Each month, we present some handy hints and incisive insights from the people who train others in P2. This month, Stephani Roy McCallum of Dialogue Partners shares some thoughts on “myths” of P2, addressing change and the importance of keeping people’s feelings in focus.
First of all, I’m the wife of a fabulous man, mother of 4 awesome children, and an avid world traveller, Spartan racer and paddle boarder.
I’m also the Managing Director of Dialogue Partners where I have led controversial projects around the globe on topics ranging from the rights of Indigenous peoples; municipal budgets; health care; natural disaster; truth and reconciliation; energy, environment and major infrastructure; and more.
I was the 2008 President of IAP2 International, the lead developer of IAP2’s EOP2 course, have been a trainer of IAP2 Foundations since 2005 and am an Assessor of candidate trainers for both courses. I have a background in Sociology, community development, Indigenous studies, alternative dispute resolution, and authentic leadership. I’m a Certified Professional Facilitator, and in 2015 will become a Certified Coach.
I believe that building capacity to listen to each other, understand our differences, and work effectively together to create momentum for positive change are key to building strong communities and organizations. And this is the reason I am an IAP2 trainer.
Public engagement is risky business
More than anything else, I think that people are surprised by the intensity of emotional reaction caused by projects – or at least projects that impact people’s lives. We focus a lot of our public engagement planning effort and energy on thinking through the issues to be addressed, the communication tactics, the techniques to gather the info we need, the logistical details like venue, printing and materials.
We spend far less time thinking about how people will FEEL about the project and the process: whether their lives will be impacted, and what that might mean to them, their families and communities; how they might be fearful, anxious, angry or uncertain about the impact of changes – even positive changes. We spend more time focusing on the facts we want to tell them, than on making sure they feel listened to, cared for and supported in conversation. We spend little time on enhancing capacity to participate, creating lasting relationships, working WITH communities and people, or building trust.
It is in these intangible factors that the secret to success lies – and what will make the difference between facing public opposition or controversy and community acceptance or support.
Some tips to support you in your work
- If you want to dive into some of the factors that impact how people respond to and deal with CHANGE, check out an excerpt from our Public Engagement Toolkit here It includes tips, things to reflect on, and some worksheets to use in your practice.
- If you want to test your public engagement practice against some myths of P2 check out my “Stories we tell ourselves” blog
- You can also check out a video of my “IAP2 Talk” delivered at the IAP2 USA conference.I discuss some new ways to look at the practice and advocate for all of us to stretch and expand our P2 approaches.
- If you are looking for a new and effective technique to use in highly emotional situations, you can find a tip sheet for a Socratic Circle on our website.