Volunteer Engagement: Making the experience rewarding

AnitaWasiuta2One of our goals at IAP2 Canada is to provide all volunteers with an experience that is meaningful, rewarding, inspiring and educational. In 2016, a roadmap was developed to help us get there, and Anita Wasiuta, a longtime IAP2 member, was hired as the Volunteer Engagement Coordinator (VEC) to implement the new program. We’ve already seen the program’s benefits, with the smooth and reliable support given at the 2016 IAP2 North American Conference last fall in Montréal. Read more about it.

The framework for volunteer engagement is a phased approach and supports IAP2 Canada’s strategic direction. The VEC begins by working with the project leader to develop the workforce planning—to understand the roles, hours, and skills needed for the position. The next step is to attract volunteers and focus on skills, experience, and training for the position. Once the volunteer is in the position, the project lead becomes the main contact until the wrap-up stage, when Anita holds a debriefing with the volunteer.

The process-driven approach empowers volunteers to move from project leaders to project and people leaders, and to further advance their skills while volunteering in a supportive environment.

Since last summer, we have used this process to recruit the on-site volunteers for the 2016 IAP2 North American Conference, the members of the Indigenous Community of Practice committee and the Training Committee members. We are presently working on planning and recruitment for the Communication Committee workforce.

In the next few months, Anita will work with other project leads to create the workforce planning and volunteer recruitment for the Conference 2018 Committee, and will also present the program to the local chapters and IAP2 USA board.

As a volunteer, you help build best practices in public engagement. Watch for upcoming volunteer roles in our newsletter and website. We look forward to working with you!

April 23-29 is National Volunteer Week in Canada. According to Volunteer Canada, 87 percent of Canadians have volunteered for something at some point in their lives, and youth have the highest volunteer rate: 66%.


As a P2 practitioner you work hard to ensure that you are developing and delivering great public participation processes. Have you been a part of a P2 project that involved innovation, breaking new ground and/or engaging previously unreached sectors? Have you worked with Indigenous communities and/or devoted your time and talents for the greater good? The time is NOW to give others the opportunity to give you a pat on the back, and apply for the 2017 IAP2 Core Values Awards.

There are four Project Categories:

  • Extending the Practice through Collaboration, Creativity and Innovation in the Field
  • Indigenous Engagement
  • P2 for the Greater Good and
  • Respect for Diversity and Inclusiveness

There are also three National Award Categories:

Project of the Year, selected from the four Project Category winners, above,

Organization of the Year and

Research Project of the Year.

The three National Award winners will go on to compete for IAP2 Federation Core Values Awards against winning projects from other Affiliates.

Applications are being taken now through May 10, so visit the Core Values Award page and download the Applicant’s Kit. The winners will be recognized at the Core Values Awards Gala, to be held in conjunction with the 2017 IAP2 North American Conference, Sept. 6-8, in Denver.

Need inspiration? Learn about past IAP2 Canada Core Values Award winners from 2016, 2015 and 2014. Read about winners from around the world in the IAP2 Federation’s annual Core Values Awards Showcase.

Chapter News – Prairies

March 2017

PRAIRIES CHAPTER-1IAP2 Prairies Chapter held a successful event in Regina. In this hands on, interactive, small-group session, Dialogue Partners taught attendees about the Socratic Circle technique.

Socratic Circles can effectively embrace and address existing emotion and outrage by harnessing the collective energy to gather insight and make space for group wisdom to emerge. This technique has potential to build capacity, deepen resiliency and create new understanding and compassion.

Wild Rose Chapter News

March 2017

Calgary Coffee Klatch

COFFEE KLATSCHCommunications Board members Rebecca McElhoes and Sue Blanchard hosted a lively discussion on March 15. Clockwise from bottom left: Rebecca, CJ Nyeste, Sue, Erin Pote, Samantha Brown and Brenden Smith.

