Introducing Lauren Wirtis!
Lauren is a recent addition to the IAP2 USA community, becoming a member in January of 2017! We are also excited to announce that Lauren is our 2017 Intern. Welcome to the IAP2 USA community!
Lauren became a planner because she is passionate about P2. She is interested in what people think about the places they live, what changes they would like to see, and how to get more people involved in their communities.
Lauren recalled a time she took part in a series of open houses that were engaging the community around ways to reutilize a 35-acre waterfront property. During one meeting, community members had the opportunity to talk to Lauren about ideas they thought had been left out of the redevelopment options. Some of these ideas were included in the presentation at the next meeting. People were excited to see their ideas up on the screen. One woman in particular approached Lauren saying, “That was my idea! That’s the thing we talked about!” She showed up to every meeting for the rest of the project.
At the end of the day, “it’s that moment where people feel like they are making a decision about their own lives. A shift in their perception of their own abilities.”
Lauren is a Planner at Maul Foster & Alongi, an environmental consulting firm helping communities with brownfield remediation and redevelopment in the Pacific Northwest. Like many areas across the U.S., former mills and industrial development sites in the Pacific Northwest were tied to rivers and waterways. Now shut down, these sites create unique challenges to sustainability and economic development in local communities. As a planner, Lauren helps these communities figure out how to investigate these sites for contamination and develop short- and long-range plans for remediation that include the community vision and lay out the ordinances the communities can adopt to inform future development. “Participation in decision-making should be accessible, honest, and truly impact the outcome.”
“As a planner in community development, I see my role as the facilitator and interpreter,
translating between the world of public policy and the experiences of everyday life.”
In Lauren’s experience, the biggest barriers to quality P2 are funding and time. Being efficient without sacrificing the end product is a tenuous balance. “I don’t bill for a minute more than necessary. Funding is hard to come by. Design standards are high, and we work hard to meet those standards without losing anyone in the process.” The amount of time and funding it takes to reach a truly representative group of a local community is, unfortunately, not always feasible. This can leave people feeling like they weren’t fully engaged or listened to, and being able to amplify the voice of those who have historically been silent is empowering to the community, and rewarding to those facilitating the conversation.
In your P2 career, are there times when being the professional is almost a hindrance to meaningful engagement? You could walk into a situation where the community is skeptical that a process will be fair and honest, or find that staff are more involved than you’re able to accommodate, or any of a number of other situations.
One solution is to develop P2 Toolkits. These are specialized “packages” of resources that can be provided to “non-professionals” to help them with their engagement efforts. Based on their presentation at the IAP2 North American Conference last September, Cristelle Blackford of CivicMakers, Abby Monroe of the City of Chicago and Zane Hamm, educator and research associate with the Centre for Public Involvement in Edmonton discussed how toolkits have worked in three individual projects.
Cristelle explained how people in Elk Grove, a community just outside Sacramento, California, have guarded their rural lifestyle and atmosphere, and have lately found it threatened by an influx of young families with an urban bent. A proposal to improve mobility in the area – including sidewalks and bike lanes – ran into opposition from those concerned it represented the beginning of a suburban takeover of the rural area; there was also skepticism about the outreach process.
Cristelle’s team determined that the best way to reach out to people in the community would be through other members of the community; that neighbours talking to neighbours would ensure the engagement was meaningful. So they assembled the toolkit that included project information, outreach templates and forms for reporting back. A very plain style was chosen: one that would be more trusted in the community.
Ten “street teams” contacted 115 households – about 95% of the target area – and Cristelle says that’s more than professional consultants could have reached. In the end, the community came up with a mobility approach that focused on what was deemed to be the more immediate issue – street safety – with other work to come later. In the process, community members felt ownership over the process and trust was restored between the community and the City.
The City of West Hollywood had a different situation: staff across the board were eager to engage with the public on all manner of issues across departments, but outreach efforts to date had been disjointed. It was necessary to provide them with the tools to do it and consistent messaging that would work no matter what the topic.
Abby Monroe described how that toolkit was put together: elaborate, colourful materials designed by a graphic artist. Brochures, “playing cards”, posters and other resources were packaged and distributed to the various departments, and training was provided. The result was an involved and engaged staff, an enthusiasm for higher-quality public participation and a consistent city voice across departments.
And then, there is the DIY Engage! toolkit. Developed by the Centre for Public Involvement, this grew out of a need identified by organizations for something to address barriers to participation and make the public engagement process more inclusive by putting equitable outreach design in the hands of community members. Zane Hamm explained this is designed to be an open-source toolkit with resources to enable anyone to facilitate a process in familiar spaces and with culturally-relevant resources. The toolkit is currently being reviewed by leadership students for version 2.0 – an interactive game.
This toolkit includes interactive materials such as a guide book to lead a group through the experiential process of designing a public engagement or initiative, and two sets of cards – one set, putting forward challenges to engagement, with the flip-side putting forward solutions. The second set of cards, “Check Your Knowledge”, highlights terms and facts related to the topic. “Perspective” buttons, designed to understand different points of view, encourage creative thinking to solve the problems identified.
