“Evaluating P2 to Address Historic Disenfranchisement and Empower Communities” – August 11
Local governments around the world increasingly portray their work as “participatory,” but scholars have identified persistent challenges, particularly for historically disenfranchised communities. Successful participatory processes can promote collaborative problem-solving and correct structural inequities, but they can also reinforce existing power inequities and undermine benefits.
There is also the matter of perception: how residents see participatory processes may be different from the way practitioners perceive them.
Allison Smith, community engagement strategist with Louisville (Kentucky) Metro and Daniel DeCaro an assistant professor of Urban and Public Affairs and Psychology at the University of Louisville, were part of the Collaborative Consortium for Transdisciplinary Social Justice Research (“the Consortium”).
This team also included academics in anthropology, public health and sociology, and looked at the ways that institutional and systemic racism shapes residents’ perception of a city’s governance practices and how the public participation process can be improved.
Louisville has a history of racial segregation, and tactics such as redlining, urban renewal and disinvestment have led to general mistrust of government – including when it comes to public engagement. In recent years, Louisville has improved its public engagement. However, barriers like lack of childcare, time, and even interest in getting involved in a process in which one’s point of view may be ignored anyway, have led to less than complete engagement, specifically among racially, economically, and politically marginalized communities. There are some examples of community partnership and engagement approaches, which have been more successful. A combination of experience and psychological assessment may held identify these methods when planning public engagement.
Since Daniel and Allison delivered their session at the 2019 IAP2 North American Conference, other factors have emerged. COVID-19 is a major consideration. While many P2 practitioners have adapted neatly to virtual processes, the “digital divide” is pushing many already-disenfranchised people even further onto the sidelines. In one predominantly non-white neighborhood of Louisville, for example, some 50% of households do not have internet access. On top of that, many are questioning whether public engagement is even appropriate, when other concerns are taking priority.
With these decades of negative experiences, plus new and longstanding barriers to public engagement, how do you ensure the people directly affected by a decision are properly considered? Allison and Daniel share what The Consortium learned, the roots of the problem and some suggested solutions.
IAP2 members may watch the video of the webinar and access some additional documents here.
One of the advantages Zoom has over some other platforms is that a presenter and facilitator can interact with the audience “on the fly”, gathering information and feedback during the actual event. But there are definitely some areas that require adaptation and sharpened facilitator’s skills.
Rebecca notes that there are seven keys to the role of a facilitator, and these apply in any setting — in-person or online. They are: purpose, place, participation and person; variety, visuals and value. And while it is, as she puts it, an illusion to think that the facilitator can create a “safe space” for people, it is possible to manage “airtime” to prevent a handful of people from dominating the conversation, ensuring people are respectful of one another, and watching for nuances.
In an online setting, however, you have to rely on listening for tone and paying attention to facial expressions, since body language is hard to distinguish in a setting like Zoom.
Something else to keep in mind is sensory overload. When one looks at a Zoom screen, especially in “Gallery Mode”, one is seeing a lot of people all at once, including themselves — not a good thing for self-conscious types. At the same time, they’re trying to concentrate on the speaker and the presentation. If people are taking part through the “chat” function, that can be both enriching to the conversation and distracting. Therefore, it’s important for the presenter/facilitator to keep things simple.
Another area that requires adaptation is one’s own energy level. As a presenter, you’re speaking to a camera with no audience to “play” off. That can cause your energy to sag, and that can affect the attentiveness of the audience and the quality of your presentation.
The webinar itself offered some insights into the Zoom technology. (It’s important to note that IAP2 does not endorse any particular platform over others, but more and more practitioners and facilitators are using Zoom.) IAP2 has created a webpage with detailed tips for using virtual technologies.
Dr Rebecca Sutherns will be offering online training sessions for IAP2. You can find more information here, or on her website.
IAP2 Members can watch the entire webinarhere. IAP2 Learning Webinars are another benefit for members: members get exclusive access to the Webinar Archive
The COVID-19 pandemic showed how P2 practitioners have been able to adapt their work to online processes. For many, it begged the question of how much the public really cared about being engaged during these circumstances. The City of Coquitlam set out to find out how its residents felt. Read about The Survey About Surveyshere.
On Tuesday, May 26, 2020 from 4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. the Great Lakes Chapter hosted their first ever Virtual P2 Drinks! Discussion was focused on ‘Navigating Engagement Through COVID-19’. We had 12 participants join from across the network share in some of their learnings and virtual engagement successes over the past three months.
Feedback received was that it was timely, an opportunity for those at a distance (furthest participant from Windsor), and great to share with one another.
With the success of the virtual event, the Chapter looks forward to planning more sessions including a “P2 Eats” this summer.
On June 25, IAP2 Canada Prairies Chapter conducted their Annual General Meeting by Zoom, shared highlights from the past year and welcoming new and returning board members.
We gave gratitude and said farewell to departing board members: Lawrence Baschak (Regina), Brad Muller (Winnipeg), Lindsay Thompson (Winnipeg), Lara Ludwig (Regina), Leah Goodwin (Regina), Paul Spasoff (Regina), and Janna Sampson (Saskatoon). Thank you for serving on the board!
We also wished our friend and colleague Lawrence Baschak our best wishes on his retirement.
