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Member Spotlight: Lauren Wirtis

February 23, 2017 Leave a comment

Lauren WirtisIntroducing 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.”

—Lauren Wirtis

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.

Categories: Member Spotlight

Member Spotlight: Chris Hartye

January 25, 2017 Leave a comment
Chris Hartye

Chris Hartye

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.”

hillsboro2035P2 = Empower Human Capacity

“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:

  1. Awareness and identification – Understanding the demographics, the numbers, the geography of where folks are settling; what languages are spoken by the community;
  2. Finding community leaders – Whether they come through the faith community, are in the nonprofit realm, the business community, or affiliated through the schools;
  3. 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.

Member Spotlight: Tom Parent

October 19, 2016 Leave a comment

Tom Parent accepts the 2016 Core Values Award for Respect for Diversity, Inclusion & Culture on behalf of Saint Paul Public SchoolsThree years ago when Tom Parent, Facilities Director for the Saint Paul Public Schools in Saint Paul, Minnesota, embarked on the process to renew the 10-year Facilities Master Plan, he didn’t foresee winning the 2016 IAP2 USA Core Values Award for Respect for Diversity, Inclusion & Culture. What he did see was a district-wide commitment to honoring diversity and inclusion that he was determined to embed in every aspect of the facilities planning process.

To give you a sense of the magnitude of this project, Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) is Minnesota’s second largest school district serving more than 38,000 students with 78% students of color, 72% in poverty, and more than 100 languages and dialects spoken. The district has 72 facilities (68 of which are schools), 7.3 million square feet of space, and 465 acres of land constituting a 2.1 billion dollar portfolio.

Tom was introduced to IAP2 in 2012 by IAP2 USA board member, and then Board of Education member of Saint Paul Public Schools, Anne Carroll, when she delivered a training to district leaders in the three IAP2 pillars: the Core Values, Ethics, and Spectrum. He joined IAP2 USA at the onset of the Master Planning work when he realized how the tools would play a critical role in changing the process.

“Getting off the ground was as important as anything. We understood facilities master planning from the perspective of technical experts, and we needed to be clear with everyone involved that we had a lot to learn from community aspiration, and how to capture that for our vision for the learning environments we create for students.”

Tom relied on the IAP2 Spectrum to help his team make the transition from “technical experts delivering design conclusions to the community” to engaging the community in every step along the way.

“It was important to consistently establish where we were on the Spectrum and target our activities based on who would be at the table. It was an iterative process of defining first where we were and where we wanted to be and being inclusive in the ways we chose to get there. Using the Spectrum in this way became very aspirational. We set ambitious process goals and were excited to see them come to fruition.”

Another early critical decision was to require every district employee as well as external consultants who participated in the Facilities Master Plan to undergo intensive racial equity training – the district even invited all members of the local chapter of the Institute of Architects to participate.

“From the onset a key focus was having people show up authentically in the process. We didn’t want people to show up with administrative privilege. The people facilitating the meetings had to have the ability to navigate the challenges of structural racism and honor different perspectives. The 16 hour training we went through helped us develop a framework for how we identify, talk about, and address issues of systemic racism. It’s about understanding these topics are hard, and there a lots of challenges that come with them that make it too easy to shut down, but we all have to live in the discomfort of addressing them.”

Throughout the process, Tom was most personally impacted by the student voice.

“Hearing what students had to say was the most powerful work we did. When we hear the perspective of students who spend 13 years in our educational system, and learn about how they work, socialize, and learn, that’s when some really great work happened. To give them the ability to have input into end design was as empowering for us as it was for them.”

All too often Facilities Master Plans are driven by compliance and destined to sit on a shelf. In contrast, this plan is intentionally not complete, but rather is set up to support ongoing engagement and planning to honor the process. “We’ve changed the culture around how the the district does master planning. It’s a living document that reflects how we approach managing our buildings and grounds moving forward.”

Tom ParentAnd Tom is sharing his department’s learning with principals and administrators across the district.

