Member Spotlight: Theresa Gunn
Space station astronauts see 16 sunrises each day, and with each sunrise comes the thrill of a new beginning. Have you ever met anyone who has had the good fortune to be in on the new beginnings? That’s been Theresa Gunn’s experience with IAP2.
Theresa served as Chair of the transition committee that formulated the IAP2 USA Affiliate agreement, and subsequently served as President of the inaugural IAP2 USA Board of Directors from 2011-2012 where she oversaw the nascence of IAP2 USA. She also served on the first IAP2 Federation Board of Directors following the March 2010 decision to move to an Affiliate model, first as Treasurer, 2011-2012, and then as Deputy Presiding Member in 2013. After a short sabbatical, Theresa volunteered to chair the Membership Services Committee, 2014-to-date, where she continues to champion new beginnings.
“As a membership organization, we need to continue to grow the practice of public participation by expanding our reach and creating attractive membership and learning opportunities for people within the practice. In the beginning, we primarily represented sole practitioners whereas today we’ve grown to serving agencies and organizations who are living the Core Values every day. We want to make sure they’re part of our organization and we’re meeting the needs of our members.”
Theresa and the Membership Services Committee piloted the Government Membership program which began with the cities of Fort Collins and Longmont, Colorado in late 2014, and has since grown to include government entities representing municipalities, transportation, natural resources, regional planning, and school districts. Later this summer, the Government program will launch IAP2 USA’s first online Community of Practice to provide members in the same industry with opportunities to network, share best practices, and bounce ideas off each other.
Designed to allow the members of the community to define what they want to do and how they want to engage, the program will expand to include additional, self-defined communities so as to meet the needs of that group.
Theresa is looking forward to the day when we can offer tracks at the North American Conference to represent member interests whether it be by organizational type such as nonprofits or local government, or industries such as infrastructure (e.g., utilities or transportation), or issues such as the environment or sustainability. “Already we have members coming together by geography through chapters, and we need to find more ways to support networking to share best practices and build the profession.”
While not directly involved with the Certification Task Force, Theresa is a champion of their efforts and a proponent of developing 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.”
And she is a champion of the work the organization is doing to support chapters. “We’ve seen some really good work come through the Chapter Liaison group this past year from developing the Chapter Handbook so everyone knows what resources are available to launching the chapter grant program and developing a chapter mentor model for emerging chapters. The services the central office can provide are much better defined, and chapters are better positioned to take advantage of the support that can be provided.”
Theresa is extremely passionate about the practice, and has seen the impacts P2 can make whether it be through a local flood control project or being the change agent who is able to help organizations fully value what their community can add to the decision-making process.
“Oftentimes we’ll hear ‘Oh, I’m the planner’ or ‘I’m the engineer, I have the expertise to do this.’ But then they’ll jump to the tool without really defining what they’re looking for. When we show people the Core Values and help them create an understanding of why they want to reach out, what information do they want, and how are they going to use that information, it changes the conversation. Open, honest, transparent processes allow communities to come together and make a difference. Instead of hearing from just the 10% who want to stop everything, decision-makers hear from everybody, including the people who want to make a difference.”
Where do we go from here? What’s next?
Later this year the Membership Services Committee plans to conduct another membership survey to get updated feedback on what members are looking for and how best to deliver programming.
“The last membership survey we did was two years ago when we were working on the 2015-2017 Strategic Plan. Since then we’ve added a lot of programming and we want to make sure our members are aware of the programming opportunities, that we’re presenting them ways that allow them to participate, and that their needs are being met. We need input to shape the 2018-2020 strategic plan and we need to be proactive in how we engage people early in the planning process to learn from membership as their needs change.”
Theresa regularly asks her staff, “How have our projects impacted somebody today? Are we making a difference in people’s lives and the communities they live in?” The projects undertaken by the Membership Services Committee and the efforts of others reflect the passion and commitment of those deeply engaged in the work of the organization and the impact the profession can have in making a difference in people’s lives and in the communities they serve.
Today is a new day at IAP2 USA.