Member Spotlight: Jennifer Trotter
Jennifer Trotter was introduced to IAP2 in 2009 while completing her Masters in Planning at the University of Southern California, “The IAP2 tools and techniques ignited my interest and led to my career.” Jennifer went on to complete the IAP2 Foundations course and is now a Public Involvement Specialist with Burns & McDonnell where she works with the west coast practice on engineering and non-capital projects. Prior to joining Burns & McDonnell, Jennifer served as the Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Community Development Foundation. She joined IAP2 USA in June of this year.
“I love my work when I see people excited to be involved. So often government or capital projects happen from the top down. When people are engaged in the process, the outcomes are so much better.” While she was with the community development foundation, Jennifer organized a unique event involving a Latino housing community that asked — for the first time ever — the question, “How do you see your community evolving?” With Jennifer’s outreach and planning, the event drew 125 people. “We brought in a unique presenter who did mini-charrettes. We thought the event would last an hour, maybe a little more. Three hours later we had to gently kick people out because they were so engaged and didn’t want to leave. So often we think we know the answers — in this case we thought it was technology. People need access to computers to search for jobs, etc. But then the community told us, ‘We want the humanities, we need English to get ahead. Computers are great, but if you can’t communicate it’s all for naught.’” We ended up working with a nearby public library that was already doing programming to help build awareness and access.
The event had several outcomes, including a community garden installed at the senior center with gardening projects to connect seniors and youth, “At the time there wasn’t a single community garden in zip code 90022, which covers an area with about 100,000 people. There wasn’t any green space people could call their own;” and a collaboration with Families in Schools to host the Million Word Challenge. Perhaps most importantly, the community foundation learned they didn’t necessarily know the answers and needed to spend more time listening, “We went through a strategic planning process, drawing upon the conversations with the residents and focus groups, and developed an advisory board and strategic plan. We decided to focus on education with several tracks, including a scholarship program. I’m really excited about the IAP2 USA Scholarship Program and hope to become involved.”
Jennifer sees IAP2 USA as a natural fit with her background and values and is active in the newly emerging Los Angeles chapter. “IAP2 USA provides so many opportunities for me to keep educating myself. By getting more involved I will keep getting better at what I love to do.” At home, Jennifer loves spending time outdoors, hiking in the foothills, and has a toddler that keeps her on her toes.