“This August, we did a workshop with systems leaders – the academic and operational staff dedicated to student learning – about how the master planning process unfolded, and how we used stakeholder mapping and identified the various levels of communication and engagement in daily practice. We were able to share how it doesn’t need this big process like a master plan to be intentional about including the end-users of decisions.”

Tom has presented locally and nationally on issues of long range educational facility planning, equity, and the intersection of the two.

Member Spotlight: Traci Ethridge

September 13, 2016 Leave a comment
Traci Ethridge

Traci Ethridge

Traci Ethridge, Assistant Director of Corporate Communications & Marketing for the City of Charlotte, North Carolina, first learned about IAP2 from colleagues who had attended the IAP2 Foundations in Public Participation program. “I was part of a working group tasked with examining how the city was engaging with the community and developing an overall strategy moving forward. We wanted to make sure that we were bridging the gap between the community and local government. Our organization has success around a lot of projects and initiatives and we wanted to implement a standard practice such as the IAP2 Spectrum.” The Spectrum will become the foundation to community engagement planning and a key piece in shaping the city’s overall strategy.

The City of Charlotte was one of the first municipalities to take advantage of the IAP2 USA Government Membership program when it was introduced in January 2015. “We definitely saw it as an investment in the direction we were moving and wanted to make IAP2 resources accessible throughout our organization. As we continue to engage the community in initiatives like the Community Investment Plan, we recognize that various projects can be in different places on the Spectrum. The important thing is that the community engagement plans begin with a high level overview of the Spectrum and the understanding that we are connecting with the community throughout the life cycle of the project.”

Beginning in the fall of 2014, the city conducted a series of community meetings to begin planning efforts for the Cross Charlotte Trail (XCLT). “The team decided to organize pop-up meetings to engage with the community and this method proved to be very successful. They attended neighborhood meetings, participated in weekly bike rides and connected with people at local festivals and events at locations along the proposed trail route.” This spring the trail project was awarded the Region of Excellence Award by the Centralina Council of Governments.

 

 

For the City of Charlotte, community engagement isn’t just about planning capital improvement projects. It’s about reaching people, listening and even tackling tough, sensitive issues impacting the community. The work being done by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) is a great example. An initiative called Cops & Barbers provided a forum for open, honest dialogue on police and race relations in the African American community. It is an opportunity to meet people where they are and where they routinely go (the barber shop) and start a conversation between officers and people of all ages in the community. Last year, CMPD partnered with the North Carolina Local Barbershop Association to coordinate town hall meetings throughout Charlotte. The program was recognized by the White House Task Force on 21st Century Policing. A simple, yet impactful idea turned into a form of community engagement that brings diverse groups together.

“It is exciting to see the connection grow between our organization and the community we serve. We have a unique opportunity to effectively engage with our community through many platforms and cover a variety of topics that matter to those who live, work and play in our city. I look forward to seeking out ways to incorporate more of the IAP2 Spectrum into all aspects of our engagement.”

Traci volunteered to serve on the IAP2 USA Communications Committee in 2016, and has gotten involved in the organization’s communications planning initiative. “IAP2 USA is committed to helping organizations figure out where they are on the Spectrum and helping them be successful with their community engagement initiatives. I’ve learned so much from other committee members and from members in other cities who are trying new things and engaging in different ways. IAP2 USA is a perfect fit for what we’re doing here at the City of Charlotte.”

And she’s excited about bringing community engagement to the next level at the city. “There are people who do some form of community engagement in every department. Whether it’s employees out in the field, project managers, city leaders or elected officials, there is interaction with the public on a daily basis. As an organization, we want to engage, build relationships and actively collaborate with the community.”

Traci is hoping to reconvene the working group to look at embedding P2 in the city’s overall strategy for planning and delivering city services. “We’re seeing the positive impacts when we listen to what matters to the community and bring back what we’ve learned. Now I want to look more holistically at how we put all of the pieces together to establish community engagement at the core of everything we do.”

