Webinar Rewind – July 2018 “Denver Encore: Participatory Systems Change”

Addressing many of today’s most pressing problems requires both engaging broad public audiences and working within complex systems of institutions, actors and drivers.  In our July webinar, Prof. Martin Carcasson of the Center for Public Deliberation at Colorado State University, Prof. David Kahane of University of Alberta, and Robin Prest of the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University describe how the emerging field of “Participatory Systems Change” can create better outcomes for complex or “wicked” problems. These methods are better able to account for the values of citizens, identify leverage points for intervention, and build collaboration among multiple actors.

This approach requires rethinking key aspects of engagement, including: sponsorship; issue framing; sequencing; the nature of democratic exchange; the method of analysis; and strategies for mass communications.

Read the SFU Participatory Systems Change Primer here. And IAP2 USA members can watch the video of the webinar here.

IAP2 USA Responds to NEPA: Are you?

The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) has extended its comment period to 08/20/2018. The CEQ has posed six questions to the public regarding the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This could have a significant impact on the process and quality of P2. We want to make a stand for good P2, why it is important and why we need to fight for it. For this reason, IAP2 USA has elected to provide feedback on Question 6:

Question 6: Should the provisions in CEQ’s NEPA regulations relating to public involvement be revised to be more inclusive and efficient, and if so, how?

We as a community are uniquely poised to respond. We are asking you to be a part of “Pursuing the Greater Good” and to advocate for “Good Decisions Made Together” by responding to the NEPA request for comment.

The IAP2 USA Board has put together its own comment letter and we hope that this will encourage you to do the same. Please take a look and feel free to use comments/sections that resonate with you in your responses.

View Board comment letter to NEPA!

Not sure what this is all about? Learn more: https://wp.me/p8pbvC-8Y

Interested in submitting your comments and feedback directly to the CEQ? All comments must be submitted online by August 20, 2018.

Thank you for spreading the practice of “good P2!”

Chapter News – Reporting in from Greater LA, Intermountain, Midwest & Cascade!

Greater LA Chapter

The Greater LA Chapter may have taken July and August off from hosting meetings, but they will be back in full swing come September! Their next event is being generously hosted by PlaceWorks on September 26th starting at 11:30 AM Pacific. To get more information about Greater LA events, sign up for their mailing list but shooting an email to greaterla@iap2usa.org !

In other news, Greater LA Chapter President, Kit Cole, was recently interviewed by ELGL on their GovLove Podcast. We are waiting with bated breath for it’s release!

Intermountain Chapter

The Girls Participation Summit was a half day event designed for girls aged 10-18. They learned from some of the most successful student organizers, elected officials, and community leaders working in Utah. Participants took part in a morning of workshops that introduce tools for engaging with local governments and community organizations, skills for organizing support for causes you care about, and connections to a network of young women doing community work.

In age specific workshops, Girls Aged 10-14 learned how to speak so adults will listen which was then followed by an art workshop called “The Future We Deserve.” Girls Aged 14-18 took part in an session called “You Don’t Have to Graduate to Get Involved” followed by an Ally Building Panel Discussion.

This event wasn’t just for those still in their early youth! Adults took part in sessions introducing tools and resources to support young women in their engagement efforts followed by networking with community organizations that have engagement/volunteer opportunities.

This event hosted 40 attendees and received great feedback.

Midwest P2 News

The next meeting of the Board of the IAP2 USA Midwest Chapter will be Friday, August 10, 2018, from noon – 1pm. We meet via phone and all Chapter members are welcome to join by dialing in: (515) 604-9515, access code: 284499#.

Cascade Chapter News

The Cascade Chapter hosted their 2018 PIWorks! Conference in Portland, Oregon and brought speakers in from across the west coast to talk about a range of topics relevant and emerging in Public Participation Practice. ELGL sent three of their members to the conference who live blogged about their experiences, lessons learned, and take aways! Check out their Day 1 and Day 2 blog posts to learn all about sessions you may have missed out on!

