This year marks my 10th anniversary as an IAP2 Trainer. I am a partner in the Canadian Trainers Collective and over the past decade my partners and I have had the privilege of meeting and training hundreds of public participation professionals from coast to coast. Being a trainer has enhanced my public engagement practice – and examples from my engagement work have enhanced my training.
I think IAP2 is an important organization and the training program one of its greatest assets. The Foundations in Public Participation program provides just that – a strong foundation for authentic, effective engagement. But one of the things that excites me most about the training program is the breadth of the material covered. Here are three of the topics covered in the program and why they are important to your P2 practice.
Know why people participate – Not everyone will participate in your engagement process. It is just as important to understand why they don’t participate as why they do. And those that do participate will not all engage to the same extent. One of the foundations of effective P2 is that it is values-based. It is peoples’ values that drive whether or not they participate. Understanding people’s values and why and when they will participate will help you design a more effective engagement process.
Communication is key – My background is communication. I know that organizations are communicating constantly –not always in an effort to engage the public. But you can’t effectively engage stakeholders without good communication. Timely, accurate and authentic communication is crucial to meaningful engagement. Developing your communication plan in tandem with your engagement plan will increase the effectiveness of your P2 process.
Attitude is everything! – From how you greet people to the questions you ask, your attitude can impact the success of your engagement activities. Greeting people with a smile and positive attitude will help get your engagement event off to a good start. Also, think about your motivation when talking to stakeholders – are you genuinely trying to understand their issues and perspective or sell them on the merits of the project? Viewing stakeholders as part of the solution, rather than roadblocks, can help create more positive outcomes for your process.
When I am not training I am busy with a wide variety of clients, from municipal governments and provincial regulators to energy companies and community groups. And I am constantly practicing what I teach from the IAP2 material. I am also active on the Board of IAP2 Wild Rose and a mentor with the IAP2 Canada mentorship program.
If you want more information on the IAP2 Foundations in Public Participation program, check out the Canadian Trainers Collective website. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org . I’d love to hear from you.