Traci recognizes the city can’t use a one-size-fits-all approach, but is asking questions around “What does engagement look like from an overall standpoint? Are we hitting the target to engage effectively? Are we being intentional about looking for ways to engage the community?” While these questions will be answered over time, she sees the IAP2 Spectrum as the foundation to build a lasting strategy for engagement.

Member Spotlight: Deanna Desedas

August 5, 2016 1 comment
Deanna Desedas

Deanna Desedas

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Public Outreach & Engagement Manager Deanna Desedas was first introduced to the IAP2 Core Values, Code of Ethics and Spectrum by Lewis Michaelson when she attended the IAP2 Foundations in Public Participation program (formerly called the IAP2 Certificate Program) in June 2013.

In her role with SFMTA, Deanna oversees the outreach and engagement for major capital construction and neighborhood-focused projects conducted by the agency. “We have hundreds of staff who conduct public outreach and engagement as part of the work they do for the agency. The challenge was how to bring authentic public engagement to scale.”

“We had identified a number of pain points. The community expressed growing frustration with the Agency’s approach to public outreach and engagement, and we would receive complaints about outreach occurring too late in the process, difficulty in reaching the agency and understanding who is in charge of a project, and a lack of consistency across projects. When this frustration turned to opposition, it created costly delays in project delivery in several ways, such as threatened lawsuits, negative press, protests and political pressure.”

sfmtaThe San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) oversees the public transit system (MUNI), bike and pedestrian programs, taxis, parking and traffic control operations in San Francisco. It is responsible for moving over one million people safely and efficiently each day and employs over 5,000 staff. It must deliver hundreds of capital projects to improve public transit, streets and safety each year.

 

To take on the challenge, Deanna embarked on a process to develop a Public Outreach and Engagement Team Strategy (POETS) that would help develop public outreach notification standards for all staff conducting outreach and engagement. By August 2014, she had launched the “POETS Peer Group” a team of 40 hand-picked Project Managers and Project Leads chosen for their leadership skills from multiple divisions across the agency with buy-in from all departments. Over the course of the next year, the POETS Peer Group conducted research on best practices, solicited feedback on drafts and vetted standards and guidelines. Ideas were sought from Portland, Boston, Los Angeles and New York. A grant from the Davenport Institute for Civic Leadership and Public Engagement supported development of the program.

“We needed to put together something compelling about how we engage the community when we implement projects with significant impact. We needed something different than a spreadsheet that listed public engagement as a task to be checked off without further elaboration.”

In early 2015, Deanna enrolled SFMTA in IAP2 USA’s Government Membership Program, which allowed her to enroll all project managers and project leads with public participation responsibilities. Since that time she has worked with IAP2 USA and Lewis Michaelson to bring the IAP2 Foundations program in-house. “Broadly training our project management staff gives us a common language – the IAP2 framework – to talk about and measure the effectiveness of our public participation efforts.”

Deanna and her colleagues within SFMTA use the Core Values and Spectrum every day. “Every project that involves putting together a Project Needs Assessment and Communications Plan requires us to think about the level of engagement we’re looking for depending on the nature of the project, and we frame the techniques we use around that level of engagement. Another way to look at is that we use the IAP2 Spectrum to put together the plans.”

While continuing to push forward, Deanna is now able to sit back to reflect on her efforts. “Now when we engage with stakeholders we try to really listen to them and take their concerns and input to help shape a better project, which helps projects run more smoothly and reach completion within better time frames.” But what Deanna finds most rewarding is building relationships and trust for the agency. Through the work she has done to bring authentic public participation to scale, Deanna has seen a change in public perception of the agency and its role in the community. “You have to have a base, and IAP2 is the solid base from which we started.”

Categories: Member Spotlight

Member Spotlight: Theresa Gunn

June 2, 2016 Leave a comment

Space station astronauts see 16 sunrises each day, and with each sunrise comes the thrill of a new beginning. Have you ever met anyone who has had the good fortune to be in on the new beginnings? That’s been Theresa Gunn’s experience with IAP2.

