WEBINAR REWIND – Projects of the Year – Oct. 2021

CANADA – Argyle / USA – Tualatin Hills (Oregon) Park & Recreation District, Beaverton and Washington County

Two widely differing projects that involved a lot of cultural sensitivity were featured in the October Learning webinar. Argyle won Project of the Year and the IAP2 Canada Core Values Award for Indigenous Engagement for the “Sixties Scoop Healing Foundation Engagement”. From the USA, the Tualatin Hills (Oregon) Park and Recreation Division won Project of the Year and took the award for Respect for Diversity, Inclusion and Culture, for “Creating a Shared and Inclusive Vision for Park and Recreation Services”.

Argyle’s work stemmed from an $800 million settlement with survivors of the “Sixties Scoop”, a project in which Indigenous children were taken from their families and placed with “white” families, essentially to be raised as “non-Indigenous”. It’s estimated that 20,000 children were separated from their families in this way. When the settlement was announced, lawyer Jeffery Wilson declared, “Never before in history has a nation recognized children’s right to their cultural identities and a government’s responsibility to do everything in its power to protect that cultural identity of children in its care”.

$50 million was set aside for the Sixties Scoop National Healing Foundation, and Argyle’s mandate was to develop a governance structure that ensured the Foundation was truly “for Survivors, by Survivors”. Proper engagement was vital, because there was skepticism among many Survivors as to whether the Foundation would be effective; Brooke Graham of Argyle says that cast a shadow over the Foundation even before it could get to work. 

Argyle determined that the engagement would have to be Survivor-centered, informed and led, and a safe, trauma-informed environment was necessary for people to participate meaningfully. Protecting the Foundation’s reputation was also key. They started by engaging with experts — community leaders and academics — and by studying charitable organizations to see what good governance looked like. The team then travelled literally from coast to coast to coast, holding meetings with Survivors to hear their stories. In fact, much of the trauma expressed during those meetings began to take its toll on the team members, and they, too, had to be cared-for.

The process engaged over 500 Survivors, providing more than 3,000 pieces of feedback, with over 1100 authentic visitors to the online surveys. 

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The Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District (THPRD) — just west of Portland, Oregon — serves a community of a quarter-million people. As the government agency marked its 65th anniversary, it decided to scope out a vision for the next 25 to 30 years. The district has a very diverse population, in terms of ethnicity, age, gender, abilities and even language, so the engagement process had to take all those factors into account.

The visioning process started in 2018, to get information on population growth and the community’s priorities and set a long-term guiding vision for park and recreation services. The process focused on intentionally engaging with members of the community who don’t feel comfortable or welcome coming to meetings with a government agency. The task force that was set up reflected, as much as possible, the demographic makeup of the region. A total of six languages other than English were used in the process. A wide range of tools was used, including in-person events, focus groups, community presentations and youth input.

During the community engagement phase, the task force and project team connected with more than 10,000 people, collected more than 12,500 ideas at 117 engagement opportunities. Among the methods employed were one-on-one conversations with members of the public, young people being asked to “draw your perfect park”, and the task force “met people where they were” — at community events, in focus groups with immigrant and refugee populations and with input sessions at schools in the region.

Co-production was a core component of the process. After the engagement phase, the task force members, district and partner agency staff along with elected officials distilled the thousands… distilled thousands of ideas and suggestions into actionable items, and volunteers, district board members, and district staff worked together to put the plans in motion. The end result was not just a vision plan, but an actual road map to make sure all the work and the involvement by the community didn’t sit on the shelf, but became a part of the District’s work guiding long-term planning and operations into the future.

IAP2 members may watch the webinar here.

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