By Lauren Wirtis, IAP2 USA Intern
Larry Schooler is Manager of the Public Engagement Division for the City of Austin, which, Larry jokes, sounds impressive until you realize the division is comprised of two employees. What is truly impressive is all that Larry and his division have accomplished since he started working there in 2009. For one, that was the year Larry became involved with IAP2 USA. After attending his first workshop, Larry thought: “I found it. I found what I’ve been looking for professionally as a field and a secular calling.” During the workshop there was an exercise where participants created headlines they wanted to see for IAP2; Larry still has that posted in his office. Over the years Larry has participated in many of the programs IAP2 USA has to offer.
Larry enjoys that “IAP2 feels so collegial and focused on the sharing of resources. I always walk away from conferences feeling like I learned so much and gave so much in return.” Larry decided to get more involved and was elected to the IAP2 USA board in 2011. In 2013, he was elected president of the board. At the time, Larry noticed that he was one of the few younger, public sector members of IAP2. He was excited to step up as president, craft a vision, and find people to help him carry out that vision.
Still an active member in IAP2, Larry considers himself to be “a community-wide interviewer” who ensures that decision-makers have information from a broad cross-section of the public when they are creating policy. At the Public Engagement Division, Larry and his team help other divisions implement good P2 by helping design the process, facilitate events, deploy a variety of digital tools, and analyze and summarize data. Larry gets the most satisfaction from his work when he hears from a citizen or member of the public that they feel like the process was a good one. “Sometimes I hear this from people who didn’t like the final outcome but think the process was fair.”
These moments make Larry feel like he’s achieving his mission to make the whole process fairer to a greater number of constituents. As a mediator, he works to develop relationships between diverse groups in order to get to a place of understanding and agreement at the end of the process, and has helped a number of task forces with diverse perspectives come to consensus.
“I think too often in the U.S. we’re so results and efficiency driven that we focus on getting to an agreement before we address the relationship.”
Larry has worked to build relationships between the City of Austin and the community using a wide range of tools. One is the Conversations Corps, a unique program in which volunteer liaisons go out into the community to hold meetings with the different districts. This helps the City reach a wider spectrum of constituents and create more representative policies and programs as a result. It also “empowers people to have conversations away from government that are about government issues.”
One of the greatest challenges Larry faces in his work is meeting people’s expectations for good P2. “There is a really high bar in Austin. A desire to shape, collectively, the city rather than for it to be bequeathed to a group of elites.” Larry continued, saying this is one of the best problems a public official can have, that the community has a strong desire to be a part of the conversation and be involved in City decisions. However, there is a conflict between the desire to do P2 and the amount of resources available. There isn’t a realization of what it takes to make good P2 happen.
This is a challenge many practitioners just entering the field will face. I asked Larry what advice he would give to new practitioners in the field. “My advice would be not to take advice, and have them bring their newness to the field.” While the core values can act as your guide, new practitioners can leverage their existing passions and strengths to become more effective in the field. In Larry’s case, this calls to mind work he has done on television, a media with which he’s more comfortable with than most because of his experience in broadcast journalism.
Tool Tip: “Just because you didn’t hear about a tactic during P2 training, doesn’t mean it’s not P2.”
Larry is certain P2 has a big role to play in the future as cities across the world continue to grow and diversify. “We’re in desperate need of people who are willing to step up and advocate for the field in the country. Through strength in numbers we can each do a little to lead to a big result.” Larry is certainly playing his part as he works as a Senior Advisor on the Divided Community Project, serves as a Local Board Chair for Generation Citizen, and is a Senior Fellow at the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life, all of which promote active citizenship and public engagement.
Larry concluded our discussion with some thoughts about IAP2 USA: “IAP2 has been a godsend to me for about eight years. I’ve been more involved at certain periods of my career than others. I certainly hope to continue to stay involved. I am so grateful for all the organization has given me – training and mentors – and have really seen it change my life for the better.”