Theresa Gunn

Theresa Gunn

Theresa served as Chair of the transition committee that formulated the IAP2 USA Affiliate agreement, and subsequently served as President of the inaugural IAP2 USA Board of Directors from 2011-2012 where she oversaw the nascence of IAP2 USA. She also served on the first IAP2 Federation Board of Directors following the March 2010 decision to move to an Affiliate model, first as Treasurer, 2011-2012, and then as Deputy Presiding Member in 2013. After a short sabbatical, Theresa volunteered to chair the Membership Services Committee, 2014-to-date, where she continues to champion new beginnings.

“As a membership organization, we need to continue to grow the practice of public participation by expanding our reach and creating attractive membership and learning opportunities for people within the practice. In the beginning, we primarily represented sole practitioners whereas today we’ve grown to serving agencies and organizations who are living the Core Values every day. We want to make sure they’re part of our organization and we’re meeting the needs of our members.”

Theresa and the Membership Services Committee piloted the Government Membership program which began with the cities of Fort Collins and Longmont, Colorado in late 2014, and has since grown to include government entities representing municipalities, transportation, natural resources, regional planning, and school districts. Later this summer, the Government program will launch IAP2 USA’s first online Community of Practice to provide members in the same industry with opportunities to network, share best practices, and bounce ideas off each other.

Designed to allow the members of the community to define what they want to do and how they want to engage, the program will expand to include additional, self-defined communities so as to meet the needs of that group.

Theresa is looking forward to the day when we can offer tracks at the North American Conference to represent member interests whether it be by organizational type such as nonprofits or local government, or industries such as infrastructure (e.g., utilities or transportation), or issues such as the environment or sustainability. “Already we have members coming together by geography through chapters, and we need to find more ways to support networking to share best practices and build the profession.”

While not directly involved with the Certification Task Force, Theresa is a champion of their efforts and a proponent of developing the Professional Certification program. It was a priority for her as a Federation board member where she was able to shepherd the process that gave IAP2 USA permission to develop the program.

“IAP2 USA is a global leader in establishing the gold standard for public participation. Professional Certification will ensure organizations relying on certified practitioners are going to get the best of the best, and community residents who are participating in these process will be assured these are transparent, open processes founded on research-based best practices.”

And she is a champion of the work the organization is doing to support chapters. “We’ve seen some really good work come through the Chapter Liaison group this past year from developing the Chapter Handbook so everyone knows what resources are available to launching the chapter grant program and developing a chapter mentor model for emerging chapters. The services the central office can provide are much better defined, and chapters are better positioned to take advantage of the support that can be provided.”

Theresa is extremely passionate about the practice, and has seen the impacts P2 can make whether it be through a local flood control project or being the change agent who is able to help organizations fully value what their community can add to the decision-making process.

“Oftentimes we’ll hear ‘Oh, I’m the planner’ or ‘I’m the engineer, I have the expertise to do this.’ But then they’ll jump to the tool without really defining what they’re looking for. When we show people the Core Values and help them create an understanding of why they want to reach out, what information do they want, and how are they going to use that information, it changes the conversation. Open, honest, transparent processes allow communities to come together and make a difference. Instead of hearing from just the 10% who want to stop everything, decision-makers hear from everybody, including the people who want to make a difference.”

Where do we go from here? What’s next?
Later this year the Membership Services Committee plans to conduct another membership survey to get updated feedback on what members are looking for and how best to deliver programming.

“The last membership survey we did was two years ago when we were working on the 2015-2017 Strategic Plan. Since then we’ve added a lot of programming and we want to make sure our members are aware of the programming opportunities, that we’re presenting them ways that allow them to participate, and that their needs are being met. We need input to shape the 2018-2020 strategic plan and we need to be proactive in how we engage people early in the planning process to learn from membership as their needs change.”

Theresa regularly asks her staff, “How have our projects impacted somebody today? Are we making a difference in people’s lives and the communities they live in?” The projects undertaken by the Membership Services Committee and the efforts of others reflect the passion and commitment of those deeply engaged in the work of the organization and the impact the profession can have in making a difference in people’s lives and in the communities they serve.

