Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Webinar Rewind: MONTREAL ENCORE: Making Engagement Meaningful with P2 Toolkits – February 14, 2017

February 23, 2017 Leave a comment

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.

elk-grove-signCristelle 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.

elk-grove-toolkitCristelle’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.

weho-toolkitThe 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.

diy-engage-toolkitAnd 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

Categories: Webinars Tags: ,

Equitable Public Involvement

January 26, 2017 Leave a comment

A reflection on the 2016 IAP2 North American Conference from a U.S. conference scholarship recipient

Aaron Goodman

Aaron Goodman

Aaron Goodman
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.

iap2_pic1Such 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?

iap2_pic2Who 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.


Webinar Rewind – Social Media & P2 (December 2016)

December 15, 2016 Leave a comment

Susanna Haas Lyons

With more and more people demanding to be a part of the process when decisions affect them, social media has become an increasing reality for public engagement professionals. For the December learning webinar, civic engagement specialist Susanna Haas Lyons delivered a clinic on both the digital tools available and the approach needed in using those tools.

Digital engagement is a complement to traditional engagement methods – like face-to-face meetings – but Susanna points out that it can never replace those methods. Just as some people feel “left out” by online engagement, others are left out if it’s a question of physically getting to a location to take part in a process. Digital allows for the net to be cast wider and deeper, and to provide complementary opportunities for giving input.

Susanna breaks the approach for effective digital engagement down to five steps:

  1. Determine your objectives
  2. Identify specific participants and build relationships with those communities (ask yourself, “Who am I talking to?”)
  3. Determine the amount of time, resources and effort you’re prepared to invest
  4. Select appropriate channels for your engagement and community of practice (research which channels are more likely to attract certain groups)
  5. Track your progress throughout the project and adjust your approach along the way, as necessary (don’t wait until the late innings to decide that you might need a different approach)

One of the important take-aways is learning to recognize the “Engagement Pyramid”.


Engagement often focuses on the top and bottom-end of this range – either the highly motivated and involved people who own or lead a project, or those who are just learning or have a passing interest. But Susanna notes that there is a large sector in the middle who are interested, make meaningful comments, but tend to have other things on their plate. Reaching those people is just as important, in order to achieve the broadest and deepest process.

Categories: Webinars Tags: ,

Webinar Rewind: NOVEMBER – Organizations of the Year and USA Research Project of the Year

November 30, 2016 Leave a comment

Did you know that engaging the public is a long-term commitment, rather than a short-term condition? Or that one in 4 Americans is affected by a doctor “missing the boat” with a diagnosis? Or that people in British Columbia who receive health services are regarded as “partners” rather than “patients”?

Those were themes in our IAP2 Learning Webinar on November 8, 2016, which featured the Core Values Award winners for Organization of the Year in Canada and the USA, and Research Project of the Year from the United States.

IAP2 USA Organization of the Year: City of Hillsboro, Oregon

The City of Hillsboro, Oregon, is no stranger to the Core Values Awards. The fast-growing community 30 km west of Portland won Project of the Year in 2002 for its long-term visioning exercise to develop “Hillsboro 2020”. In fact, its updated version, “Hillsboro 2035” was initially entered in the Project of the Year category, but the IAP2 USA judges moved it to Organization of the Year because of the way P2 has become ingrained in the city’s fabric.

Hillsboro has seen a 40% increase in its population since 2000 – up to 97,000 as of 2015 and on-track to reach 116,600 by 2035. The demographic is changing, with an increasing Latino population, along with immigrants settling there from India and Korea. The daytime population also shifts since 70% of the residents go elsewhere to work during the day, while 70% of the workforce at businesses and industries (the tech sector is a major employer there) comes from other towns.

hillsboro-1The City began developing “Hillsboro 2020” in 1997, recognizing the need to engage as much of the community as possible, and as more and more of the targets were achieved well ahead of plan, “Hillsboro 2035” was begun, working with Jason Robertson of J. Robertson and Co.

By then, the culture of P2 had become the way of life in Hillsboro. More than two dozen community organizations led the projects and a citizens’ Implementation Committee was overseeing the Action Plan. The Plan became a “living document”, being updated every five years, to prevent what city project manager Chris Hartye calls the “plan on a shelf” syndrome.

The engagement was accomplished through a combination of online and “traditional” tools. “There’s no substitute for face-to-face engagement,” says Hartye, as regular community events and presentations keep the connections and input flowing. He also points out that staff and supervisors get regular refreshers in P2, the city leaders have provided ongoing support and reasonable metrics help keep expectations in line.