The topic: preparing internal teams for engagement and helping clients to identify elements of projects that are “open” to engagement.  They also shared stories about building trust with both clients and external stakeholders, and spoke about how the practice of engagement has evolved in the last decade.  Your WR Board encourages you to participate in Coffee Klatches in your neck of the woods as they’re a great opportunity to get to know your fellow practitioners, share a few war stories, and even learn a thing or two from others’ experiences.

IAP2 Wild Rose 2017 survey results

The IAP2 Wild Rose chapter recently conducted a membership survey and the results reveal how members (and non-members) feel about the chapter’s services.  Respondents noted how the chapter could help improve their skills, commented on which events they enjoyed and even told us what their strategic priorities are in public participation for the next 6 to 18 months.

Fast facts:

  • 66 people responded/86% were members
  • Most respondents work for the government (39%), work for themselves (30%), or work for a corporation (23%)
  • Most noted that public participation, community relations, or communications was their primary work focus, though a small number also identified employee engagement, negotiation and research were components of their work.
  • 61% of respondents stated planning for public participation that meets best practices was a priority while the next most popular responses were measuring return on investment and measuring reputation.
  • 92% of respondents stated that public participation would remain an equal or become a greater priority within their own or their organization’s practice over the next 2-3 years.
  • Key topics of interest to respondents included:
  • Interactive, online engagement tools
  • Measuring Public Participation success
  • Indigenous engagement

These results will be shared with various board committees to help focus our activities and services in the coming year.

We thank you for your open and honest responses and are thrilled to have had so many respondents identify their interest in volunteering with IAP2 Wild Rose.  Our various committees will be considering opportunities for engaging these eager resources.

We would also like to congratulate Sara Alaric, our lucky survey respondent who was randomly selected to win a $50 Starbucks card!

BC Chapter News

March 2017

Daniella Fergusson (centre) with Maddie Thompson, Hannah Prince, Anna Bruce and Danielle Palfery

On March 15, the P2 Drinks series launched “Try a Technique”. The result of requests from IAP2 BC members, these sessions are held in conjunction with Foundations training courses: an opportunity to “test drive” a particular technique in an environment where one can make mistakes, learn from one another and ask questions.

The March session highlighted the Interview Matrix, a tool that helps promote dialogue in small groups (fewer than 40 people). It’s described as one of the more powerful ways of making sure everyone gets equal time, in order to build consensus.

The “Deep Dive” series continues in April with two events on the 27th: Susanna Haas Lyons will give a presentation on evaluation techniques in Vancouver (find more information here), while Tanya Twynstra will speak on the “BC Government’s Engagement Story since 2012” in Victoria. Click here for more information and to register.

WEBINAR REWIND: Core Values Award winners – Respect for Diversity, Inclusion and Culture (March 14).

This award was presented for the first time in both Canada and the USA last year, and the winners faced decidedly different circumstances for which they had to respect diversity. (IAP2 Canada members may watch the webinar here.)

alert bay 2
The Waterfront, Alert Bay, BC

The ‘Namgis First Nation and the Village of Alert Bay share tiny Cormorant Island – off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island. The two communities have a unique mix of separate and combined cultures, histories and economies. The island was, in fact, the economic hub of northern Vancouver Island, due in large part to the commercial fishery. But in the 80s, the fishery declined, and when the world economy sank in the early part of this century, businesses closed and young people started moving away.

The two communities decided the only way to address the new reality was to increase levels of cooperation in search of a solution. EcoPlan International was called in to help produce the new Economic Development plan. The process involved deep P2 from the beginning to build trust and discover common values. As practitioners, EPI’s Colleen Hamilton and William Trousdale realized they had to learn the engagement context of two very different communities sharing the same, small space. They did so by walking the streets and talking to people – “intercept interviews” – and getting beyond the “usual suspects” in a P2 process.

As well as “meeting them where they’re at” – both physically and culturally – they enlisted local leaders to help identify people and groups that might be overlooked. They used business drop-ins and door-to-door, unstructured interviews with people and hired youth ambassadors to explain the plans to their peers. So that people could own the process, they held a “name the plan” contest, and “Tides of Change” remains synonymous with the plan that belongs to the community.

