Posts Tagged ‘member spotlight’

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: 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.”


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.

Member Spotlight: Robyn Austin

December 14, 2015 Leave a comment
Robyn Austin

Robyn Austin

Robyn came to IAP2 USA in a convoluted way. With a background in public policy and intergovernmental relations, Robyn worked in communications with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Federal Courts before joining Kittelson & Associates, a transportation engineering firm, to help with public involvement.

“It was a really good fit with my background in government relations and public policy, and I started out developing communications plans focusing on outreach and social media, but something was missing. I was the only one in the firm specifically focusing on public involvement, so I didn’t have anyone else to run ideas by. There wasn’t a team to draw energy from.”

Robyn ended up searching the Internet to find people doing similar things when she ran across IAP2 USA. She attended an event in Bend, Oregon where she discovered “this amazing group of people just like me –all in central Oregon!” IAP2 events gave Robyn the opportunity to meet and learn from people doing public participation work, but even more so they helped her solidify her role and shape what she was doing.

Robyn has created public involvement as a service area outside of engineering projects. “Other firms started coming to us for assistance where we have people on the ground and outreach expertise. Whereas normally we would be a competitor, in these cases we know the area, the agencies, and the people, and we’re able to provide value-added public involvement services outside of our own engineering projects.” And Kittelson’s reputation is growing. “More clients have come to us because they’ve heard we have a good reputation with the people and the public.”

Robyn attributes growing her role from traditional public relations/ communication to listening to the stories and lessons learned of the people who worked in different industries – for example, water rights and mining – and realizing they are the same stories and lessons learned just in a different arena. “I began to think less about how you do public involvement in transportation to more about how you do public involvement, period.”

She took the Foundations course, which gave her a better foundation in the fundamentals, and the course manuals provide a reference she uses when making plans. “It was helpful to bring back the materials and talk about what I learned. It gave me something to point to to say ‘This is how to develop a good plan.’”

The IAP2 Core Values and Code Ethics really helped to inform Robyn’s work as she developed her role. In the beginning she was asking herself “Am I involving?” “Am I communicating?” but as she grew to understand and internalize the IAP2 principles, reading through them, and really understanding how they were reflected in her work, Robyn started taking them to her project teams, asking “How are you involving … communicating … educating, in your project plans?”

“That’s when we really started doing public involvement. It was definitely transformative.”

Robyn started thinking about the public participation aspect of projects as its own piece, and started asking questions around “What is our goal?” “What are we asking of the public?” “Are we empowering?” “Are we collaborating?”

The questions raised by the IAP2 Core Values and Code Ethics reframed the conversation and transformed what Kittelson was doing for the practice …all within a very short time frame.

Robyn attended the event in Bend ~2 years ago, and while she’s located in the Intermountain which covers a lot of territory – 5 big states – Kittelson’s headquarters is in Portland, where she’s gotten to know many people in the Cascade chapter. It was just 11 months ago, in January 2015, that Robyn joined IAP2 USA and the Communications Committee where she was welcomed with open arms – Thanks Lance! – “I knew I wanted to be involved more, and when I saw a call for volunteers in the newsletter I thought ‘I can do that!’”

She jumped right in helping with social media generally, but in the weeks before the North American Conference she got involved with the planning committee with Kittelson’s backing and support. “We were able to host the committee meetings in our Portland office, which gave us a good central location to connect with all the amenities but no extra costs!”

The Communications Committee remains a mainstay of Robyn’s involvement. “Communications is such an important part of IAP2! We’re a hands on committee working on social media outreach, the newsletter and the website, and of course the big success of 2015 – the new brochure – Thanks Jessica! – getting information out to people who may not know about the organization so they can get the newsletter and receive announcements. People like me, who are doing public involvement but don’t have the backing of this great organization that can help them frame their work and make it grow.”

committeeGet involved! It’s easy to volunteer for an IAP2 USA committee.

  • We’re an organization of people who are good at this. People who want to help and want to be involved, there’s definitely space.
  • It’s as easy as sending an email.
  • Not to mention we have a few good coaches and mentors…

Learn more!

Robyn is super excited about the upcoming 2016 Skills Symposium. “I’ve already registered for More Tools! and Digital Engagement to see if what we’re doing is up to snuff. I’m looking forward to connecting with others and hearing what they’re doing in their industries. I hope to see you there!”

