One of my colleagues at work recently moved on from our company to explore exciting international opportunities and before she left she sent a note out to our team. But it wasn’t the typically generic “I’m leaving, thanks for everything, here’s my new email address” kind of note. It was a play on one of her favourite activities called “what I like about you.” The game involves variations on going around a circle and having everyone say what qualities they most admire or appreciate about each person in the group.
As I enter the last few months of my five and a half years on the IAP2 Canada Board, I’d like to offer a similar parting message about the organization, with thanks and acknowledgement to Kirsten for the idea. As far as I’m concerned, IAP2 Canada is not just a professional association. It is a community of like-minded, passionate, and compassionate people who believe that the work they do can make a positive difference in the world. And for those of you who haven’t experienced this great community like I have, allow me to share what I like about you:
Your mentorship. And I’m not just talking about the formal mentorship program that is currently in its third cohort. I’m talking about all the individuals across the country who live the part of the IAP2 Code of Ethics that commits us to support those new to the practice of P2; those who I’ve connected with through IAP2 and who have supported me in my professional and personal development along the way. Gay Robinson, Stephani Roy McCallum, Jan Bloomfield, Amelia Shaw, Gale Simpson, Geoff Wilson, Terry Koch, Mary Moreland and Deb Eastlick, here’s looking at you. What I’ve learned from and experienced through these folks and others has advanced my career, my network, and my perspective in immeasurable ways.
Your professionalism. As much as IAP2 is a community of wonderful people, you are also professionals with high expectations for your professional association. You expect a lot of yourselves – you are in the business of changing the world, after all – and you expect a lot of IAP2. Thank you to all of you who have pushed the IAP2 Canada Board (and me) to see the bigger picture, live our Core Values, and to be a transparent, fair, and accountable organization. Tiffany Skomro, Hugo Mimée, Stephani Roy McCallum, Brenda Pichette, Gay Robinson, Karla Reesor, Krista Maydew, Michelle Holland, Tracey Ehl, John Glynn-Morris, Amy Hennessy, Amelia Shaw, Maria DeBruijn, and Catherine Rockandel – thank you for pushing me and pushing IAP2 Canada, and for being willing to roll up your own sleeves, get in the muck and work with us to make the organization and practice better for all.
Your openness to new people and new ideas. One of the reasons I believe my career has benefitted so much from my involvement in IAP2 Canada is that I have been given the freedom and encouragement to try new things. The first full-scale engagement process I led in my life was when IAP2 Canada was first being formed in 2011. Sure, I had taken the Foundations Training course and done some consultation work as part of my role here and there, but I hadn’t planned and managed an end-to-end national P2 process on my own before. IAP2 Canada gave me the opportunity to do this, and offered me the volunteers and resources needed to support me along the way (see the “What We Heard” report for more information about that process). I am also thankful for the way the organization has responded to the call for increased Indigenous inclusion within IAP2 and the practice. Thank you to all the amazing practitioners who have recently joined the IAP2 Canada Indigenous Engagement Community of Practice, for allowing me to work with and learn from you on our journey of reconciliation.
Likewise, I’m grateful to those other people who are new to P2 in general, or to IAP2 as an organization, who are willing to get involved and try something new. These individuals are stepping into an established community of passionate individuals, which takes a lot of courage, yet they are willing to work with the organization where it’s at and to do their part to make it a little bit better. Thanks especially to Bruce Gilbert for being willing to step into the President role in his first year on the Board. He’s done a great job of honouring the people and work that came before him while bringing a fresh take to the future of the organization.
Your belief that meaningful public engagement will make the world a better place. I remember one time very early in my career when I was trying to explain to my brother why I wanted to pursue a career in community engagement. I described all the wonderful things that I believed would come from truly authentic relationship building and opportunities for diverse groups to come together to find common ground and work toward a positive outcome for all. While he had been arguing the merits of a nine-to-five job that left work at work, he sat back in his chair for a few seconds and said, “Oh, now I get it. You actually think you can change the world! Good for you – have at it.”
We are a rare breed. And often we are the only person or part of a very small team within our organizations that do or even believe in this work. But when we come together – at the North American Conference, regional chapter events, or even as colleagues on a chapter or affiliate board – something magical happens. We are renewed through kindred spirits and energized by all the great work that is happening to advance the practice of meaningful public engagement right across our country. We learn from each other and try new things with authenticity and in service of the practice, decision-makers, participants, and citizens.
Thank you, IAP2 Canada, for continuing to inspire and energize me. I look forward to the next chapter in our journey together and all the new things there will be to like about you.
All the best,