Planning through “Hillsboro 2020” and “Hillsboro 2035” brought the city new open spaces, an expanded library, and even an off-leash dog park.

Planning through “Hillsboro 2020” and “Hillsboro 2035” brought the city new open spaces, an expanded library, and even an off-leash dog park.

IAP2 USA Research Project of the Year: “Clearing the Error”, Jefferson Center and the Maxwell School for Public Affairs at Syracuse University 

Kyle Bozentko (at the podium) and Andrew Rockway lead the Citizens Jury in “Clearing the Error”

Kyle Bozentko (at the podium) and Andrew Rockway lead the Citizens Jury in “Clearing the Error”

Engaging patients in the health care process was also a key in “Clearing the Error”, which won Research Project of the Year from both IAP2 USA and the entire IAP2 Federation. The Jefferson Center and the Maxwell School for Public Affairs at Syracuse University teamed up with the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine and the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality to look closely at the issue of diagnostic error.

It’s estimated that one in four Americans will, at some time in their lives, be affected by a problem with a medical diagnosis. It could be through mis-diagnosis (getting it wrong or incomplete the first time) or a missed diagnosis (not spotting the problem at all) or a mis-communication; any of which creates an avoidable delay in providing the right treatment. In fact, diagnostic error crops up in 10% of medical cases. What to do about it?

The research team used a variety of surveys and engagement tools and techniques, including Citizens’ Juries (check out the IAP2 webinar from 2015), to engage patients and healthcare consumers. Participants in the project identified roles patients might play to improve diagnostic quality and limit errors.

The research team found that deliberation had significant impacts on patient activation, health literacy, and other important measures. They also found that a majority of everyday citizens understood the recommendations and believed the recommendations were easy to use and would have a positive impact on diagnosis. The research team is currently working to assess the perceived quality of the recommendations created through deliberation as compared to recommendations made by non-deliberating bodies, including those made by a professional medical group. In the future, the team hopes to test the efficacy of the recommendations for improving the diagnostic process and diagnostic quality in clinical settings.

Organization of the YEAR: IAP2 Canada: British Columbia Ministry of Health

The British Columbia Ministry of Health was recognized for its “Patients as Partners Program”, which has been around less than 10-years (and counting) to give patients and their families a greater voice, choice and representation to improve healthcare at the individual, community and system level.


Patients as Partners annual dialogue featuring patients

Shannon Holms, the program director, explained how the “old” approach to health care, structured around the needs of hospitals and healthcare providers, with medical staff regarded as experts and patients as recipients of information and instruction was no longer unsustainable. Costs were rising, taxpayers’ dollars were limited, the population was getting older and patients were demanding more input into their care.

In 2007, the British Columbia provincial government endorsed a new approach, which involved a common language, common tools and a common approach to involving patients and health care providers to foster their collaboration to improve healthcare in British Columbia. Holms explained that the IAP2 Core Values provided a “north star” for the Ministry and Delaney and Associates provided training for some 800 health care workers resulting in 40,000 engagements with patients.

Some of the results tailored for individual regions in BC include:

  • The Vancouver Island Health Authority developed a program to prepare patients before surgery.
  • The Interior Health Region engaged patient and family partners in the Interior Health Eating Disorder Regional Planning Day to foster engagement and collaboration and to gather information to be considered in the development of the Interior Health Eating Disorder Strategy.
  • Northern Health engaged patient volunteers to streamline the process for transferring patients from hospitals to community care – condensing 24 forms down to one.
  • Providence Health in Vancouver included patient partners on the committee to hire a new respiratory therapist.
  • In Ridge Meadows, just east of Vancouver, patient volunteers were invited to work with general practitioners and radiologists to help improve communications and imaging results.

Among the lessons-learned, Holms says, is to maintain good relations with patient-partners and to keep leaders informed, involved and engaged.


Click here for additional resources from the webinar.


Your Learning Journey and the Skills Symposium

November 28, 2016 Leave a comment
We keep saying that the San Diego Skills Symposium has something for everyone, and it does! Where are you on your learning journey? What skills do you need for continuous improvement? What should you be signing up for? The following provides some insights on what you could learn and where courses lie on the continuum of experience. But many overlap, so don’t let us define or limit your journey – choose the courses that best fit where YOU are and what YOU need.
Course and Audience Some of the things YOU will learn in these courses
If you are new to the P2 field or want a refresher…
IAP2 Foundations Planning
Planning – 3 Days
Techniques – 2 Days
  • Define P2 and understand its value, risks and benefits
  • Design, deliver and evaluate effective P2 planning processes
  • Select appropriate techniques that align with P2 objectives
  • Understand key characteristics of a wide variety of traditional and emerging techniques and technologies
If you are experienced in delivering P2…
Social Media and P2
2-day course

