Webinar Rewind: “Building P2 Into Your Organization”

It’s a fact that people are demanding a voice in matters that concern them in increasing numbers. It’s also a fact that organizations are playing catch-up in that department. Our October webinar featured two organizations that are setting a standard in entrenching public participation in their makeup: the City of Edmonton and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA).

In both cases, the organizations were “pushed” into it. SFMTA’s “P2 epiphany” followed what Deanna Desedas, the Agency’s Public Outreach and Engagement Manager, calls “The Year of Pain”. Transportation plans and projects affect pretty much everybody, but in 2013, dozens of projects in various stages, and stakeholders, internally and externally, were getting frustrated at the slow progress. City staff studied the situation and were able to identify four key reasons for the frustration, the chart indicates. Staff were frustrated because they did not have sufficient resources to do their job; the public was frustrated at the lack of a consistent method of keeping them informed about the projects and the stages they were in.

So SFMTA devised “POETS” — the Public Outreach and Engagement Team Strategy, which includes IAP2 Foundations and other training training for staff, a peer group of managers across all divisions of the agency, tools and resources, and an ongoing evaluation process. It was also necessary to have a budget: proper P2 doesn’t come cheap. By 2015, it was starting to fall into place, and in 2017, SFMTA won the IAP2 USA Core Values Award for Organization of the Year.

There are many ways of describing POETS’ success. One is that some managers are now asking of a project, “Has this been POETized?” The other is summed up in an observation by one SFMTA upper manager: “My phone stopped ringing”: he no longer gets angry calls from members of the public, because they now know what’s going on and what the status of a project is.

SFMTA took part in a pre-conference workshop at the 2018 IAP2 North American Conference in Victoria, “Traffic Jam!”. Read the session description here or view all the materials in the Conference Schedule-at-a-Glance.

Read SFMTA’s 2017 Core Values Award application here.

The City of Edmonton won the 2018 IAP2 Canada Core Values Award for Organization of the Year, as well as the IAP2 Federation Organization of the Year award. IAP2 Monthly Learning webinars are available exclusively to IAP2 Canada members. Click here to watch the webinar and see others.

In both cases, the organizations were “pushed” into it. Edmonton had developed a P2 policy in 2003, but it “stagnated”, according to Tannis Topolnisky, Edmonton’s Manager, Public Engagement Services. That started to change during the 2013 civic election campaign, when candidates heard, loud and clear, from residents that they felt left out of important decisions. The newly-elected council ordered an audit of public engagement, which confirmed what the public had been saying.  A two-year engagement process was conducted resulting in a 27-item action plan. The action plan included constant reviews of the way the rest of the plan was implemented. The City’s new approach to its practice is one of Evaluate – Refine – Evolve.

From a staff of five, the City of Edmonton now has a public engagement staff of nearly 30 (full- and part-time) and have supported over 150 projects.

Tannis notes that the solution is not in a “template”. Instead, it starts with getting the right people in the room to begin with the question, “Why do we need to engage?”, and if not, why not.

Read the City of Edmonton’s Core Values Award submission here.

Watch the City of Edmonton’s Core Values Award video here.

The City of Edmonton took part in a pre-conference workshop at the 2018 IAP2 North American Conference. Read the session description here.

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