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.
Cristelle 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.
Cristelle’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.
The 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.
And 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
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.
The 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.
IAP2 USA Research Project of the Year: “Clearing the Error”, Jefferson Center and the Maxwell School for Public Affairs at Syracuse University
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.
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.
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.
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.
In “INNOVATIVE! VISUAL! PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT!”, Kalin advocates for “big picture” visual presentations, which break through the limitations of two-dimensional approaches like PowerPoint.
A 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.
When a government decides a tax rate increase is in order, it will often “take it to the people”. Indeed, any jurisdictions are required to do that, by law. But how do you ensure that the people going to the polls are well-enough informed to make a decision?
Our February webinar – which was a co-production with the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD) – looked at “Balancing Act”, a tool designed to help members of the public understand the realities of public budgeting. A wish list is one thing; weighing that against all the other demands on the public purse is quite another, and this tool allows you to look at the actual budget, with all its line items, and determine how much can be spent in one area without robbing another area blind.
Chris Adams, president of Engaged Public, developers of Balancing Act, pointed out that the traditional “three minutes at the mic” style of public meeting usually degenerates into a shouting spree, while taking the time to explain the often highly-technical financial details can take a CPA to understand.
Balancing Act gives ordinary citizens the ability to voice their opinion and put the situation in context. It allows them to take part in the public budgeting process without going to a public hearing. They can let governments know if spending priorities are in line with their expectations and values. The conversations become real and not rhetorical – different sides asking questions to which they already know the answer – and the tool can be used in a group setting, so people can start to work together.
For governments, it allows them to meet the increasing expectations of the public to be more involved in the process. They can channel citizen complaints into actionable information and build public trust at the same time, as people see that their concerns are being addressed and taken seriously.
Balancing Act can be adapted for school districts and other government bodies, as well as for different currencies and languages. There’s also a free version offered to participatory budgeting projects.
There were so many great presentations at the Portland Conference last September, and in March, you’ll have a chance to hear from two presenters whose sessions proved to be extremely popular among the Conference-goers. If you weren’t able to get to the Conference in person, this is a great opportunity to catch up! Triangles make for exciting reading, whether in a bodice-ripping novel or a juicy political scandal, but how do they work into public engagement?
Amy Hubbard, one of Australia’s most recognized stakeholder engagement consultants, will tell us about the Engagement Triangle, a tool to help identify the desired outcomes of community engagement based on the overarching objectives of informing decisions, building capacity and strengthening relationships. You’ll get a chance to see how this spatial tool translates into your own projects.
And scientific and technical explanations may be a necessary part of conveying needed information to the public (#6 on the IAP2 Core Values), but if the language is incomprehensible or just plain dull, how will people be properly informed?
Kalin Schmoldt of JLA Public Involvement will discuss how to get around the limitations of the human brain to convey difficult technical concepts, and sometimes you just have to go low-tech to get the point across.
As that famous P2 consultant, Amy Grant, once sang, “It takes a little time to turn the Titanic around”. The co-presenters in our January Learning Webinar both had to turn some pretty heavy ships around in promoting a culture of engagement where there had been none before.
The City of Victoria and the St. Vrain Valley School District (Colorado) were named Organizations of the Year for Canada and the USA, respectively, at the 2015 IAP2 Core Values Awards last fall in Portland. Both have had to overcome internal trepidation and external cynicism to achieve that status, and the results can be seen in ways ranging from increased involvement in engagement processes to support for public-spending initiatives.
St. Vrain Valley Schools also had to let go of “control” over issues in order to improve its public engagement. Laura McDonald, a mother of two girls in the system, got involved when she realized that a $10 – 14 million budget shortfall declared before her children started school had not been addressed by the time they were of school age. She heard all the doom-and-gloom talk about the shortfall, but more ominously, also about the skepticism.
According to the District’s Communications Director, Damon Brown, conflict-driven media, polarization and a history of “announce and defend” decision-making led to a wide mistrust of decision-makers; that led to a mill levy override, which would have provided for teachers’ salaries and instructional programs, being voted down in 2005. In 2008, 85 teachers were laid off and the District had no supplementary funding.
Shortly after that, a new superintendent came on the scene. Dr. Don Haddad seized on the concepts of P2 – particularly the Core Values – and launched an aggressive campaign of his own to engage with the people. In a relatively short time, he and other district staff members built trust relationships. “Leadership St. Vrain”* was launched, bringing parents and members of the community not directly involved with the school system into the mix, educating them on the “Know-How” (the business of education) and “Know-Who” (the key decision-makers) of the district.
In the process, the District, its administrators and teachers – many of whom are seasoned educators with a measure of bias against letting non-experts help make decisions – released ownership of the problems they faced.
The result: A $189-million bond measure and a $16.5-million mill levy override both passed in 2008. Another $14.8-million mill levy override passed in 2012.
The increased P2 capacity is credited with other results, especially academic achievement. Damon Brown says there has been an upward trend in standardized test scores, increases in the graduation rate and the number of scholarships awarded; and a decline in the dropout rate.
Not incidentally, St. Vrain Valley Schools was also named 2015 Organization of the Year by the entire IAP2 Federation.
Turning that big ship around, Damon Brown points out, takes more than legislation: It takes a change in thinking and habits. Both St. Vrain Valley Schools and the City of Victoria have not only accomplished that on the inside of their organizations, but the results are palpable on the outside.
Katie Hamilton, City of Victoria Director of Citizen Engagement, arrived at City Hall 10 years ago to find there was no policy or template governing public participation and that any “engagement” was an after-thought. Public input did not guide the projects, and citizens were often surprised when a major project was announced. There were customer-service barriers and, despite Victoria’s growing reputation as a high-tech center, the website was out-dated. What’s more, discussions tended to focus on the cost of something, rather than its value.
That led to the public becoming skeptical to the point of hostility when decisions were made or projects were announced. But over the past decade, city staff have grown to “embrace the clunky” – that is, step into the difficult discussions, become the facilitator for these conversations and let go of “control” over issues. City departments are also working closer together as a unit, rather than in silos, independent of one another. “Great ideas sessions” are regular occurrences.
Some of the tactics include “going to where the people are”. Information and input facilities regarding parks issues were set up in the parks themselves; a pop-up open house was set up on a bicycle trailer, going to fairs, markets, furniture stores, coffee shops, new mothers’ clubs, you name it. In City budget mail-outs at tax time, infographics have replaced pie charts to indicate how one’s money is spent.
Can you measure a shift in culture? Here’s one indicator: Attendance at City budget meetings has gone from a group of 30 highly-interested people to over 1,500, with amenities like food provided by local growers creating a lighter atmosphere.
* Winner, IAP2 USA Research Project of the Year, 2014 Core Values Awards