Member Spotlight: Lauren Cobb

November 13, 2015 Leave a comment
Lauren Cobb

Lauren Cobb

Lauren Cobb came to IAP2 USA through a leap of faith. Trained as an engineer, she had started her family and was active in the community when her church suffered a series of devastating, divisive losses. Lauren was part of the leadership team that looked for ways to help the congregation come together and heal. They found a series on resilient congregations and dialogue work that led them to Public Conversations Project in Boston. The team invited training director Bob Stains to train nine church members as dialogue facilitators. This team continued to work through the materials over the summer, and began their work by facilitating a dialogue group with people they identified as sympathetic to the need for healing. That fall, the entire congregation was invited to participate in small group dialogues, resulting in 25 group sessions each with 6-8 people involving about a third of the congregation being hosted through February.

“The results were marvelous. The conversation shifted. The way people talked with each other changed. The confidence people had in each other reflected trust. People focused on finding common ground and differences became less important.”

Lauren went on to lead a second team through Appreciative Inquiry to help prepare for a search for a new pastor and begin the hiring process. The facilitation and capacity building skills she had gained proved invaluable as she went on to lead the diverse hiring committee through the pastoral search process, and a new pastor was hired in 2010.

Lauren discovered IAP2 USA on a more recent journey that took her from an NCDD discussion to the IAP2 USA Facebook group, “Everything sounded so interesting!” She saw a post for the Mentorship Program, and even though she hadn’t been a member, she submitted an application …another leap of faith.

Through the Mentorship Program, Lauren has been working with Kit Cole to organize monthly events in Southern California/Greater Los Angeles. The mentoring program has given Lauren a chance to learn about the different kinds of work practitioners are doing and what they think is important in their work, broadening her perspective about how people are engaged in P2. “I feel like I’ve entered the cave of wonders. I’ve found these people who are cultivating engagement on so many different levels. It’s given me a greater understanding of the different ways people approach their practice, and the different things people hold as important in their practice.”

Lauren was able to go to the North American Conference, where she came away with a strong sense of “this is my tribe.”

“I see IAP2 as peacemakers. People helping people speak and hear in a way that create understanding. Public participation intuitively makes sense to me. I have a lot more to learn and practice to do, but it’s almost like re-learning something I already know.”

Lauren and her daughters, Joy and Ellis

Lauren and her daughters, Joy and Ellis

Lauren was asked to serve as a proxy for Kit when she couldn’t come to a 2016 Skills Symposium planning meeting and offered to help. She has continued to participate in planning meetings and plans to help with local support efforts during the Symposium. And she has taken her community engagement efforts local, to her neighborhood. “I really wanted to bring a Little Free Library to my block, but our house isn’t in the best location. By talking with neighbors, I found someone who was willing to host the library in a much better location and another neighbor helped build it!”

Lauren came to IAP2 from the involved and engaged side of the IAP2 Spectrum, and has embarked on a journey to find a way to put her unique strengths – engineering, communications, and facilitation – to work.

Member Spotlight: Jeanna and Tim Hall

October 8, 2015 Leave a comment
Jeanna and Tim Hall

Jeanna and Tim Hall

Meet the drive behind the 2015 North American Conference!

Jeanna and Tim Hall, Portland residents and retired IAP2 practitioners co-chaired the 2015 North American Conference committee of over 20 volunteers who made the conference the great success that is was.

Fast facts:
25+ volunteers
350+ attendees, and
115+ presenters and panelists, from
8 countries (Australia, Canada, Indonesia, New Zealand, Romania, Singapore, South Africa, United Kingdom, and the United States)
55+ sessions in
2 ½ jam packed days

Jeanna joined IAP2 in the mid-1990s when she was a Public Involvement Planner for Metro. “It was a perfect fit for what I was doing. In 2002, I changed jobs, working for Clean Water Services, a regional water resources management utility” she said. “I became involved in the Cascade chapter, and I became a chapter officer and served on the national board of directors – all professional development opportunities that I wouldn’t have grown from had I not become active in the organization.”

Tim met Jeanna and was introduced to IAP2 at a Cascade chapter-hosted reception at an EPA PI conference in Portland in 2002. Since then, he too has been active in the chapter, serving on its executive committee and helping to plan the chapter PI Network events. Tim signed up his staff as IAP2 members and over the years encouraged City of Portland PI staff to join. He and Jeanna were married in 2008.