Webinar Rewind – June: “Beyond Inclusion”

In recent years, ads promoting the City of Portland, Oregon, have portrayed the city as “weird” — steampunk, maple/bacon doughnuts, all manner of craft beers, etc., etc. But the city and environs also have a less-than-boastable history of white supremacy. According to the Momentum Alliance — a youth-led group that works for social justice — this historical situation has continued into the 21st Century with policies and procedures that put communities of colour at a disadvantage.

Metro, the regional government overseeing the three counties and 23 cities surrounding the Rose City, teamed up with Momentum Alliance to create a more racially equitable region, starting with changing the agency itself and its relationships with the communities it serves. Through a series of meetings and projects, changes have taken place — and not just cosmetic, outward-appearance changes or plans on a shelf, but changes in the attitudes of individual staff members.

But the process was hardly smooth. It involved some tough conversations, revelations and above all, trust-building. Members, hear for yourself how this remarkable process came together, and how much further they need to go.

Ambassador Program recruitment a success!

Stacee AdamsWe are so thrilled to announce that we’ve received 18 applications from members interested in joining the pilot year of new IAP2 Ambassador Program. Applicants come from across the U.S. and represent the transportation, environmental, planning, marketing and communication, and public involvement fields. Their years of experience range anywhere from 1 to 40! They share a deep understanding of the value IAP2 brings to decision making and a passion for including the public in the decisions that affect them. We are a little star struck and think you will be too. We’ll be announcing the Ambassadors next month. Stay tuned!  For more information on this Program please check out the website.

MEET A MEMBER: Catherine Smith, CP3

POSITION Partner in charge of engagement and communications, Cityworks

How long have you been in P2, and where have you worked?

I have been in P2 for 25 years: I’ve had three jobs in my career – two of them, in P2. The first was at PC World Magazine where I worked my way up to Assistant Editor before becoming a freelancer for a year or so for them. Then I landed my first job in P2 at the San Diego Mediation Center, doing community mediation. My longest job has been at CityWorks. We’re an inter-disciplinary team of a dozen people on staff – six on the engagement side and six on the design side.

What turned you on to P2 in the first place?

I started out going to law school at the University of San Diego. I actually went to law school because I thought I wanted to be a journalist, covering legal issues. But then I learned about mediation and started volunteering at a local mediation organization. It’s through that work that I found out about public involvement, and forgot all about journalism.

I didn’t forget about it entirely: as I’ve practised P2, it became really clear that providing information was key and the journalism aspect was important to accurately distill complex information into language people could understand and use.

Basically, in law school I got really interested in how people solved problems. Mediation was supposed to be early conflict resolution; so I view P2 is early-early conflict resolution. And that fascinated me. I like involving people to head off a conflict before it starts or takes hold.

One of my first projects was working with the Economic Development Department with the City of San Diego. We were coordinating with the Public Works Department to revitalize older business districts. We helped on beautification projects in communities to strengthen the main streets in these neighborhoods, and help them recover from the past three decades when malls sucked business away from them. That led to working on streetscape and public art projects, as well as public transit and land use planning projects.

Have you had any “big wins”?

An early win in my career was helping a working group establish a non-harassment policy for sexual orientation at a Catholic university, which prevented potential litigation. In the last decade, we helped San Diego build a culture around water conservation and exceed its water conservation goals.

Recently, we helped the economically disadvantaged area of Encanto develop the state’s first near net-zero master plan for its community. That project was funded by the California Energy Commission. In it, we supported the local non-profit organization that was the lead, along with its partners of the school district and the University of California, San Diego. Our role was to design an engagement plan for the project manager, including its supporting communications, facilitate a stakeholder advisory group and project team meetings, and support the final editing of the master plan document.