  • Understand the range of ways people participate online
  • Write appropriate content and understand the importance of two-way communication in this medium
  • Identify challenges to participation in digital environments and be aware of approaches that may address these challenge
IAP2 Emotion, Outrage and Public Participation
2-day course
  • A common understanding of outrage: the causes of outrage
  • Strategies & approaches for dealing with outrage
  • Practice the kinds of behavior that are most effective in mitigating people’s anger, fear and emotional reactions
Designing for Diversity
2-day course
  • Recognize the value and critical importance of bringing multiple perspectives to complex issues
  • Learn how to define clear objectives for increasing and deepening diversity within public engagement efforts
  • Learn how to choose the appropriate participation tools and techniques based on the engagement design
Building the Trust for Civil Communication
1-day course
  • Review how trust is built
  • Recognize what makes communication effective
  • Recognize communication patterns that can evoke negative emotions
Evaluating & Measuring P2
1-day course
  • Determine the most appropriate type(s) of evaluation for a P2 project and identify the challenges to evaluation
  • Populate a logic model and use it to structure an evaluation plan
  • Craft evaluation questions
If you have been delivering good P2 for quite a while…
When Things Go Sideways
2-day course

  • Build experience and practice through practical tools and approaches to constructively engage with emotional stakeholders
  • Increase self-awareness and understanding of personal reactions and responses to the emotions of others
  • Understand and identify some of the triggers for emotion, and practice strategies to support people in constructive engagement
Wherever you are in your P2 learning journey, plan to join us for these highly interactive and participatory courses.

CONFERENCE FLASHBACK: The problem with problems … in a group!

March 30, 2016 1 comment

By Tony Faast, Supreme Commander, Cascade Outreach Group, Trout Lake, WA

We’ve all had to try and solve problems with others – colleagues at work, partners, spouses, neighbors, kids, dogs, etc. These interactions all have their own trials and tribulations, some successful … while some … probably not so much. We’ve also had our share of task groups, advisory committees, collaboratives, self-directed teams, blue ribbon panels, endless committee assignments, etc. … all essentially a group of well-meaning folks trying to solve a problem or complete a project.

In this article, (and in the spirit of David Letterman) … we will briefly discuss:

“The Top Ten reasons groups can’t solve problems!”

#10. They never agree on the problem in the first place!
Groups assemble, some willingly … some not … to solve a problem or accomplish a task. Members are often selected for their varied perspective, knowledge, and experience. It should be no surprise, therefore, when each of the participants argue passionately for the solution to their version of the problem!

When assigned to a group of Biologists to facilitate their deliberations on an issue, I asked them “so…what’s the problem we’re trying to solve?” One of ‘em irritatingly said, “everybody knows what the problem is!” I replied, “oh really … so what is it, hot shot … I’ll write it down”. I didn’t get halfway through the first sentence before somebody said, “hey, that’s not the problem!” As a group, we worked for the next 90 minutes crafting a problem statement all could agree on.

Even if the problem is stated or delivered to the collaborative group, take a few minutes up front to confirm with everyone, the wording of the problem statement, or the goal of the project. As noted, it will actually take more than a few minutes … but it is time well spent.

#9. Decide how to decide … before you have to decide.
You can’t decide the rules in the middle of a fight! First of all it’s not fair, and second, the person who’s breaking the rules thinks you are making up new rules just because they are winning the argument of the moment! Then you’ve got an argument going about that!

Set the rules in play about how decisions will be made, with group agreement, at least one meeting prior to making those decisions, if not at the very first meeting as part of “Rules of Engagement” for the group. These rules are for the important, substantive stuff.

The nickel/dime decisions all groups make along the way can be handled by the facilitator. Phrases like: “I’m sensing agreement on this point – can someone capture it on a chart so we can all see it?” …“it sounds as though this idea won’t fly right now – let’s move on”… or … “unless there is a serious objection, we’ll go with what we’ve written.” These are known as ‘presumptive close’ statements in facilitation lingo.

Have a few phrases of your own on hand before you start.

#8. People love a good fight!
Really … they do! For “Type A” personalities, it’s their interactive method of choice!

Remember, participants are together as a group for different reasons & purposes. For some, no action is a win for them, so arguing long and hard on every issue delays group decisions. If there are no decisions, then no one is a winner … or a loser.

Some are actually not there to solve a problem – they just need to do battle w/opponents. That is what their organization does. They are not interested in the dreaded word “compromise”. Even when the group makes decisions they are not happy with, they can say – “well, at least we went down fighting”! Give them that chance … and no more!

