WEBINAR REWIND: Core Values Award Winners – Respect for Diversity, Inclusion and Culture – March 14, 2017
This award was presented for the first time in both Canada and the USA last year, and the winners faced decidedly different circumstances for which they had to respect diversity.
For the Saint Paul, Minnesota, Public School District (SPPS), the task was to upgrade 72 district facilities (US $2.1 billion in assets) to meet the needs of a very diverse set of students with contemporary needs and expectations.
SPPS students are:
- 32% Asian-American
- 30% African-American
- 22% White
- 14% Latino
- 2% American Indian
Over 100 languages and dialects are spoken at home.
72% of the students live in poverty.
Some years ago, the district made a deep commitment to racial equity, and like many school systems is moving toward a student-centered, personalized approach to learning, to better prepare students for 21st century educational, employment, and community expectations.
In designing a process for the new Master Facility Plan, the Facilities Department adjusted itself in parallel with the change in the educational approach, shifting from an “expert” model to an inclusive, stakeholder-centered approach. They adopted the IAP2 Core Values, and given the technical, regulatory, and funding constraints put the process at “Involve” on the IAP2 Spectrum. At the same time, they agreed whenever possible to choose techniques that leaned toward “collaborate” on the Spectrum to demonstrate their commitment to understand and incorporate multiple perspectives and new ideas.
A strong stakeholder analysis process made clear that students, families, staff, and community partners were among the key stakeholders, and in accordance with the Core Values they must genuinely help shape of the process. A large and diverse group from across the district sat on the planning committee to frame the overall effort and serve as process stewards to ensure it was welcoming, inclusive, and respectful of all stakeholder groups and demographics.
Per the Core Values, a key priority was ensuring that participants believed and could see that their contributions made a difference. School-created internal teams thus included the usual leadership and staff and students, parents, and community members. Further, staff and consulting architects participated in a two-day racial equity training course. Those school teams and the planning committee then helped design a series of Saturday morning workshops that brought together teams from multiple schools within a K-12 pathway. Using inclusive, fun, and highly interactive techniques, participants worked together to build empathy across school communities; frame cohesive supports for students throughout their K-12 journey; and understand the different ways each site could meet needs and requirements.
By intentionally supporting participation with dates and times chosen by stakeholders, transportation, food, childcare, and interpreters, 818 stakeholders participated in 2,753 workshop hours, across 14 school pathways, and helped shape 68 building plans.
As a result of this intentionally inclusive and groundbreaking engagement work, SPPS has formalized its commitment to long-term and ongoing stakeholder engagement in facility planning – and the SPPS Board/Trustees recently approved $500 million in facility improvements over the next five years.
The ‘Namgis First Nation and the Village of Alert Bay share tiny Cormorant Island – off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island. The two communities have a unique mix of separate and combined cultures, histories and economies. The island was, in fact, the economic hub of northern Vancouver Island, due in large part to the commercial fishery. But in the 80s, the fishery declined, and when the world economy sank in the early part of this century, businesses closed and young people started moving away.
The two communities decided the only way to address the new reality was to increase levels of cooperation in search of a solution. EcoPlan International was called in to help produce the new Economic Development plan. The process involved deep P2 from the beginning to build trust and discover common values. As practitioners, EPI’s Colleen Hamilton and William Trousdale realized they had to learn the engagement context of two very different communities sharing the same, small space. They did so by walking the streets and talking to people – “intercept interviews” – and getting beyond the “usual suspects” in a P2 process.
As well as “meeting them where they’re at” – both physically and culturally – they enlisted local leaders to help identify people and groups that might be overlooked. They used business drop-ins and door-to-door, unstructured interviews with people and hired youth ambassadors to explain the plans to their peers. So that people could own the process, they held a “name the plan” contest, and “Tides of Change” remains synonymous with the plan that belongs to the community.
A crucial step came when a major credit union opened a branch in Alert Bay. When the last bank closed a branch several years ago, local businesses were unable to continue operating and the economic decline rapidly increased. When Vancouver City Savings (Vancity) opened its new branch, it meant that local businesses could get support and money earned on the island tended to stay on the island.
For the two communities, “Tides of Change” has meant another important step: economic reconciliation. This is an opportunity to bring equality through actions rather than simply words.