By Lauren Wirtis, IAP2 USA Intern
Lulu Feliciano is the Outreach Manager at San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). “We oversee transit, parking, traffic, bike lanes, anything that happens on the street regarding mobility.” Lulu first learned about IAP2 three years ago when she was able to get a seat at the City Planning Department’s five-day IAP2 Foundations course. The messages and tools presented in the course (the core values, the spectrum, etc.) struck a chord. Lulu had completed the SFMTA’s Transit Effectiveness Project, during which there was a fair amount of public upset about the redistribution of transit service. “The pain we were going through was beyond transit.” It was clear the community was not feeling heard.
After the IAP2 Foundations course, it was clear that SFMTA needed to create a standardized and streamlined approach to outreach. The agency worked with a variety of stakeholders, conducted numerous focus groups and interviews (both internally and externally) to understand how the public wanted to be engaged and the best way for SFMTA to accommodate those needs. Along with Deanna Desedas, Lulu helped develop Public Outreach and Engagement Team Strategy (POETS), which would eventually mandate that projects requiring a certain number of hours be assigned a public information officer.
That was just the beginning. In 2015, the pre-construction phase for the Van Ness Improvement Project began, in which two miles of the densely developed street were going to be renovated to accommodate a new bus rapid transit service in the middle of the street. Lulu and her team were determined to “engage and inform” the community, which included residents, business owners, and the hundreds of thousands of people that traveled to and through this street on a daily basis. Lulu used IAP2 principles to help create the engagement strategy, which included:
- The City of San Francisco’s first pre-construction survey
- The Van Ness Business Advisory Committee
- Interactive Text Message Campaign
- Project Overview Walking Tours
- Meet the Expert Speaker Series
2016 IAP2 USA Core Values Project Award for Creativity and Innovation: Van Ness Improvement Project
“The fact that this project is now serving as a model and inspiration for further innovation and advances
in the organization’s public participation practices is further testament to the value of this project.”
—IAP2 USA 2016 Core Values Awards Panel of Judges
“Van Ness was the first project to apply IAP2 principles. Now we apply them to all projects small or large.” P2 is equally important throughout the lifecycle of a project, from planning to construction to implementation. Reflecting back on the SFMTA’s P2 journey Lulu noted:
“Sometimes it’s through challenges, mistakes, and heartaches that you really learn your lesson. Now most everybody is mindful of good P2. I realize it’s more difficult, that it requires more time and more resources, but it brings better outcomes.”
Lulu says the biggest challenge of doing this kind of work is trying to balance public versus agency needs, especially in long-term planning. Trying to plan for 20-30 years in the future can seem gratuitous compared to the issues facing the community every day. Sometimes larger goals struggle to meet on-the-ground realities. “We can eliminate parking so that other vehicles can move around, but we have to be realistic that some people need cars. There’s no magic bullet for this stuff.”
One of the most important parts of her job is working with communities of concern and “engaging with them to make sure they have a voice at the table.” Lulu regularly relies on her IAP2 Foundations training as well as what she learned in the Designing for Diversity class: “The loud voices will be heard. It’s the quiet, more silent voices you need to elevate and pull up.”
Read more about the Van Ness Improvement Project in SFMTA’s 2016 IAP2 Core Values Awards Application.
Growing A National Community
Every day, our community of practice is growing stronger. Here’s three examples
First, you have a nation-wide board. In February, your IAP2 USA Board of Directors met in San Diego, joining us from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to Portland, Oregon and everywhere in between. We are gaining strength by drawing together more regions across the country. That nation-wide perspective makes our insights and strategies more focused and informed. It was truly a joy to have (almost) all of our board members in the same place, rather than online where we do the majority of our work! There was a lot of great energy in the room.
Second, you are part of a national community. Our board’s reach across the country is also reflected in our membership which is nearing 1000. Our organization is experiencing tremendous growth and we are gaining a broad range of new members – from full-time P2 practitioners to decision-maker staff who engage with the public for a small percentage of their overall workload. Our membership is the community that you’re part of, and we are all uniting around the core values, ethics and skills that bring quality P2 to important decisions.