#7. Groups often take on more responsibility than they are given.
It always amazed me that as hard as it was for a group to decide on anything, they often try to take on more stuff to wrangle about! One Citizen task force I worked with had a huge struggle to come up with Angling Regulation recommendations. Yet when that was accomplished, they felt the need to start debating the Fish Division budget, staffing, and Agency priorities as well!

While it’s always fun to decide somebody else’s spending priorities and who gets hired for what, in this instance that was simply … not their call!

I reminded them of the task (agreed upon earlier), reviewed their group decisions on those issues, thanked them for their time, and ended the session! They had done the job they had been asked to do. Enough already!

#6. “More is always better …”
“We need more time … more data … more money … more input … more/different experts” – Horse Feathers! With rare exception, most relevant info and data has been assembled for the group by their convener. Participants walk into the room with all the information they need to solve the problem (with the possible exception of money).

The real problem is not being able, as a group, to AGREE on the solution. It is commonly assumed that the more members, the more data, more info, etc. … the more likely it is to solve the problem. We have rarely found this to be true. BTW – the Feds call this “analysis paralysis”.

A couple more variables to consider:

  • Group size – a minimum of twelve participants and and a maximum of sixteen is recommended for working group size.
  • Participation – always ask “who else needs to be here to solve this?” Only one representative from each interest group, but make sure all groups are represented. Time – any lasting solution or product takes about 4-6 months. If the process lasts for a year or more … forget it! Time is being wasted. People start to drop out, run out of gas, get tired of arguing, look for other ways to solve the problem (i.e. lawsuit), etc. Set a realistic deadline and stick to it!

The “we need more” syndrome is a stall tactic – don’t fall for it.

#5. “Groups are fundamentally incapable of closure on their own!”
— Sue Diciple, World Class Facilitator

Closure on an issue means finality, subjugation of a position, win/lose, group ownership of the solution [which may put some professional oppositionists in an awkward position]. Not all of these actions are seen by participants as a positive thing. They often don’t want to close on an issues because all the things they want – prestige, battle opportunities, position defending, good lunches, etc. are present in the group process. They simply don’t want to quit!

As a participant in a hatchery/wild fisheries task group (always a hot topic in the fish business), we met one full day each month… for 10 months! People loved it! All that time essentially one-on-one with the Fish Division Chief and Staff, at the comfortable Agency Headquarters, great catered lunches, free parking, lots of time for all to passionately plead their case (ad nauseam), lots of heated debate – what’s not to like?

When we finally met as a group … post-decision (whew!) … the Fish Chief innocently asked the group “what’s our next step”? Many wanted to continue meeting (note benefits above). I raised my hand and said “I think we should disband! You asked for my organization’s participation (American Fisheries Society), and you got it. The Commission has publicly acted on our group recommendations – we’re done!” Others glared their disapproval at me … as they just wanted to “keep meeting like this”! [Note: The Fish Chief thanked me after the meeting!]

#4. Groups fail to realize the power of writing stuff down!
Even cryptic written and posted notes can be a critical factor in group solutions.

One task group of 23 Agency Staff (I know, a few too many… but I didn’t pick ‘em) was struggling with their day-long assignment to revise an Agency policy. At 2:00 that afternoon one of the members blurted out, “hey, there it is!” We all snapped a look out the window… but he continued, ”no! no! … there it is on that chart” pointing to one where we had tried out some language earlier that day, got stalled out, and moved on. (Of course, it was posted, because I always post group work where we can see it). He continued … “if we take what Sally just said, and add it to that stuff we did earlier … that’s it!” He was right. We combined the two ideas, vetted it for group agreement, and called it good. We were headed home by 2:30 with the job well done – hours ahead of schedule.

If it’s worth writing down … it’s worth posting! Facilitators call it giving dignity to the process.

#3. “Time…time…time…time is on my side – yes it is!”
—Mick Jagger, The Rolling Stones

Sorry Mick, time is not always on your side … and things often tend to get rushed at the end!

Have a FIRM deadline! If your group doesn’t have one, it will be extremely difficult to get them to closure. In most cases, groups will only close on an issue just prior to a deadline. We call it the “term paper syndrome” (like in college, when you finished that paper just after midnite, for an 8:00 AM class – right?) Or, you can observe the same phenomenon by watching the nightly news: a looming National fiscal crisis deadline approaching … with CNN news announcers adding drama to the story … with a countdown clock running in the background … waiting for Congress to act!

Not a great way to do any business, but it’s how groups tend to function.