IAP2 USA members can watch the recording of the webinar, and get access to some of the resources mentioned here. Note that Cristelle, Abby and Zane are inviting comments, questions and experiences you might have had with toolkits, yourself.
Reposted from IAP2 Canada
I think it is safe to say that the national political context is influencing public participation and decision-making processes across the country. Involvement is happening in a number of ways that are hard to miss – the Women’s March on Washington, the recent Town Hall meetings with elected officials and new groups like @USIndivisible, @TheKindnessMovement, and @AltNationalParkService. Engagement abounds.
While it is exciting to see so many people engaging in democracy for the first time, much of this engagement is inspired by a decline in trust of government and an increase in resistance, fear and anger. If public participation is something we have in common and operates against what potentially divides us, its capacity to be a shared norm is surely being tested in this time of high conflict and uncertainty.
Truly, events at the national level are changing the ways people engage in our democracy at all levels. As individuals, we may be asking ourselves whether our country is irreparably divided; whether we are still able to make good decisions together; and what might our role be in this context as a P2 practitioner, process owner, and/or stakeholder.
IAP2’s Core Values are based on shared premises of Democracy. Fundamentally, we believe that decisions made together have the potential to be stronger and more informed, as well as have lasting benefits well beyond the decision itself in terms of restoring trust and relationships So how can we lead a positive, constructive way forward based on our Core Values and skills?
We’re beginning the conversation by hosting a World Café session at the upcoming San Diego Skills Symposium to explore these questions and define a way forward. Join IAP2 USA Board members, local experts, Symposium trainers and participants for a World Café exploring these questions Monday, February 27 at the IAP2 USA Skills Symposium, Bahia.
|Date: Monday, February 27th from 5:30 – 7:00
Location: Bahia Resort Hotel, Del Mar Room
Event flyer – Pass it on!
Your input will create action steps for IAP2 USA, practitioners, decision-makers and individuals. As a first-of-its kind session, what we learn here will inform decisions about how IAP2 USA can best have this conversation at a national level. Ideas will also be shared through IAP2 USA’s national network of nearly 1,000 members, and in outreach via local chapters and IAP2’s international network.
Make a difference right now and join us. Register here.
This event is made possible by the hard work and engagement of IAP2 USA Board members Cathy Smith, Kit Cole, Wendy Lowe and P2 practitioner Lewis Michaelson. I would like to thank them and our sponsors: The Davenport Institute at Pepperdine University, Cityworks, Kit Cole Consulting, Katz & Associates, P2 Solutions and Somers-Jaramillo + Associates for supporting this important conversation.
Thank you sponsors!!!
Congratulations Theresa Gunn, IAP2 USA’s newest Master Certified Public Participation Professional (MCP3)!
Congratulations Theresa Gunn on becoming IAP2 USA’s newest Master Certified Public Participation Professional (MCP3).
Theresa has been with IAP2 since 1994 and has worn many hats. She has contributed in many ways within IAP2 and has been essential in molding IAP2 USA into the organization it is today. Her leadership service includes, but is not limited to:
- Serving on the inaugural IAP2 USA Board of Directors from 2011-2012 where she oversaw the nascence of IAP2 USA
- Serving on the first IAP2 Federation Board of Directors following the March 2010 decision to move to an Affiliate model, serving first as Treasurer, 2011-2012, and then as Deputy Presiding Member in 2013.
- Theresa has chaired the Membership Services Committee, 2014-to-date, where she continues her work championing professional development for public participation practitioners.
Theresa is a huge proponent of the Professional Certification Program. It was a priority for her as a Federation board member where she was able to shepherd the process that gave IAP2 USA permission to develop the program.
“IAP2 USA is a global leader in establishing the gold standard for public participation. Professional Certification will ensure organizations relying on certified practitioners are going to get the best of the best, and community residents who are participating in these process will be assured these are transparent, open processes founded on research-based best practices.”
We congratulate Theresa Gunn on her successful completion of the Professional Certification Program and designation as a Master Certified Public Participation Professional (MCP3). We are grateful for her continuing support and admire how she embodies the IAP2 Core Values.
To learn more about Theresa Gunn, see our 2016 Member Spotlight.
A reflection on the 2016 IAP2 North American Conference from a U.S. conference scholarship recipient
Community Engagement Manager at Community Development Advocates of Detroit (CDAD)
We’ve all been there: the dreaded community meeting that features more argument than dialogue, leaving residents feeling unheard and disempowered, while meeting organizers wonder why they are getting beat up by angry neighbors.
This circumstance is linked to the fact that all too often, public meetings and hearings are looked at as the beginning and end of public engagement around policy and development decisions that affect local communities. When engagement is treated as an add-on to the “real” decision making or something that is done only to minimally satisfy legal or community requirements it leads to decisions, plans, and developments that likely don’t reflect the input of the whole community.