A career highlight is being on the IAP2 USA board and working with the quality people that manage the board and are on it. I’ve been the chair of the Communications Committee for the past two years, and we have had two major initiatives that I hope are helping all of our members and grow the culture of P2 as a whole. The first initiative was to simplify how we talk about P2, so the non-practitioner “everyday-person” can understand it. That’s our Brand Initiative, based on the messaging, “Pursuing the greater good: good decisions made together.” Those phrases can work separately or together and are meant to inspire us to continually strive do our best. It expresses our role in the marketplace of other organizations and the benefit of good p2.  In fact, IAP2 Canada has picked up on the same idea with “inspiring better decisions together.” That means North America is starting to talk in the same way about P2 — phrased around benefits of good decision-making.

The other initiative is launching a new Ambassador Program to help share that message across the country, raise the profile of IAP2, and describe how to have good P2. We’re piloting the program this summer through the end of the year. In the current polarized climate, it’s a challenge; but those challenges are also opportunities. Mainly, they are opportunities because people are searching for an answer and for a way to do something positive. IAP2 can give guidance on how to help them move forward together. Really, we’re all having one experience and we need ways to tell one another about it and work together.

Have you had any “golden learning moments” – any time when something has gone wrong and you’ve learned from it?

There have been times when our clients wanted to do what they were familiar with rather than what might work best for the situation and their objectives. In those times, we try to talk through the benefits of limiting or expanding the public involvement process and present possible scenarios to them, so that they have clear understanding of the consequences of the choices. They need to know what to expect, and think through how to manage those expectations with people above and around them.

Have you ever been tempted to just walk away from a project?

Sure. I think we all have. My first challenge was when I got my first phone number for our firm back in the 1990’s. I wanted to create a section in the Yellow Pages for public involvement, but it didn’t exist that way. Now, there’s the internet, so there isn’t that hoop to jump through. I’ve also learned that a client usually isn’t one person: it’s the project manager and everyone around them – up the chain, peers that are lateral to them, and the people that support them. So, we’re always looking to understand and engage the whole system of a client; it puts ourselves in their shoes and that helps us understand them and them trust us.

What does having your CP3 mean to you?

I feel good about being evaluated by my peers and hearing from them what they see in my skills. So often, we are operating in our own little box, so it’s good to go through a process with peers. It’s hard to have objective perspective on our own practice because it’s so close to home that it is actually home. Having outside perspective of peers who are committed to the quality of the practice sheds some new light on aspects of our practice that have become so familiar that they aren’t thought of.

I’m also really proud of helping the organization grow this next phase of P2 of having standards and having IAP2 recognized for those standards. I think the certification is helpful to my company and to the organization. When people see that new acronym “CP3” by my name,  they ask, “What’s that?” That question is an opportunity to describe what CP3 means and what good P2 is all about.

Also, an unexpected benefit of going through the certification process is that it has improved my skills. It reminded me of things I had forgotten and brought forth some new approaches that I hadn’t yet incorporated into my practice. I know I’m delivering better service as a result.

What’s next on your plate?

We’re doing a lot of work in water planning and in sustainability generally – we’re really excited about that. I’m also looking at the steps to becoming a P2 trainer, as part of helping extend this practice across more communities.

And I’m bringing more writing into my day, both professionally and creatively. I’ve just had my first creative writing published in the anthology by San Diego Writers, Ink., a non-profit group. In creative writing, there’s no budget or scope so there’s a lot of freedom. A blank page is the biggest open-ended question there is. Part appreciative inquiry, part facilitation, part problem-solving. It’s a great metaphor for taking the risk to ask those open questions: what do you care about, why do you care about it, what would you like to see, what are you willing to contribute, what are you willing to change. Those are needed in writing and in P2, and I think needed in life generally.

If you had anything to say to someone just getting into the P2 business …

Join our community! You don’t have to go it alone. You can be part of this community and have a lot of support and have a lot of people to help you figure out the challenges that come along.

