Member Spotlight: Lauren Cobb
Lauren Cobb came to IAP2 USA through a leap of faith. Trained as an engineer, she had started her family and was active in the community when her church suffered a series of devastating, divisive losses. Lauren was part of the leadership team that looked for ways to help the congregation come together and heal. They found a series on resilient congregations and dialogue work that led them to Public Conversations Project in Boston. The team invited training director Bob Stains to train nine church members as dialogue facilitators. This team continued to work through the materials over the summer, and began their work by facilitating a dialogue group with people they identified as sympathetic to the need for healing. That fall, the entire congregation was invited to participate in small group dialogues, resulting in 25 group sessions each with 6-8 people involving about a third of the congregation being hosted through February.
“The results were marvelous. The conversation shifted. The way people talked with each other changed. The confidence people had in each other reflected trust. People focused on finding common ground and differences became less important.”
Lauren went on to lead a second team through Appreciative Inquiry to help prepare for a search for a new pastor and begin the hiring process. The facilitation and capacity building skills she had gained proved invaluable as she went on to lead the diverse hiring committee through the pastoral search process, and a new pastor was hired in 2010.
Lauren discovered IAP2 USA on a more recent journey that took her from an NCDD discussion to the IAP2 USA Facebook group, “Everything sounded so interesting!” She saw a post for the Mentorship Program, and even though she hadn’t been a member, she submitted an application …another leap of faith.
Through the Mentorship Program, Lauren has been working with Kit Cole to organize monthly events in Southern California/Greater Los Angeles. The mentoring program has given Lauren a chance to learn about the different kinds of work practitioners are doing and what they think is important in their work, broadening her perspective about how people are engaged in P2. “I feel like I’ve entered the cave of wonders. I’ve found these people who are cultivating engagement on so many different levels. It’s given me a greater understanding of the different ways people approach their practice, and the different things people hold as important in their practice.”
Lauren was able to go to the North American Conference, where she came away with a strong sense of “this is my tribe.”
“I see IAP2 as peacemakers. People helping people speak and hear in a way that create understanding. Public participation intuitively makes sense to me. I have a lot more to learn and practice to do, but it’s almost like re-learning something I already know.”
Lauren was asked to serve as a proxy for Kit when she couldn’t come to a 2016 Skills Symposium planning meeting and offered to help. She has continued to participate in planning meetings and plans to help with local support efforts during the Symposium. And she has taken her community engagement efforts local, to her neighborhood. “I really wanted to bring a Little Free Library to my block, but our house isn’t in the best location. By talking with neighbors, I found someone who was willing to host the library in a much better location and another neighbor helped build it!”
Lauren came to IAP2 from the involved and engaged side of the IAP2 Spectrum, and has embarked on a journey to find a way to put her unique strengths – engineering, communications, and facilitation – to work.