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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.

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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.

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Webinar Rewind-February: Participatory budgeting and the Balancing Act

March 30, 2016 Leave a comment

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?

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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.

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Engaged Public also has a LinkedIn discussion group, Engaging the Public on Public Budgets, and you can find out more about Balancing Act online.

MARCH WEBINAR: Favorite Conference Presentations – Tues, March 11, 11am Pacific/2pm Eastern

February 19, 2016 Leave a comment

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.

   

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Categories: Webinars

WEBINAR REWIND: January – Core Values Award Winners Part 1: Organizations of the Year

February 2, 2016 Leave a comment

webinars2As 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.

2015 IAP2 USA and IAP2 Canada Core Values Award Winners

The St. Vrain “team”, receiving their 2015 Core Values Award in Portland. Superintendent Dr. Don Haddad is at far left; Laura McDonald is third from right; Damon Brown is at far right.

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.

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Katie Hamilton and Julie Potter, 2015 Core Values Awards

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.

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* Winner, IAP2 USA Research Project of the Year, 2014 Core Values Awards

REWIND-2 – Research & Practice – the IAP2 November webinar

December 14, 2015 Leave a comment

informationIn just about any field, marrying academic research and the actual practice can be a bit of a challenge. Our November webinar looked at ways in which that’s happening in the P2 field. Our guests were Fiona Cavanagh of the Centre for Public Involvement in Edmonton and Stephanie Brooks, Public Outreach specialist at Michael Baker International and a member of the Standing Committee on Public Involvement of the U.S. Transportation Research Board (TRB).

The TRB’s Standing Committee on Public Involvement is in charge of enhancing understanding and acceptance of P2 in transportation policy implementation. Like CPI, it researches best practices and new techniques, sets standards for P2 and enhances the public involvement skills of transportation professionals across the U.S.

One of the committee’s recent completed projects was to develop two “problem statements” that were approved for funding by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program. It also sponsors the “John and Jane Q. Public Competition,” which looks for fresh and creative ways of communicating complicated transportation issues to the general public.

CPI was founded out of the City of Edmonton’s desire to learn best practices in the P2 field, so it can engage its citizens properly. CPI’s research involves testing new ways of engaging the public in order to tackle complex issues like climate change and transportation. Fiona explained that this work is more about doing research with the community rather than on the community, and one of its early assignments was to look at the state of public engagement in the city transportation system. A Citizens’ Jury on Internet Voting was also a major project undertaken by CPI. CPI recently completed work on a “Diversity and Inclusion” kit, which turns theory into practice in the general area of making sure as wide a range of people as possible is covered by a P2 effort. CPI is also part of a multinational democracy effort called Participedia.

Review the webinar and access collateral materials – including the PowerPoint decks, relevant links and responses to questions asked during the webinar.

Note: The IAP2 November webinar was notable for a number of technical issues. Just before it started, one of the worse storms in living memory knocked out power on Southern Vancouver Island, where we physically orchestrate the webinars. We had to scramble to set up at an alternative Wi-Fi site (thank you, Starbucks!) and our presenters stepped up to get the webinar “on the air.” We apologize again for the technical problems and thank everyone who took part for sticking it out.

webinarStarting in January – Webinars on the Core Values Award winners!
In January, we begin a series of webinars with the 2015 Core Values Awards winners. Watch for an e-blast with further information as soon as the January speakers are confirmed!

Categories: Webinars Tags: ,

REWIND-1 – Social Media and P2 – The IAP2 December Webinar

December 14, 2015 Leave a comment

Most of us in this profession now use social media to some extent, but are we using it to its greatest effect? In the IAP2 December Webinar, independent consultant Karen Zyphcyn (IAP2 Canada Wild Rose) and Robyn Austin (IAP2 USA Intermountain & Cascade), led the discussion that included a look at the various tools available, as well as the limitations of social media.