Another contributing factor in the failure to achieve closure occurs when bureaucrats use the phrase “as long as they’re still talking” … (also see #5). Meaning no Agency action need be taken or policy changed, as long as the Citizen Task Force is still bumbling along … meeting … after meeting … after meeting! Ever hear the phrase, “if the Government does it – it will take forever”?

Remember: twice as long is NEVER twice as good!

#2. 80% rule
Any group can agree on about 80% of a solution! [experienced collective wisdom] Group process is hard work. A lot of information, data, understanding, and point/counter-point discussions take place! By the time the group gets to the 80% mark (thanks to skillful facilitation) they’ve worked hard, and have given the issue their best shot.

This is the perfect time to asses group progress by asking, “have we done all we can do?” It’s ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ to keep a group pounding away on that last issue when it is clear that’s the one issue the group probably can’t resolve. There is a reason why this issue is the last one on the list! Be aware of that moment when the group is simply – DONE!

Alternatively, that last issue might look differently after the other issues have been resolved by the group. That last 20% may take a different group, a different direction, or a different decision-making process to resolve. Don’t let that stall at the end of your process negate the good work folks have put in so far. Call it good and go home!

#1. Individuals within a group need to “manage their own disappointment! ”
The word compromise has gotten a bad rap in the past few years. Hey, in the U.S. State Department, compromise is a goal! Yet, at least in the natural resource business, compromise is a dreaded word – signifying failure to achieve agency or advocate’s perfect solution to usually some pretty pretty tough issues.

We’ve started introducing the phrase “managing your own disappointment” when alluding to the fact that in a collaborative process, not everyone gets everything they want. Adding that phrase to group expectations … up front … acknowledges the reality of collaboration, and makes the many compromises along the way a little easier for folks to accept.

(BTW – you’ll be surprised how often that phrase is used by everyone after it is introduced).

What we also add to that discussion, is the notion that no one group member should have to manage all the disappointment. It wouldn’t be fair, and the whole point of collaboration is to come up with a collective resolution to an issue, plan, or problem. Everyone should have enough comfort with the group decision that they can support it … without dissent! [No whiners, please.] You don’t have to love the end result … we’re simply asking you not to trash it!


So now you know the Top Ten Reasons Groups Can’t Solve Problems. There are probably a few more, but if you can resolve these 10, you are well on your way to successful collaboration! Next time your group stalls out … run down the list for some potential fixes.

OK, one more bit of advice:

When it’s over … it’s over! Get clear direction … have a reasonable timeline … stick to it … do the best the group can do… then say: “thank you” … “good bye” – and move on!

Good luck!

Webinar Rewind: March — Favorites from Portland – 1

March 30, 2016 Leave a comment

Many people who attended the 2015 North American Conference have said they’d love to hear a particular presentation again … or that they would love another chance to hear a presentation because they’d missed it the first time. So we’re happy to present, from time to time, some of the more popular sessions, according to the results of our post-Conference survey.

The IAP2 March Webinar featured two of the more popular sessions: Amy Hubbard of Capire Consulting in Australia on the “Engagement Triangle”, and Kalin Schmoldt of JLA Public Involvement in Portland, Oregon, with “INNOVATIVE! VISUAL! PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT!” from the session, “It’s Geek to Me”.

Amy developed the Engagement Triangle while considering the wide range of definitions and approaches to P2 she had encountered. In a local government setting, for example, Amy found that the Public Relations team, the Planning and Engineering team and the Community Development team each believed they “owned” engagement. She also discovered that 95% of local government “engagement” actually sat on the left-hand side of the IAP2 Spectrum – “Inform”, and that even those engagement efforts were not true P2.

The Engagement Triangle takes three basic principles of P2: informing decisions, building capacity and strengthening engagement. Those, then, expand into a matrix of 10 overall goals of a P2 project, which further refines your and your client’s objective and creates a chart of tools that you can use to achieve that objective.

engagement triangle

Kalin Schmoldt of JLA Public Involvement in Portland, Oregon, was part of a highly popular session, “It’s Geek to Me”, looking at ways of conveying highly complex and/or technical information to ordinary citizens so they can be properly informed.

uninterestingIn “INNOVATIVE! VISUAL! PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT!”, Kalin advocates for “big picture” visual presentations, which break through the limitations of two-dimensional approaches like PowerPoint.

geek-to-me-2A non-linear graphic representation like the one from the City of Longview, Washington’s sessions on its Water Improvement Project, can convey complex concepts much more effectively.

Questions from the audience were probing and stimulating, too – one of the advantages of our webinars is that they are interactive and you can ask questions and make comments throughout the presentations.