The IAP2 Canada Research Committee commissioned its first two white papers in late 2015, and they were released earlier this year. The authors of the papers shared what they found in the August webinar.
Karen Zypchyn looked at Challenges and Advancements in Evaluating P2 – essentially, determining whether a P2 process has “worked”. One of the main challenges is the lack of what she calls “complete” evaluation instruments available to practitioners. There’s also a “battle of methodologies”, which can hinder things: quantitative evaluation, which measures success on an unvarying set of criteria which can be ported from one P2 process to another; and qualitative evaluation, which treats each process uniquely and involves case studies, interviews and debriefs.
Karen discovered three broad evaluation dimensions: context, process and outputs/outcomes/impact. That said, outcomes far outweighs context and process in terms of importance, as far as practitioners are concerned. Some of the more desired outcomes include better decision-making by leaders and a more informed public. Indeed, it’s been found that people tend to go to a P2 event with the intent not of expressing their opinion so much as learning more about the issue at hand.
Karen’s white paper recommends one evaluation instrument in particular, the Patient and Public Engagement Evaluation Tool developed by a pan-Canadian team led by Dr Julia Abelson of McMaster University. PPEET won the first IAP2 Canada Core Values Award for Research Project of the Year in 2014, and one of its features is that it can be adapted to other P2 projects.
Kate Nelischer tackled the question of Conflict Management in Public Participation, which can actually be a good thing, as having people with wildly differing points of view can lead to deeper discussion and deliberation, which leads, in turn, to stronger solutions. But reaching those solutions requires managing the situation. Kate discovered first that you have to spot why conflict comes up; then, she identified a number of methods for handling conflict, of which four stood out:
- Deliberative participation
- Dramatic problem solving
Circles comes from the culture of Indigenous peoples, in which people literally sit in a circle and share their experiences and aspirations on an equitable basis.
Deliberative Participation brings a diverse group into the conversation, examining an issue from as many sides as possible. This requires everyone to be well-informed going into the process.
Gamification, as the name suggests, involves making a game out of the issue, which helps people get out of their comfort zones, learn about the issues, and have fun in the process.
And then there’s Dramatic Problem Solving, in which the whole issue is played out with a method called “forum theatre”, giving participants “roles” to play and taking them out of reality and into a safe space, where they can work through the conflict collaboratively.
The key to all of this is to identify where the conflict lies and who is involved; and then to spot the most appropriate method for dealing with it.
You can view the entire webinar here.