A crucial step came when a major credit union opened a branch in Alert Bay. When the last bank closed a branch several years ago, local businesses were unable to continue operating and the economic decline rapidly increased. When Vancouver City Savings (Vancity) opened its new branch, it meant that local businesses could get support and money earned on the island tended to stay on the island.

For the two communities, “Tides of Change” has meant another important step: economic reconciliation. This is an opportunity to bring equality through actions rather than simply words.

Watch the Tides of Change video here.


For the Saint Paul, Minnesota, Public School District (SPPS), the task was to upgrade 72 district facilities (US $2.1 billion in assets) to meet the needs of a very diverse set of students with contemporary needs and expectations. SPPS students are:SPPS-2

  • 32% Asian-American
  • 30% African-American
  • 22% White
  • 14% Latino
  • 2% American Indian

Over 100 languages and dialects are spoken at home.

72% of the students live in poverty.

Some years ago, the district made a deep commitment to racial equity, and like many school systems is moving toward a student-centered, personalized approach to learning, to better prepare students for 21st century educational, employment, and community expectations.

In designing a process for the new Master Facility Plan, the Facilities Department adjusted itself in parallel with the change in the educational approach, shifting from an “expert” model to an inclusive, stakeholder-centered approach. They adopted the IAP2 Core Values, and given the technical, regulatory, and funding constraints put the process at “Involve” on the IAP2 Spectrum. At the same time, they agreed whenever possible to choose techniques that leaned toward “collaborate” on the Spectrum to demonstrate their commitment to understand and incorporate multiple perspectives and new ideas.

A strong stakeholder analysis process made clear that students, families, staff, and community partners were among the key stakeholders, and in accordance with the Core Values they must genuinely help shape of the process. A large and diverse group from across the district sat on the planning committee to frame the overall effort and serve as process stewards to ensure it was welcoming, inclusive, and respectful of all stakeholder groups and demographics.

Per the Core Values, a key priority was ensuring that participants believed and could see that their contributions made a difference. School-created internal teams thus included the usual leadership and staff and students, parents, and community members. Further, staff and consulting architects participated in a two-day racial equity training course. Those school teams and the planning committee then helped design a series of Saturday morning workshops that brought together teams from multiple schools within a K-12 pathway. Using inclusive, fun, and highly interactive techniques, participants worked together to  build empathy across school communities; frame cohesive supports for students throughout their K-12 journey; and understand the different ways each site could meet needs and requirements.

By intentionally supporting participation with dates and times chosen by stakeholders, transportation, food, childcare, and interpreters, 818 stakeholders participated in 2,753 workshop hours, across 14 school pathways, and helped shape 68 building plans.

As a result of this intentionally inclusive and groundbreaking engagement work, SPPS has formalized its commitment to long-term and ongoing stakeholder engagement in facility planning – and the SPPS Board/Trustees recently approved $500 million in facility improvements over the next five years.

Watch the SPPS video here.

Meet a Member – March 2017: Pauline Lambton

Project manager at Institut du Nouveau Monde, formerly with Acertys (now Hill + Knowlton)

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

I’ve been working in the field for over 5 years. I studied urban planning at the Masters level at McGill University in Montréal where I was instantly drawn to human-scale and participatory urban planning processes aimed to increase the appropriation of space by the user. I spent four years at Acertys, which specializes in community relations and public participation (now Hill + Knowlton). Currently, I’m a project manager at the Institut du Nouveau Monde, an organization whose mandate is to increase citizen participation in democratic life.

While working with Acertys, I had the chance to present (in collaboration with Ipsos Public Affairs) at the 2015 IAP2 North American Conference in Portland, on why Millennials are seem to be MIA (“Missing In Action”) from P2. We discussed research results regarding Millennials from different backgrounds to explore what young people consider to be P2, what factors influence their involvement, and how to better adapt our processes to hear young voices.  I learned a great deal from the experience and have applied some of those key ideas in my own work. For example, if you want in-person consultation, go where the millennials are and blend with their busy lives; you have to empower them to be leaders in the P2 process by making information and expertise available and creating room for authentic, open dialogue.