Third, we have launched a national conversation. To focus all of us on quality P2 as a community, we launched a new conversation in San Diego that will be replicated throughout the nation. This conversation is about whether we are facing a P2 crisis or opportunity at the national level. It’s about testing the current refrain that we are a divided country and positioning P2 as a uniting force, a value we share and have always shared. The end of this dialogue focused on how we, as practitioners, decision-makers, and participants can lead a positive and constructive way forward based on the Core Values. At this first of many dialogues, through use of the World Café and Card Storming techniques, the 50+ participants discussed current challenges to P2 work, their effects and how we can support quality P2 in our communities. We’re interested to learn how the local and regional dynamics can change the conversation.
We expect the conversation to continue in many locations including San Francisco, Portland, Chicago, Denver, Salt Lake City, Wyoming and more. Ideas will be shared across IAP2 USA’s network of over 2,000 members and friends, as well as at the North American Conference this September. So keep an eye on your chapter newsletters for an opportunity to engage in this conversation in your area and then be sure to join us in Denver in September.
Introducing Lauren Wirtis!
Lauren is a recent addition to the IAP2 USA community, becoming a member in January of 2017! We are also excited to announce that Lauren is our 2017 Intern. Welcome to the IAP2 USA community!
Lauren became a planner because she is passionate about P2. She is interested in what people think about the places they live, what changes they would like to see, and how to get more people involved in their communities.
Lauren recalled a time she took part in a series of open houses that were engaging the community around ways to reutilize a 35-acre waterfront property. During one meeting, community members had the opportunity to talk to Lauren about ideas they thought had been left out of the redevelopment options. Some of these ideas were included in the presentation at the next meeting. People were excited to see their ideas up on the screen. One woman in particular approached Lauren saying, “That was my idea! That’s the thing we talked about!” She showed up to every meeting for the rest of the project.
At the end of the day, “it’s that moment where people feel like they are making a decision about their own lives. A shift in their perception of their own abilities.”
Lauren is a Planner at Maul Foster & Alongi, an environmental consulting firm helping communities with brownfield remediation and redevelopment in the Pacific Northwest. Like many areas across the U.S., former mills and industrial development sites in the Pacific Northwest were tied to rivers and waterways. Now shut down, these sites create unique challenges to sustainability and economic development in local communities. As a planner, Lauren helps these communities figure out how to investigate these sites for contamination and develop short- and long-range plans for remediation that include the community vision and lay out the ordinances the communities can adopt to inform future development. “Participation in decision-making should be accessible, honest, and truly impact the outcome.”
“As a planner in community development, I see my role as the facilitator and interpreter,
translating between the world of public policy and the experiences of everyday life.”
In Lauren’s experience, the biggest barriers to quality P2 are funding and time. Being efficient without sacrificing the end product is a tenuous balance. “I don’t bill for a minute more than necessary. Funding is hard to come by. Design standards are high, and we work hard to meet those standards without losing anyone in the process.” The amount of time and funding it takes to reach a truly representative group of a local community is, unfortunately, not always feasible. This can leave people feeling like they weren’t fully engaged or listened to, and being able to amplify the voice of those who have historically been silent is empowering to the community, and rewarding to those facilitating the conversation.
I think it is safe to say that the national political context is influencing public participation and decision-making processes across the country. Involvement is happening in a number of ways that are hard to miss – the Women’s March on Washington, the recent Town Hall meetings with elected officials and new groups like @USIndivisible, @TheKindnessMovement, and @AltNationalParkService. Engagement abounds.
While it is exciting to see so many people engaging in democracy for the first time, much of this engagement is inspired by a decline in trust of government and an increase in resistance, fear and anger. If public participation is something we have in common and operates against what potentially divides us, its capacity to be a shared norm is surely being tested in this time of high conflict and uncertainty.
