It’s true that many organizations – private corporations and public agencies alike – are incorporating Public Participation into their practices, but there is another step they can take: becoming P2-Centric.
Our July Webinar brought another of the popular sessions from the 2016 IAP2 North American Conference in Montreal: Anne Pattillo’s “Is Your Organization P2-Centric?” To Anne, a P2-Centric organization (P2CO) is one that “puts citizens as the main stakeholder of their decision-making, thinking, planning and action.” Does that describe your organization? And if not, how do you get it there?
Anne contends that organizations see the importance of P2 as a reputation-enhancer, but it’s important to move from that negative-inference mindset to one where the organization is always on top of citizen attitudes and aspirations and makes that the centrepiece of its work. In Anne’s research, the typical organizational P2 journey is the way it looks below and often organizations get stuck with pockets of good practice.
Doing that involves from good practice to a portfolio of public participation, in which resources are constantly available to sustain that practice. When that happens, P2 has its greatest impact. What’s more, it’s been found that if good P2 is delivered only occasionally, its impact is limited. Getting maximum impact requires consistently delivering quality P2 across the organization. For the practitioner, that means:
- Disciplined evaluation and reporting P2 processes and impact
- Focusing leaders on it so they can see what if any communities are being “missed” in the process
- Building capability, systems, policies into the organization so P2 is integrated into the organization’s work – “Stitched into the lining,” as Anne puts it
- Getting commitment from the organization to continue with that P2 framework
- Pro-actively reaching out to citizens about their experience and expectation with the organization.
The onus is on the practitioners to make it happen in the organization: to discuss with the leaders the goals they have and impress on them the importance of incorporating P2 as a cornerstone of the process, rather than an after-thought. It requires bringing P2 into alignment with the organization’s strategy and priorities and also working with the organizational and key community leaders to help find the place the organization is expected to play in that community.
Measuring that impact can take any of a number of forms: looking at the organization’s “brand presence” in the community, or looking at the level of trust and confidence and the level of participation in the community, impact on the decisions and actions or the organization, relationship development. How much is the community’s voice heard in the organization?
A good example is New Zealand’s Department of Conservation. For years, it had been engaging with the public, but it was sporadic – Anne describes it as a case of “good people doing good things but only occasionally.” The organization had to examine its internal processes and that led to the question of what was really important to the Department and setting an overall goal. The leaders of the organization realized that achieving that goal meant increasing the P2 capability and making sure it had the proper resources. The Department became, in short, P2-centric.
IAP2 members can hear the entire webinar and download some resources Anne has provided here.