Such decisions can actually end up being more costly in time, money, and energy as lack of meaningful community by-in and engagement at the front end of a process results in anger and organized opposition at the back end. So, if we know what an insufficient engagement process looks like, what exactly is good community engagement and how do you know you are doing it in an equitable manner?
Who Cares About Public Participation?
This question was on my mind as I attended the International Association of Public Participation (IAP2) 2016 North American Conference which took place in Montreal this past September. IAP2 members are community engagement professionals working in a range of fields and dedicated to promoting a holistic approach to engagement. They are perhaps best known for publishing the “IAP2 Spectrum of Public Participation” which provides a practical framework for analyzing various kinds of engagement strategies and tactics as they move from just informing the public to actually empowering residents in decision-making for the future of their communities.
The theme of the conference was “Who Cares About Public Participation?” and it was inspiring to spend two days with folks working across many fields who are passionate about this topic and work hard to increase the impact of meaningful public participation. This question of “who cares?” also made me think of the tireless neighborhood advocates and organizers in the community development field in Detroit and across Michigan. Whole-hearted and intentional community engagement and decision-making that drives development speaks to the very core of why I am proud to be in this work.
For many of us, it is the mission of community development to move the needle for the equitable rebuilding of our neighborhoods that includes everyone, in particular the most disadvantaged, and historically dispossessed members of the community. As our cities and communities continue to evolve and change, we know that meaningful and equitable community engagement is critical in pursuing this goal. The community organizing saying: “Nothing about us, without us, is for us” is particularly relevant for community development work in a time of rising economic, social, and racial inequality in cities.
Raising the Bar for Equitable Community Engagement
By now you may be thinking that these are all great ideals and slogans, but how do we exactly raise the bar for engagement so that we can have better, more inclusive results in our communities? CDAD’s work in recent years in community planning and engagement has helped us learn a lot about what works and doesn’t, and we have been inspired by innovative practices across the country that center residents in decision-making such as Community Benefits Agreements (currently a hot topic in Detroit), Participatory Budgeting, and expanding access to local Boards and Commissions.
There is also a growing body of research and advocacy that is helping to raise the profile and expectations for meaningful community engagement for both non-profits and local governments. In addition to IAP2, some of our favorite resources include: Building the Field of Community Engagement, Policy Link Guide to Community Engagement, Authentic Community Engagement – Voices for Racial Justice, and plans for equitable community engagement published by municipal agencies in Seattle and Minneapolis.
For me, attending the IAP2 North American Conference was an energizing experience where I was able to dig in to the best ideas and practices around community engagement, learning and sharing with peers and experts across the field who are working to raise the bar for better, more equitable community engagement. I am excited to bring what I learned in Montreal back my work at CDAD as we continue promote strategies for building trust and relationships that empower the public to meaningfully participate in and impact the changes and development taking place in Detroit.
Community Development Advocates of Detroit (CDAD) is Detroit’s association of Community Development and Neighborhood Improvement Organizations and we are a catalyst for the transformation of our neighborhoods, led and inspired by residents, community-based organizations, and other community stakeholders. CDAD works to enhance the capacity and effectiveness of Detroit’s community-based organizations, initiatives, and residents through advocacy, training, technical assistance, networking opportunities, information sharing, and facilitating common action.
- You’re a goldmine of information. Share the wealth! – Mentoring is a way to stay grounded. It becomes a gateway for you to access your past experiences, pitfalls, and triumphs. Mentoring can become an exercise in critical thinking in a way that will help you to look at your practice more analytically. Challenging yourself to become a mentor and share your knowledge will give you an opportunity to explore your reflections and pass on better P2 practices.
- Stay hip and keep up with the times! – Our world is changing at an exponential rate. We have seen the rise of technology and every day we are surrounded by the force it wields. There is no doubt the upcoming generations we see today are far more tech savvy. Taking on a mentee may mean that you will, in turn, learn some tricks of the technology trade and fortify your own P2 practices.
- Change a life, and the industry! – By becoming a mentor you will help set the tone of our industry. For many of us, there is a mentor in our past that helped set the tone and build the foundation upon which we built our career. The personal reward of seeing those positive changes is immense!
Applications are due by March 10th, 2017. Do not miss out on this awesome opportunity!
- Mentors provide a wealth of information – Have ever felt that you are stuck in a professional rut with no viable options, there’s a good chance your mentor has been there. If they haven’t, it is likely they know someone who has. Mentors offer encouragement, but also help set goals and share experiences to help you avoid the sticky situations beginners can make.
- Mentors can provide genuine constructive feedback – There is nothing more frustrating than having a project kicked back with the only nugget of feedback being something akin to “needs work.” Mentors can help you see where you need to improve, where you may be blind to it.
- Mentors find ways to stimulate our personal and professional growth – Mentors have a way of seeing our faults in such a way that it creates a place for growth and change. Having a safe space to ask questions, make mistakes, and explore new techniques is priceless. They can help you set realistic goals and find ways to make them reality.
“Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living – if you do it well I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing you the way. A mentor.”
Applications are due by March 10th, 2017. Do not miss out on this awesome opportunity!