President’s Message – Leah Jaramillo

Public Participation is not something you just start doing. It is a process, honed over time and aided by experience. As practitioners I think we intuitively know when things are working and areas where we can improve. Despite nearly 15 years in practice, I still seek training annually to make sure I am up to speed or to address areas where I feel I need some help. So I was a bit apprehensive when I began the application process for certification. I know I can do it…but what will my peers think? Pulling back the veil, so to speak, can feel pretty intimidating. 

ATTN: NEPA Update: Here is your opportunity to be part of Pursuing the Greater Good

Call to Action: The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is asking for public comment as it is considering an update to its procedural provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This could have a significant impact on the process and quality of P2. We want to make a stand for good P2, why it is important and why we need to fight for it. We are asking you to be a part of “Pursuing the Greater Good” and to advocate for “Good Decisions Made Together” by providing your public comment.

Background: President Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) into law on January 1, 1970. Its passage established a new policy of environmental protection and transparency in government. For any federal action that will have significant environmental impacts, NEPA requires federal agencies to define a range of reasonable courses of action, including a “no action” or baseline alternative, evaluate the likely impacts of each of those alternatives, and share the results of that analysis with the public. While it has never been interpreted as obligating the government to pursue the most environmentally benign action, NEPA made the government’s decisions open to public scrutiny. The law also provided for the formation of the Council on Environmental Quality. Sec. 2 [42 U.S. Code § 4321].

Timing: Given the length of time since its NEPA implementing regulations were issued, CEQ is required to solicit public comment on potential revisions and you have an important voice. No other organization with its members and friends is better poised to contribute and advise on the update of these regulations.

Your voice is important and should be heard. But you only have until August 20th to make a difference!

Next Steps:

  1. Review the announcement
  2. Draft your reply. Need inspirations? Consider the following:
  3. Contribute to the conversation by submitting your comments online

Please pass this opportunity along to your interested colleagues. Share your posts on our Facebook pageLinkedIn and/or Twitter using #goodp2matters. Take a stand – this IS something you can do!

Here is your opportunity to be part of
Pursuing the Greater Good: Good Decisions Made Together.

May Learning Webinar: “Our Community Could Blow Up. Do We Have Time for some Quick Consultation?”

Robbie Burns’ famous prayer was for protection from “things that go ‘bump’ in the night”, but in October 2012, near Shreveport, Louisiana, it was no “bump”. It was a colossal explosion, and no one immediately knew the cause. When the cause – and the planned solution – were discovered, it touched off a different kind of fireworks.

The cause was millions of pounds of M6 explosive – the propellent used to fire large guns, like tank guns and heavy artillery – which had been stored at Camp Minden National Guard Base. It was too old to be any use – and highly unstable. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other responsible agencies planned to burn the explosives in the open – considered “best practice”. The community had other thoughts on the matter and in the social and political melee that followed, Kristi Parker Celico and Doug Sarno, MCP3, were called in to facilitate public consultation sessions to find an alternative.

Except they didn’t have the luxury of time.

BOOMThe military repeatedly reminded everyone that another major explosion could happen at any moment.

So how did Kristi and Doug manage to marshal the military, the environmental experts, the community members, the activists and the various government agencies (none of whom wanted the responsibility) and come up with a solution? The May webinar – a reprise of their presentation at the 2017 IAP2 North American Conference – is revealing, inspiring and at times hilarious (in its own macabre way) as we learn how two experienced professionals took charge of the situation and quickly but methodically brought in a solution before something else went “ka-BOOM!” in the night.

IAP2 members can watch the webinar here. (The IAP2 Webinar Archive is a benefit exclusive to members of IAP2 USA.)

April Learning Webinar: Core Values Award Winners – project categories Part 2

USA: Tennessee Department of Transportation – General Project Award for “Long Range Transportation Plan”

Tanisha & Gov Haslam

Every five years, the Tennessee Department of Transportation has to produce a 25-year long-range transportation plan, and with 6.5 million people — a third of whom live in rural areas — to serve, the challenge is to make sure public money is spent in the best way possible. Complicating matters is the sudden in-migration of people: ever since Nashville was designated an “It” city by the New York Times, 100 people move there per day.