Truly, events at the national level are changing the ways people engage in our democracy at all levels. As individuals, we may be asking ourselves whether our country is irreparably divided; whether we are still able to make good decisions together; and what might our role be in this context as a P2 practitioner, process owner, and/or stakeholder.
IAP2’s Core Values are based on shared premises of Democracy. Fundamentally, we believe that decisions made together have the potential to be stronger and more informed, as well as have lasting benefits well beyond the decision itself in terms of restoring trust and relationships So how can we lead a positive, constructive way forward based on our Core Values and skills?
We’re beginning the conversation by hosting a World Café session at the upcoming San Diego Skills Symposium to explore these questions and define a way forward. Join IAP2 USA Board members, local experts, Symposium trainers and participants for a World Café exploring these questions Monday, February 27 at the IAP2 USA Skills Symposium, Bahia.
|Date: Monday, February 27th from 5:30 – 7:00
Location: Bahia Resort Hotel, Del Mar Room
Event flyer – Pass it on!
Your input will create action steps for IAP2 USA, practitioners, decision-makers and individuals. As a first-of-its kind session, what we learn here will inform decisions about how IAP2 USA can best have this conversation at a national level. Ideas will also be shared through IAP2 USA’s national network of nearly 1,000 members, and in outreach via local chapters and IAP2’s international network.
Make a difference right now and join us. Register here.
This event is made possible by the hard work and engagement of IAP2 USA Board members Cathy Smith, Kit Cole, Wendy Lowe and P2 practitioner Lewis Michaelson. I would like to thank them and our sponsors: The Davenport Institute at Pepperdine University, Cityworks, Kit Cole Consulting, Katz & Associates, P2 Solutions and Somers-Jaramillo + Associates for supporting this important conversation.
Thank you sponsors!!!
Chris Hartye was formally introduced to IAP2 in 2008 shortly after joining the City of Hillsboro and being asked to update the Hillsboro 2020 Vision & Action Plan. Adopted in 2000, the 2020 plan was a 2002 IAP2 Core Values Award winner. The City of Hillsboro has most recently been recognized as the 2016 Organization of the Year Core Values Award winner for North America, due in large part to development of the Hillsboro 2035 Community Plan, which renewed the vision and action plan that guides the city. Hillsboro is a full service city with a population of 99,000.
With a background in strategic planning and stakeholder engagement from a business/economic development perspective, Chris recognized the IAP2 Core Values and Code of Ethics as largely “second nature” in the Pacific Northwest. It seemed a natural extension to conduct the City’s next generation planning efforts using the IAP2 P2 framework.
Chris gets the most satisfaction from hearing about what people are passionate about, “I love to hear firsthand what people care about, especially community members that don’t often voice their opinions, who aren’t always a part of decision-making processes. To directly hear their voice, passion, ideas, and dreams … to me, there’s really no substitute.”
Chris and his team made a point to go where people already are whether it be the farmer’s market, grocery store, or elsewhere. “When we meet people where they’re at, I find that they’re much more forthcoming as opposed to if you host a public forum, for example. People are often more candid, and more passionate, about the things that are important when they’re in their own environment. These are the conversations that carry with me as opposed to anything I’ve seen online or maybe heard at a public forum.”
“Face to face allows for more robust conversation, and the opportunity to discover not only people’s passions, but their talents, resources and the skills they bring to the table. It’s often through P2 that we recruit our volunteers; you wouldn’t know or discover these talents if you weren’t out there doing P2. It helps you discover the human capacity in your city. And then to try to empower that as best you can – find opportunities to involve folks in what they’re good at; what they’re skilled at.”
#1 Challenge – Truly and authentically reach diverse audiences
The biggest barriers to authentic engagement are often language and cultural barriers. “It’s an ongoing, day-to-day thing; a box you never check.”
