking pilot staff what they felt, in their own words, were the critical strengths and weaknesses of their pilot. In addition, pilot officials noted any general or overall lessons revealed relating to the brownfields revitalization process.

Questions about or requests for copies of the matrices should be directed to the Institute for Responsible Management (IRM), 46 Bayard St., Suite 401, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, email