As a couple, they’re still learning as P2 evolves. “Denis Hayes’ presentation was very informative and Nancy Luna Jimenez’ presentation was an eye-opener for a lot of people on how public involvement needs to include all voices,” said Tim. “The profession still has a long way to go, but launching the discussion with the pre-conference workshop on diversity was a great way to begin a conversation that was woven throughout the conference.”

“The quality of the presentations was very high. There are so many talented professionals out there, and it’s exciting to bring them together,” said Jeanna, who was amazed to meet participants from Singapore and Romania. “My heritage is Romanian, so I was thrilled to sit with the woman from Romania at the Core Values Awards dinner.”

Keys to Success

IAP2 was founded in Portland as IAP3 at the first conference in 1990 by a gathering of public participation practitioners from the U.S., Canada and Australia. The name later changed to be more inclusive of community organizers, elected officials, and thought leaders who were not necessarily P2 practitioners.

“Having some of the original founders serving on the organizing committee gave us momentum, and having the conference in Portland, which has such a strong ethic of public participation, provided a good foundation of local people,” said Jeanna. “We had an excellent group of volunteers who wanted to help put this conference together.”

And engage they did! “The conference team really did the work, participating in the monthly calls, following up on the tasks they’d committed to between meetings. People did a great job of taking charge of the different pieces so it wasn’t just a couple of people doing everything,” noted Jeanna.

“Our conference team discussed some of the highlights in a recent debriefing. Sheri Wantland guarded the budget and managed our expenses. Francesca Patricolo coordinated the the Silent Auction, and was excited to raise over $1,900 to launch the national student scholarship program. Mike Dahlstrom spearheaded the social media for attendees to share their experience throughout the conference, and he looks forward to doing more in the future.”

Tips for 2016

  • We realized that some volunteers did not fully know what tasks they were to do. Developing roles for volunteers and having an “all volunteer” meeting before the conference starts would bring those people together and provide an opportunity to answer questions and cement commitments.
  • Look closely at the conference facility and how space availability would affect visibility and logistics for sponsors and vendors.
  • Audio-visual services were a challenge. The hotel’s AV contractor was not well enough prepared to handle the number of presentations. They didn’t have some equipment, which volunteers ran out to purchase to meet the needs of presenters.
  • Consider reducing the number of presentations from an average of seven per session to perhaps five or six.

Are you new to IAP2? Words of Wisdom from Jeanna and Tim

The conference was a great opportunity to make connections, but it’s just the beginning. If you live where there is not a chapter, think about starting one. If that’s not an option, connect with the organization as a whole by getting involved with a committee. Committees are a big part of what happens with the national organization, and the more people we have working to grow the profession the more we can do.

“We hope IAP2 USA continues to do things that help people improve the practice, that we continue to grow and be of value to our members. The conference is a great way to do it, but there are many other things we are doing. We’d like to see chapters in every city, like Los Angeles.” – Jeanna and Tim Hall

Member Spotlight: Tina Geiselbrecht

August 25, 2015 Leave a comment

tinageiselbrecht2Tina Geiselbrecht is a Research Scientist with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI). She leads the Public Engagement Planning program, a two year old program whose mission is “To advance the practice of public engagement through research and innovation.” Sound familiar?

Texas A&M has the largest university-based transportation research institute in the country. They’re interested in things like pavement markings, traffic operations, pedestrian safety, transportation planning, and policy development, primarily at the state level.

Tina came to TTI with a M.A. in Geography from Texas State University (formerly Southwest Texas State University) and a B.A. in Economic Geography from the University of Texas. “My primary focus is on research that agencies and organizations can use to better understand their constituents and customers. We collect quantitative and qualitative data to help agencies develop plans and programs.” Tina is involved in efforts to use innovative techniques and technologies to change how people engage with one another and their communities, and recently looked at how online communities can help policymakers understand what issues are important to their constituents and ask questions to better understand multiple perspectives. “The greatest challenge is to convince sponsors of the return on investment of that level engagement. They want to know that it will garner meaningful engagement and help the community be supportive of the decisions that are made.”

Back to the Future
Some of the projects Tina is involved in may seem futuristic, but in reality they’re not too far down the road.