Today is a new day at IAP2 USA.

Space Station Sunrise

Categories: Member Spotlight

Member Spotlight: Nicole Reese

March 30, 2016 Leave a comment

Nicole ReeseWhat do conservation and IAP2 P2 practices have in common? Nicole Reese!

Nicole recently completed her Master’s Degree in Conservation Leadership at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado where she focused her research on stakeholder engagement, collaborative processes, and public participation in science. With as few as 55 adult individuals remaining, New Zealand’s endemic Maui’s dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori maui) is critically endangered. Nicole traveled to New Zealand to conduct research concerning the Māui Dolphin Research Advisory Group where she recommended strategies to inform and engage stakeholders in protection efforts.

Nicole attended IAP2 Foundations in Public Participation at the recent Skills Symposium in San Diego where she saw first-hand how P2 can support science-based efforts. “In science, we do facilitation as related to conservation, but the framework was developed from the conservation research world. I always felt like there were gaps, and the Foundations course really filled them in!”

Nicole was “blown away” by the three IAP2 Pillars, the Core Values, Ethics, and Spectrum, which gave her a framework to use that’s based on a much broader practice base than just conservation.

“This was a very different perspective for me. I spent most of my time outside of class talking with people, and it was great to hear their experiences and perspectives. I was really impressed by a woman from a construction company who described their outreach to the public and how they work with the communities to engage them in the process that would impact them.

“It was great to learn about the P2 techniques and see how I can use them with stakeholders in conservation. It really validated my sense that we need to do more, and gave me the tools that I need to carry my work forward. I learned so much in those five days!”

hairyproblemShe especially enjoyed the Big Hairy Problem event. “I thought it was fantastic. It was very energetic. We were really getting into the swing of things when we had to end it, and it felt like people really wanted to continue. It was a real life example of something happening right now, and it felt good to contribute.”

Nicole recently formed the Colorado-based nonprofit Crowd Conservation to facilitate collaboration for conservation solutions, and has signed up for the Mentorship Program to continue to build her knowledge on how to apply P2 principles to her work in engaging communities in conservation.

“I joined IAP2 USA while at the Symposium, and am really impressed with the organization and the training I received. Hearing about the mentorship program and wanting to be a part of it, I applied. Since I’m new to facilitation, I was excited to hear about the opportunity to get a mentor to have someone to bounce ideas off of. To be able to tap into their seasoned perspective and knowledge is something I’ve been actively looking for. I thought it was really great this organization already had a way to do that.”

Nicole is looking forward to the networking opportunities that come from being part of IAP2 USA, and is excited to share the wealth of knowledge she gained from the Symposium with the people who are trying to make change happen within their communities. “I really want to help promote IAP2 to help the organization share their knowledge with different groups.”

2016symposium-moonjellies2

As a wildlife biologist, Nicole was captivated by the jelly fish hanging about by the pier at the Symposium. “Instead of talking about the weather, we talked about the jelly fish.”

“In the conservation research realm there are a variety of natural resources fields such as wildlife biology, rangeland ecology, and marine ecosystems. Each specialty area operates as a silo, and there’s not of communication between disciplines. The IAP2 framework gives us an opportunity to share knowledge between groups doing similar things. We can learn a lot from each other.”

At its inception, Nicole sees Crowd Conversation as having a national focus, but she hopes to make it international. Her vision is to create a network of many different organizations and stakeholder groups to share success stories and lessons learned in collaboration for positive outcomes in conservation. She hopes to facilitate that collaboration and support projects that bring people together to solve environmental problems.

“I really liked how Barbara described ‘Be the guardian of the process.’ That really struck a chord with me. One thing I hear over and over in research on conservation collaboration is that it’s all about trust and relationships. That’s something science isn’t prepared to do, and is what I hope to bring to the table.”

If you are interested in Nicole’s efforts, reach out! She would be thrilled to have conversations with IAP2 practitioners about best practices and lessons learned for engaging communities and stakeholders that she can apply to conservation and natural resource issues.