So you think you’re certifiable? Five tips for becoming a CP3

Jessica Delany, CP3

It’s that time of year… work planning and professional development planning. Maybe you’re thinking that becoming a Certified Public Participation Professional (CP3) is in the cards for you in 2019. Here are some insights and tips from people who went through the process in 2017.

This is a relatively new professional designation, aimed at certifying those individuals with in-depth experience and expertise in planning, implementing, reporting on and evaluating public engagement processes. Public engagement has become increasingly sophisticated over the past decade, and IAP2 has worked hard to develop a  rigorous process that accredits and recognizes the evolution of the profession.

For detailed information about the CP3 process, please visit:

For five tips from people who have gone through the certification process, read on.

  1. Fully understand the whole process

If you are thinking of becoming a CP3, don’t just skim over the accreditation process – really read it. Understand the three phases, review the application form in depth, and understand what is required to be successful. Ask questions, seek clarification, and reach out to those who have achieved the CP3 designation. You should embark on the process with a feeling of complete certainty about how it works.

  1. Be honest with where you are at and what you are willing to give

Once you know the process, aim to know yourself, your experience and skills, and if you feel ready. The expectations are high that applicants will have a wide range of experience with a variety of techniques and with the entire engagement planning, implementation and follow-up process. If you don’t have everything that is required, develop a plan to become qualified before you begin. There have been past candidates who have augmented their professional experience with volunteer experience and have worked to become well versed in a variety of techniques and processes.

  1. Set aside big chunks of time

The CP3 process will be harder, longer and more frustrating if you don’t have big chunks of time set aside to work on it. Giving it an hour here and there, putting it down for a few weeks and then working on it sporadically will likely create frustration and result in a lesser product. Look at your work plan for the coming year and identify whether you can block off dedicated time to work on the deliverables for the entire process.

Part of reflecting on whether you have the time is also to ask yourself: Is my organization/employer supportive of me pursuing this designation, and can I carve out time in my workplan?

  1. Know the IAP2 core competencies like the back of your hand

It’s no secret how you will be evaluated – it’s all about the core competencies. Know them inside and out. Print them out, highlight them, read them regularly. Bottom line: know them, and how your skills and experience directly relate to each of them. The assessors want you to be successful, but they need content on which to evaluate you.

  1. It’s a series of tests… and that’s stressful

While #4 is absolutely true, you need to know that this is nothing like the five-day Foundations course. You do not get a pass just for showing up. You really, really need to demonstrate the core competencies. It is an evaluation process – and the reality is that’s stressful. If you have a very demanding year ahead, with huge projects and other complicated things on the go, maybe now is not the time.

If you can make it work, then plan how you are going to manage the stress of being evaluated. How are you going to make the process as productive and positive as possible? A few tips include:

  • Give yourself plenty of time
  • Know the core competencies
  • Take an incremental approach to planning your application
  • Ask questions and check-in regularly with IAP2 USA
  • Start documenting all your experiences NOW, before you even apply, so you have a file full of your awesomeness ready to go!

So, with that, good luck, and remember: Part of every destination is the journey. Here’s to a happy, engaging and professionally fulfilling year to come.

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