“We’re looking at connected and automated vehicles, and the transportation infrastructure we would need to put into place to support them, for example, our engineers are working on what pavement markings these vehicles would need on the roadways. The public engagement questions center on things like ‘How do we identify the issues people will have with these new technologies so the engineers can design ways for people to accept them?’ It’s one thing to say we can produce automated vehicles, it’s another to trust them to pick up the kids at school and bring them home. We’re innovating faster than the public can absorb, in transportation and in public engagement, begging the question ‘How do we use technology to facilitate these discussions?’”

Tina joined IAP2 USA when she took the Foundations course in 2012, and the Certification Task Force after having attended the 2013 North American Conference in Salt Lake City. “The conference was wonderfully exciting and invigorating, and I wanted to get more involved!” She joined the Certification Task Force just as it was getting underway.

“I felt like I couldn’t be an effective P2 evaluator without fully understanding both sides of P2. The practitioner side – the people conducting meetings and deciding which tools and techniques will be most effective to reach a particular stakeholder group – and the evaluation side, knowing how well an effort worked and being able to effectively evaluate outcomes. The Certification Program we’ve created focuses on the core competencies that every P2 professional should know.”

Where Do I Start?
“The best advice I have is go to the conference and find ways to get involved. I didn’t know any of the people on the Task Force going in and have developed lasting professional relationships along the way. The conference is rewarding, exciting, and fun, but more than that get involved in a committee or a task force to connect more deeply with people and learn from one another.”

IAP2 Member spotlight: Thao Hill

March 10, 2015 Leave a comment

IAP2 Member Thao Hill

– By Lance Robertson

Member spotlight is a frequent feature of the IAP2 USA newsletter. If you have a suggestion for a future profile, please email Lance Robertson at

Briefly introduce yourself. Who are you, and what do you do?

I am the Director of Strategic Accounts for GovDelivery. I started with GovDelivery way back in February of 2015 :-). My job at GovDelivery is to consult with its different teams (Sales, Marketing, Product, Implementation, Customer Service, etc.) to help drive more new partnerships with local and state government. So, essentially what that means is that I help government public information officers, communications directors, public participation professionals and others leverage the internet (the cloud, the web, whatever you wanna call it) to execute their successful communications strategies.

Many folks know me because of the work I did from 2005-2014 with another cloud services company – Granicus. Prior to that, from 2000-2005, I was the head technology officer for Public Systems Associates, the IT outfit for the Louisiana Legislature.

So, essentially, I’ve devoted my entire career to helping government agencies leverage technology in the most productive and useful way possible – particularly when it comes to getting information from inside government out into the hands of citizens.

I was born and raised outside of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in a very, very small town. I received my Electrical Engineering degree from Tennessee Tech University.

How long have you been a member of IAP2? How did you first hear about the organization?

I officially joined last month! I’ve been involved with IAP2 since I attended the North American Conference two years ago in Salt Lake City as a technology vendor.

In your day-to-day public participation or community outreach work, what gives you the most satisfaction?

I get the most satisfaction when I see a press release from one of my customers informing the public about a service they are offering to help the public be better connected to their government. I can say “I was a part of that!”, and that’s super cool for me personally. Knowing I helped them make the decision to do something and it was successful!

What are the biggest challenges you’ve found in doing this kind of work?

I get really frustrated when I talk with someone in charge of public participation or communications and they say, “I’m happy with how we do things today.” They are not being open to doing it better. We should always be open to giving our citizens better services with their tax dollars.

Why did you decide to get more involved in IAP2?

I see how communications and public participation professionals love their jobs, and I have seen how helping government use technology better can make people feel more connected to their government. To use it to help get the public to take part in the decision-making process of government… that’s the most rewarding!

In several parts of the country, there is interest building in re-launching or re-building chapters to connect local folks on the ground. What’s your vision for the Northern California chapter? What kinds of things are going on there?

Too early to tell… but it feels like that we have the unique opportunity here to partner with a lot of tech businesses that want to help engage with the public, and our place will be to bring them together with public participation professionals and guide them so the tools we develop and use are ones that will actually work.

What are your off-work passions and interests? What do you like to do for fun?

I play the piano, and I sing… I do a lot of this for community service to organizations in San Francisco that are in need. I am a part of the San Francisco Ducal Court, which is a group of mostly entertainers that perform to raise money for many LGBT organizations in San Francisco.

Anything else you want to add?

I’m very excited to become more involved in my Northern California Chapter. My life passion has been to help governments utilize technology to achieve a more representative democracy built on trust between citizens and government. IAP2 can be a critical part of this very important goal, and I’m excited to be of service!