POSITION Principal of Confluence Solutions Consulting
How long have you been in P2, and where have you worked?
I’ve been doing it formally since 2000. For the first 10 years or so, I was working at a not-for-profit organization that has an innovative multi-party governance structure that pushed me into the middle of multiple interests working around sustainability issues. The structure was innovative in that it brought four levels of government together: federal, provincial, municipal and Indigenous – plus civil society and the private sector.
Then my career evolved into an area where I started doing P2 work as an independent consultant — again, it had to do with resource issues and a similar suite of players, but this time, I was on my own.
What turned me onto P2 was the recognition that engagement and decision-making is at the root of a lot of the public policy and sustainability challenges in our world today. And because I do a lot of work with Indigenous partners and being aware of evolving case law and the need to respect Aboriginal rights, I find that my work tends towards the “collaborating” and “empowering” end of the spectrum.
What’s more, I really like facilitation: I like that dynamic environment and the feeling when you get to work with different groups, find common ground and encourage their involvement. I’ve been doing strategic planning with one Indigenous nation in BC, and the layers of engagement and the different approaches and techniques that function with different components of the community reinforce the complexities.
It means I get to work on some controversial issues, like some large-scale multi-provincial engagement around some of the pipeline processes across the country. You see the importance of having a respect for and an understanding of the internal processes in the provincial and Indigenous nation governments as you develop your engagement plan. The parties involved in the engagement have their own unique needs when it comes to what enabled them to participate in the engagement and what needs they have to report on as part of their mandate to participate.
Do you find yourself using a particular aspect of your P2 training more than others?
The parts that allow you to scope interests and explore people’s hopes and fears with them: finding out what’s on their mind is a vital part of the preparation as you lay the groundwork for the actual process. Then, you have to remind yourself that shifts occur and you have to maintain a level of flexibility. So the aspect of the training that’s been useful has been to have the frame of a plan and some of the tools for scoping interest at the outset; but at the same time, being aware of the need for adaptation.
I also find that the spectrum really resonates with people. They understand the distinctions and when they know where they are on the spectrum, their expectations are clear about what the process is, and just as importantly, isn’t. Then they can choose whether to participate or pursue their interests elsewhere.
It’s becoming more common with my clients, that they understand the spectrum and the process and people understand what it means to work through a problem. Larger clients – government clients – in particular are learning how to frame the way they think through their approaches.
I find it’s necessary to come up with a common language with the colleagues … so as training is becoming more prevalent, people understand what it means to work through a problem.
Has getting your CP3 designation affected your career?
It’s great to have lifelong learning and professional development, and it’s good to be able to assess and improve your practice. Going through the rigorous assessment process forced me to take time out and reflect on what I do, why I do it and how I can continually improve.
If you had anything to say to someone just getting into the P2 business …
Be authentic. people are smart and can easily tell if their opportunity for input is meaningful or not Be yourself. At the end of the day, you have to be real when you’re dealing with people. For me, it comes down to humility and humanity.