June: “Engaging the Rumor Mill” (Victoria Encore)
Consider this. You’re with a large organization that provides a vital service to small communities that rely on your service. What’s more, your organization hasn’t always done the best job of engaging with communities in a way that lets them feel heard and understood.
The British Columbia Ferry Service is one such organization, and the communities it serves rely on ferry travel for vital connections like commuting to and from work, getting groceries, and accessing medical treatment. Over the past few years, BCFS has been working to enhance its engagement practice by working more closely with its customers, the communities it serves, and its employees when making large decisions.
In our June webinar, Carrie McIntosh of BC Ferries shared her experiences and lessons learned in running a P2 process with small communities: how she dealt with the fact that these communities are close-knit, where information — and mis-information — travel quickly from one group to another.
One early lesson for Carrie was the need to see her role as engagement practitioner a little differently. Carrie realized that she had to see herself as someone who played a vital role in connecting different pieces within a larger system. This meant re-framing how she interacted with internal and external stakeholders, taking into account things like the diversity of players, the inescapable element of surprise that she could never quite get rid of, and the dense interpersonal connections that existed in the small communities she works with.
This illustration shows how stakeholders — those most affected by the decisions – exist at the ‘ground level’ where they have lived experience of changes brought by decisions. Organizations tend to exist around the ‘100 foot level’, where they can see the change, but don’t always have deep lived experience of it. At the top, regulators exist around the ‘30,000 foot level’, making policy that influences both organizations and stakeholders, often with limited understanding of the lived experience it creates. Taking this view, the role of P2 practitioner for Carrie became about moving information between the levels to create shared understanding and mutual benefit for all involved in the engagement process.
Find out how she accomplished that, what she learned and what you can apply to your practice. IAP2 USA members can view the webinar here.
JULY: “Not Just Dragons – a model for inclusive engagement with communities of color” (Victoria Encore)
In July, Miranda Eng of Context: an Argyle Company pursued a similar theme, homing in on Vancouver’s Chinatown. This community has been held together for almost a century and a half by shared, lived experiences including language, culture and a history of exclusion. The “head tax” at the turn of the 20th Century prevented families from being united; the race riot of 1907 targeted Chinatown; the Sam Kee Building — at one time, the “world’s narrowest,” according to The Guinness Book of World Records — was made narrow when the City expropriated most of the land on the street-front; and Chinese-Canadians couldn’t vote until 1947.
Chinatown, like other cultural enclaves, became a safe space against discrimination and racism. Like many enclaves and marginalized communities in North America, continues to be affected and threatened by growth and development.
Facing these threats, the community has taken action in the past, notably in the 1960s, when the City of Vancouver proposed a freeway that would have run through Chinatown. Then, a few years ago, a developer proposed a project on a vacant lot in the middle of the area. There were open houses and public meetings for four years, and with over 200 speakers taking part, it had the highest level of participation the city had seen. But many community members — particularly seniors — felt shut out, and that the process did not amount to meaningful consultation.
Context took on the task pro bono of understanding how to create a more inclusive P2 process and in doing so, came up with a model that could guide the way cultural and marginalized communities are engaged.
Miranda Eng headed the project, and with her connection to Vancouver’s Chinatown, she invited its community leaders and members to be part of focus groups to co-create the model.
Building that model involved first understanding what makes people feel excluded, and what makes them feel included. This created grounding principles – a paradigm shift for practitioners to explore and understand fully, even before engaging. The model was built out with guiding strategies and tactics, from assessing with the community when and how current industry practices work and don’t work.
Miranda and her group came up with five pillars:
- EQUITY – balancing power dynamics and identifying who is and isn’t at the table
- CULTURAL RESPECT – not “cultural sensitivity”: for Chinatown, that meant learning about the history of exclusion, which is a crucial step for engaging respectfully
- COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT – provide a meaningful way to process and shape the outcome; avoid “racial licensing”, assuming that one person or a few people speak for the entire community simply because of their skin color.
- ACCESSIBILITY – recognizing there may be differing literacy levels in the community and working for equity in translations while minimizing the “burden to participate”
- TRUST AND ACCOUNTABILITY – invest time in getting to know the community members: share meals, show up at community events, and above all, BE AUTHENTIC.
“Engaging with humility” became a motto for the process. It’s important to be transparent: and the model had a set of limitations to let people know what the model is, and what it isn’t. The webinar expands on those themes and more and generated some stimulating discussion from the 93 or so people who took part. IAP2 USA members can view the webinar recording and download the additional materials here.
The archive of webinars and associated material is a benefit available exclusively to members of IAP2 USA.