CERTIFICATION STORIES – Anne Harding

What does it mean to be a Certified Public Participation Professional and have that CP3 tacked onto your name? We tell you that it indicates that, as a P2 practitioner, you meet or exceed a set of internationally-recognized criteria; but what does it mean for individuals? Read on, and find out what your P2 colleagues who’ve achieved CP3 are finding about the process and its results.


anne harding-3I decided to get my certification for a number of reasons: I believe in the program, I believe in IAP2 and the professionalization of the practice and at the time, I was the only certified CP3 who practices P2 “in-house” within a company (Suncor Energy). More than that, it was about checking on my own skills, having worked in the resource sector for 11 years and following IAP2 Core Values and Code of Ethics, so this was a good opportunity for my own professional development to test where I was at.

The application stage does a really good job of helping you identify if the process is right for you. A good first step would be to read through the whole application: that can help you decide whether you want to go through it. It takes a lot of time to prepare an application that reflects on your experience as a P2 professional.

And then it gets more fun, because you get to do a case study. I really enjoyed that, but then, maybe I’m a bit weird because I do P2 as a hobby, often as a volunteer in my various communities. Two of my three projects used in the application were volunteer projects* and only one was as a paid P2 professional. It was a good exercise to flex my P2 muscles that I don’t necessarily get to do on a daily basis.

Writing the application took a lot of reflection on the different work that I’ve done and recognizing that the skills and criteria for P2 competency don’t exist in start-to-finish decision-making processes, but that there’s plenty of opportunity in our communities to put P2 skills to use, bringing people together to support better conversations. That’s what P2 is about: engagement with people on a human level and being able to articulate that, whether it’s to move an organization forward or create change or build a community garden or a pipeline, being able to gather people together and get their views into the changes that are being made is what it’s all about.

When I went to the assessment centre (a two-day process, face-to-face with examiners), I found the process was set up so I could show my best. I didn’t feel like the assessors were there to try to find mistakes or identify my flaws, but to help me show my best work in action. The assessment centre activities are actually a continuation of the case study and I was able to think in the moment and solve problems and look at ways forward.

There were two stages: on Friday night, there was the interview and then the next day was team-based, with an opportunity for all of us candidates to work together. We could play off one another’s strengths and learn from one another. Everyone got to respond to their case study questions, and then there were new challenges thrown into the mix that we worked through together.

I have found a number of benefits of being certified. At work, they recognize my CP3, and my teammates and managers are interested as we look to improve our own practices. My involvement in IAP2 has always been seen as an asset to the company, as I take the knowledge I’ve gained and apply it in my work. My company has been incorporating ideas and practices from IAP2 into its approach to P2 for decades, so taking lessons from the certification program as we build our internal competency models is a natural and helpful next step.

What I appreciated about the process is that it wasn’t a test of whether I knew the IAP2 method or followed the Foundations training to a “T”. It was about my ability to lead meaningful community engagement in a number of different ways. This was a distinction I didn’t really see until the assessment centre. It wasn’t about following The Book. The Book is great for understanding the basics, but this was an exercise in responding “in the moment” – because we know that life is not a textbook – so the process is about responding to things as they come up. What’s more, it’s given me more confidence in my own practice in my work and in all my communities!


*One of Anne’s community projects received the IAP2 Canada Core Values Award for P2 for the Greater Good in 2015. Watch the video here.

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