Tips from the Trainers – Lara Tierney

LARA TIERNEY-2I currently work in engagement (public participation) at The City of Calgary.  I often work with project teams that are new to the concept of public participation or at the very least are not experienced in that area.  Budget and time allowing, it is great to have them take the Foundations of Public Participation training to establish common understanding of what public participation is, why we do it and what is involved.

For the times when that is not a possibility, I find that using the engage! process that The City has developed is very useful. I would like to share the key elements of that process. There are six steps:

  1. Do you need engagement? 

This is a key question that needs to be explored to determine if engagement makes sense for the project at hand.  It often comes down to figuring out if there are decisions that can be impacted by input from public and/or stakeholders.

  1. Develop a plan

Once it has been confirmed that engagement is appropriate, it is critical to develop an engagement plan. This is the road map that outlines the engagement journey that is about to be embarked on.

  1. Tell the story

It is really important to share the background information of the project in order for people to feel they know enough to give meaningful input.

  1. Raise awareness

Take the time to make sure that the people you want to hear from know about the project and the opportunities to provide input. And make sure that is done in enough time that they can make arrangements to participate.

  1. Connect

This refers to actually having the dialogue in an open and authentic manner.

  1. Report back and evaluate

It is important to share what was heard from participants and what was done with the input heard.  As well as taking the time to evaluate the process and outcomes for continuous improvement.

What have you used to help project teams to understand what is involved with a public participation process?  Anything you have found to be particularly useful?  I would love to hear from your experience – you can reach me at

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