By 2013, transportation infrastructure projects had fallen behind to the tune of $6 billion, so the problem was clear: how to come up with a plan that Tennesseans could stand behind. Tanisha Hall — TDOT’s Director of Long-Range Planning — and her staff had to reach urban and rural areas with the same message, be consistent with the outreach efforts, build input that would directly influence the decisions, and define and target traditionally underserved sectors of the population.

The tools and techniques included regional summits, focus groups and “Book-a-Planner” Outreach, where staff would take the message to local groups. They took the message to places where people traditionally met, such as Rotary and Chamber of Commerce meetings, giving people the straight goods on the challenges TDOT was facing; they questioned the people interactively on what their transportation priorities were.

Tanisha explains that they learned quite a few valuable lessons about engagement: make sure that an engagement plan is an integral part of the plan; be flexible; think through the entire process ahead of time and identify potential obstacles; and make it enjoyable.

So successful was the outreach, that towards the end of the process, Governor Bill Haslam (centre, above; looking toward Tanisha) used Tanisha’s engagement process at some of the events, which led to the legislature passing a gas tax increase to fund transportation infrastructure and TDOT won the IAP2 USA Core Values Award — General Project.

CANADA: LAWS (Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society) and Beringia Community Planning, Indigenous Engagement Award for “Youth4Safety”

Tackling the problem of violence against Indigenous women and girls in a small northern community, and making sure as many voices as possible were heard in developing a long-range, multi-modal transportation plan, were the last two Core Values Award winners featured in our monthly webinars.

In addressing a problem of sexualized violence against Aboriginal women and girls, an initiative named Youth4Safety spearheaded by the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society (LAWS) and supported by Beringia Community Planning won the IAP2 Canada Award for Indigenous Engagement. The groups determined to make the plan local to the community, so it was relevant at all points, and to empower youth, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal.


There are numerous barriers when it comes to engaging young people. Lack of interest is one, as is an inability of decision-makers to see the value in engaging young people; perhaps an even bigger barrier is the lack of meaningful roles for youth. The Youth4Safety project set out to overcome all of those.

Beringia’s Sarah Gillett says decision-makers often underestimate the ability of young people to contribute to a process; but in this case, they were given the key role. The project presented educational tools to help youth deal with sexualized violence, but the project also drew on the local culture and the experiences of the young people, themselves, all while ensuring the safety needed for youth to participate. They were empowered to apply what they learned in designing an awareness campaign and then share their work with the broader community.

No fewer than 16 agencies collaborated on the project, including LAWS, the RCMP, local tribal justice departments, the local high school and drug and alcohol counselling services. A unique feature of the process was that it was based in local Kaska culture, focusing on peer support, a system designed by youth for youth, and dene à nezen, which is a Kaska term to describe “dignity and respect”.

While the long term impact of their work is still to be understood, an evaluation of Youth4Safety has identified the following results to date:

For the participating youth:

  •         An ability to describe the issues relating to sexualized violence (such as gender, social responses, racism, mental health)
  •         An increased willingness and comfort talking about sexualized violence
  • An ability to identify concrete actions they can take to respond to violence against women and girls
  • An increase in concrete skills they can use to get involved in taking action on issues of sexualized violence (such as campaigning, communication, using the media)
  • Increased sense of connection among Youth – provided a network Youth trust to approach with sexualized violence issues, potential to provide support for Youth victims of sexualized violence
  • Increased confidence and self-efficacy – being a part of this team gave Youth an opportunity to build their confidence and recognize their ability to build a safer community
  • Building a stronger support network – more aware of resources, community organizations, and a network of people who care about sexualized violence against women and can help

For the broader community:

  •         Increased knowledge about violence against women and girls, the extent of the issue and the impact on Youth
  •         Increased appreciation for the knowledge Youth have on the topic of sexualized violence and the role they can play in raising awareness on this issue