The Institut du Nouveau Monde is recognized as a leader in youth engagement and debate on political and social issues. I’m looking forward to exploring new approaches to bring Millennials into the P2 processes.

What turned you on to P2 in the first place?

A lot of things. I have always been interested in seeing people become active in their communities and take ownership of their own neighbourhoods. Whether it’s developing a local walkability plan, looking at new ideas on urban agriculture or re-imagining the area around a Metro station, seeing citizens take part in those changes makes a city come alive.

I did my undergraduate studies in the School of Community and Public Affairs at Concordia University, and I had the opportunity through my courses and projects to work with organizations that value community mobilization and social change. That opened my eyes to the idea of dialogue between citizens and officials; between experts and the users of a space.

MacKay St., Montreal, seen from Concordia’s Sir George Williams Campus

One of the first P2 related projects I got to work on was a proposal for a project called “The Greening of MacKay”. This would have seen part of a street that runs through the Concordia campus turned into a green space for use by students during the summer. I did door-to-door consultation and interviews with local merchants and residents to see what the people involved felt about the proposal.

Did the plan go ahead?

Not entirely, but there have been initiatives to make the street more pedestrian-friendly – green spaces and vegetable planter boxes have been introduced where people can just sit and “be”. So seasonal “pedestrianization” didn’t happen, but the people had their say, and who knows what the future holds for that space?

Did the idea of “users as experts” seem new at the time?

My studies at the McGill School of Urban Planning served to legitimize the “user as expert” idea.  It’s a very hands-on school and uses the city of Montréal as an urban laboratory, so we had many field-work projects in the city. One of my teachers, Lisa Bornstein, a pro-P2 mentor made sure that user-expert dialogue was a critical component of any urban planning process during our studio field work.

In the past decade, rapid development of social media and other technologies is also providing opportunities for citizens to take part in a whole new way. I think the expectation of the community to be meaningfully involved in decisions and projects that affect them has never been higher.

Have you had any “big wins”?

Just before I left Acertys, I carried out a mandate within the framework of a Programme Particulier d’Urbanisme (PPU – Specific Urban Redevelopment Project) for the Assomption neighbourhood in Montreal. We organized the preliminary consultation process entitled “Dessine-moi un quartier” – “Draw me a Neighbourhood” for which set up “drop-in” kiosks in busy places such as the Metro Station, local schools, and pedestrian areas. We used iPads to survey people on their ideas for the development they’d like to see.

We heard different ideas regarding public space, pedestrian and bike paths, the scale of new buildings, neighbourhood amenities, and employment.

There was a lot of potential for conflict around proposals for densification between long time property-owners and new investors. However when we ran two stakeholder design workshops, we were pleasantly surprised to see people having very constructive conversations. We underestimated the power of getting together face-to-face in a hands-on consultation process.

Right now, the process is in the hands of the Office de consultation publique de Montréal (Montréal Public Consultation Office). There was a public opinion session earlier this month and a report should be coming out in April.

I also had a personal “big win” with an exciting opportunity a couple of years ago teaching a Master’s level class at McGill – the same program I had been in. McGill’s Planning school offers various principles and practices courses taught by professionals in the field, and a few of us at Acertys were invited to teach a class on stakeholder engagement, public participation and conflict mediation. We guided students in exploring some methods, techniques, and tools that are used in P2 process design and implementation.

It was interesting to see students whose shoes I was in a couple of years before, to walk them through hands-on practical course work, and to witness the growing importance of P2 in the academic world of Urban Planning.

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

I would say that the P2 field is one that can always be innovative. Like any profession, you can fall into old habits by “copy-pasting” a process that worked one time. P2 has to be approached case-by-case, always with fresh eyes and an open mind. It’s important to always adapt the process to different situations and audiences and to make the process accessible. An accessible process means not just physically but also open and adapted to those who have different ways of learning and different interests. Also, P2 should be fun!