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Karen pointed out that nearly 60% of Canadian adults and 72% of adults in the USA are on Facebook. But what’s more important is the frequency of usage: Canadians average nine visits in a week and in the US, 70% of Facebook users visit at least once a day. That sort of information can give you an idea of how effective social media can be in reaching people. Only about a quarter of Canadian and American adults use Twitter.

IAP2 USA Priority Social Media Links

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

But YouTube and good ol’ email are well worth considering: Nearly two-thirds of people in North America stream video now, so using video to convey your message and live-streaming your events (which is becoming easier all the time, thanks to apps such as Periscope) is another way of reaching people who can’t be there in person.

Robyn pointed out that a fear of transparency is one reason why many institutions – corporations, government agencies, etc. – are reluctant to invest in a social media strategy. There’s also a tendency to want to cram social media into an existing communications strategy, rather than include it in the overall plan.

Facebook is a good place to post information, and it’s worth the time to create a separate page or “community” for each project, so people don’t waste time (and get aggravated) searching through information on other projects to find what they’re looking for.

Twitter allows you to interact quickly with people in real time and to “live-Tweet” your events – assigning someone (a “designated Twit”, as one wag put it) to send Tweets about events, comments, and insights as they happen.

And good ol’ email – Subscribe today! – is still the most effective way of reaching people with the information you want them to have: Creating an email list is a must, no matter what tools you use.

The thing to remember, Robyn Austin says, is that social media is a conversation, and people who take part expect to be part of the discussion and if their comments are ignored, that can have a very negative effect on your entire P2 project. In other words, BE RESPONSIVE.

Click here to view the webinar recording and Power Point slide decks.

Categories: Webinars Tags: , ,

Rewind: “Getting Engaged – Staying Engaged” – the IAP2 October Webinar

November 13, 2015 Leave a comment

Should governments and other public institutions make an effort to “stay in touch” with citizens outside of a specific project that requires public engagement? That was the theme of our October Webinar, featuring a project developed by the School of Government (SOG) at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. The school has set up CELE – Community Engagement Learning Exchange – a blog, in which people from various sectors write on their views and observations and elicit responses from other “ordinary” members of the public.

The SOG has also been promoting “citizens’ academies” (sometimes called “County University”, “Neighbourhood College” or “City Hall High”) as a way to educate members of the public on the workings of local government.

The initiative is overseen by Drs John Stephens and Rick Morse of the SOG. CELE steers a middle course between the “cheese sandwich” blog – “I had a cheese sandwich for lunch today” – and the extreme-view political blog. The idea, says Stephens, is to draw people into a conversation and exchange views and knowledge.

Not that there isn’t controversy. Stephen Hopkins, a community activist in Raleigh-Durham, NC, and former chair of the local NAACP Housing Committee, says he deliberately sets out to provoke people: “I want to get people’s blood boiling enough to want to comment,” he says.

Along with Hopkins, contributors to the blog include Kevin Smith, a civic employee in Raleigh who conceived the idea and brought it to the SOG in the first place; and Brian Bowman, communications director for the town of Knightdale, NC.

So how are these efforts improving the level and quality of P2? CELE is still in its infancy, and one of the metrics is the number of comments on the blog posts. Morse says there are still not enough of those to declare it a success – or not. He and Stephens acknowledge these things take time, but they are certain they’re on the right track.

The Citizens’ Academies are already showing promise, but also have their limitations. Morse says they’re seeing an increase in the proportion of people getting involved in civic affairs and more likely to take part in public engagement efforts when an actual project comes along that needs to be addressed. (Remember that Citizens’ Academies are not driven by a specific project but by general interest in finding out how government works.) One of the limitations is that the Citizens’ Academies tend to be attended by middle-class retired people who have the leisure to take part. Another is that some of the more marginalized people are not able to participate in CELE: Stephens concedes that this is not the best way to reach them.

Check out the CELE blog, learn more about Citizens’ Academies, and review the October webinar.