Hillsboro has communities of “new arrivals”, new residents that often haven’t formed formal organizations, so it’s challenging to reach out to them but the process can be fairly straightforward. From the first awareness a new group is emerging, a few of the first steps are:
- Awareness and identification – Understanding the demographics, the numbers, the geography of where folks are settling; what languages are spoken by the community;
- Finding community leaders – Whether they come through the faith community, are in the nonprofit realm, the business community, or affiliated through the schools;
- Engaging and listening to those leaders – But not by asking them to speak for everybody. “It’s not: we’ve talked with these leaders, so we’re covered; it’s about allowing them to inform you – local government – on the best way to go about engagement.”
“We try to be deliberate with community leaders in clarifying that we’re not here to ask them to be representative or make decisions on behalf of their communities; rather, we’re here to learn how to best engage with the community. And in the end, it’s that “little bit at a time” that moves us forward to creating new futures together by allowing P2 to help grow relationships and capacity.”
Chris has shared his story about the City of Hillsboro’s Community Visioning Process as a Core Values Award winner with IAP2 in the December 2016 webinar, as well as at the 2015 ICMA Annual Conference in Seattle with City Manager Michael Brown, and he looks forward to getting more involved in the IAP2 USA Cascade Chapter. To learn more, visit our 2016 Core Values Awards page.
2016 was a year of great progress for all of us in IAP2. I am proud to share some of the highlights with you!
Your membership in IAP2 has created a nation-wide community of P2 practitioners and managers across the USA. Now, there are members like you in nearly all 50 states and 200 cities in the USA. Because of you, IAP2 USA is well on its way to a creating a community 1,000 members strong. One of our most important roles is to be your home for good ideas, inspiration, skill building, and networking.
Programs and Services
As our membership grows, our focus is on offering programs and services to support you. New this year, we initiated web-based training to make skill building even more convenient and a Certification Program to reinforce the professional practice of public participation. We encourage you to check out these offerings and continue to hone your craft. We also launched a national student scholarship (for which applications are now open), a tiered Government Membership rate, and a government community of practice. More of these peer-based communities are being developed to link people in similar areas of P2. The second year of the Mentorship Program was a success and new applications will be accepted soon.
The year began and ended with strong national events: the skills symposium in February and the conference in September. The 2016 Skills Symposium was held in San Diego, and attracted people near and far who had one goal in common: to continually improve their skills. The year ended with the sold out 2016 North American Conference in Montreal with 240 attendees. Now, registration for next year’s San Diego symposium is open, offering 11 courses in February, and we are planning a great 2017 conference in Denver with more capacity to welcome our growing numbers.
We are building and strengthening alliances with similarly-minded organizations and developing ways to better reach P2 practitioners of all kinds. In 2016, we identified and prioritized a range of national, state and local partnerships, and added staff capacity to build and grow these partnerships in the new year.
A Strong Start for A New Year
These successes create a strong position to enter 2017, a year when the need for a strong community of P2 couldn’t be more relevant and needed. With this solid foundation and clear national need, we will welcome six new board members, launch a new communications campaign to increase brand recognition and value of our organization, and begin planning to update our strategic plan for 2018 – 2020.
Our objective is to strengthen P2 in every way: through recognition of IAP2 as a trusted and knowledgeable navigator of P2, through skill building of practitioners, and through building a national norm that values, trusts, and seeks out quality P2. While moving forward on these tracks, we’ll continue to offer the great webinars, programs and local networking opportunities we know you rely on.
With so many great new opportunities, we invite you to get involved through volunteering at the chapter or national level. Now is a great time to be a member and a volunteer so that we capitalize on the opportunities that are in front of us to make a difference to how our country and its communities advance in the coming years. We’re also looking for an intern to conduct research, create content for our website, blog & social media, implement member surveys, support marketing and strategic alliance efforts, and otherwise assist staff. If you or someone you know is interested, the deadline is January 11th for applying for the internship position.
We hope your holidays are exactly as you’d like them to be and we look forward to new successes together in the new year.