The 2020 IAP2 Canada Prairies Board of Directors includes:
Samantha Mark (Saskatoon)
Leanne Jarocki (Regina)
Sarah Collins (Regina
Colleen McMahon (Regina)
Katie Suek (Saskatoon)
Crista Gladstone (Winnipeg)
Maggie Bratland (Winnipeg)
Christine Markel (Regina)
Shawn Silzer (Regina)
Robin Vandal (Winnipeg)
Jennifer Lester (Saskatoon)
Immediately following the AGM smaller breakout groups explored how P2 has impacted engagement approaches during COVID-19. Participants discussed how COVID provides opportunities to re-examine our techniques for P2, however digital engagement tools present challenges. Is it ok to engage now? How can we keep audiences engaged online and ensure inclusion of remote communities and underrepresented groups?
As we move into COVID recovery we need to ensure we have multiple engagement options available and resume engagement activities at the right pace. It was a great discussion and will help IAP2 Canada Prairies ensure we provide value to members as we navigate a new normal.
How long have you been in P2, and where have you worked?
I’ve worked closely with my colleagues in planning to engage with the public on building short term and long-range transit future plans across BC. Through that process, I learned from the public about their ideal vision of transit. Over the last few years, we’ve held a second round of events, going back to the same communities, and as we’ve put the plans into action, double-checking that we heard the public correctly.
BC Transit runs the transit systems all over British Columbia, except for the Metro Vancouver region. That must mean a lot of different challenges for you and the planners.
We do need to consider many different areas and various cultures. With 80 transit systems ranging from large, such as Victoria with 300 buses, all the way down to one-bus systems in Bella Coola and parts of Northern BC, people’s needs are diverse, so we have to look at types of buses to make sure we’re serving the community appropriately. We learn about our customers and who they are through our survey work on an ongoing basis.
It’s exciting when we start implementing what was planned. On the Sunshine Coast, for example, we put in place most of what was planned and within the time-frame we had planned. It took a tremendous amount of groundwork and it doesn’t always work out exactly as planned: but it’s satisfying to see a plan come through to fruition.
How did you view public consultation before you were “introduced” to IAP2 concepts?
I thought it consisted of open houses in funny little meeting rooms in hotels. I don’t think I had a positive view of it, but as I learned more about how to properly engage, I understood it was much more complex.
In 2010, BC Transit was engaging with the public via a travelling road show. We took an old bus and turned it into a moving open house – the Transit Future Bus. Working with a museum designer, the layout addressed all types of visitors and allowed people, young and old, to engage at whatever level they chose. It was very innovative and I think a number of other transit systems picked up on the idea since then.
We drove that bus all over the province and it made an impact. People understood what we were doing, as we were going to where people were, not asking them to come to us. We made it easy for people who were rushing through to grab some information, but also included more statistical, detailed information for those who wanted to know more. It was a very visual experience, so it was memorable. That, in concert with online engagement, helped us strike a balance between reaching those who are out and about on the street with reaching those who might not be able to get out as easily. It’s important to have a presence in both areas — online and face-to-face. Online gives the freedom to do a quick temperature check and face-to-face offers a physical presence in the community so your brand is top of mind.
The Transit Future Bus – along with Transit Future Bus 2.0 – haven’t been used for a while now – they’ve reached the end of their lives – so we’re now looking into options for setting up an online platform that’s a little more accessible and is more robust than a survey tool.
I’ve found that public engagement has a positive impact on the public over the long term — it’s always better to be transparent. All of our decisions need to be based on public needs, so feedback is critical. There’s no sense in providing a route that no one’s going to use, or maintaining a route that no one’s using.
Have you had any “epic fails”, and how have you handled them?
One learning experience was when we went into a small community that already had a local bus system run by volunteers. We looked at what they had and realized we couldn’t meet the service levels that the volunteer organization was providing. It was an interesting dynamic: some people were happy to see us exploring the possibility; others saw us as “outsiders”, trying to take over their community project. In the end, we acknowledged that they were doing a great job and they should keep it as-is, and they have.
Have you had any big wins?
The day we launched the Transit Future Bus was one back in 2010. We took it to a farmer’s market in Sidney (north of Victoria) and 1300 people came through it. That was a huge win because a revamped and recycled bus had a positive presence in the community, and we were able to have so many interactions with people.
We took the Transit Future Bus to the first Car-Free Day in Victoria in 2015. We were positioned in such a spot that we were in a high-traffic area. Having that kind of presence at an event encouraging multi-modal transportation was really positive.
We also did a major engagement project along Highway 16 between Prince Rupert and Prince George in 2016.
The goal was to fulfill one of the key proposals identified in the 2012 Missing Women Commission report by former BC Attorney General Wally Oppal; providing an affordable, reliable and safe mobility alternative for people with limited travel options to enable those living in remote areas to connect with other communities and basic services.
Public engagement for the proposed Highway 16 Inter-Community Transit Service was anchored by a series of 20 public engagement events which included interactive information boards, print survey and opportunities for one-on-one conversations between project staff and residents of various northern communities. The series was supported and supplemented by a project website and online survey, as well as by-request meetings for other groups along the corridor. Engagement was critical in providing transit staff with insights into community travel patterns and routing as well as schedule opportunities and needs to enable the further shaping of service.
New Highway 16 Inter-community transit routes were implemented at various stages throughout 2017 and are performing well. We have also measured the success based on customer stories and transformation. Customers continually tell us that they no longer have to hitchhike to connect with family members, access medical services or employment.
There is an increased need across Canada to provide inter-community transit connections from smaller communities to regional centers due to rising housing costs in urban centers and policies to regionalize public services. This project acts as a blueprint for future projects by raising awareness of the benefits and challenges in providing affordable, reliable and safe transportation for communities outside of regional centers.
An important component of the project’s success was fostering new and improved relationships between local and First Nations governments. The relationships built have created a legacy for ongoing collaboration in the delivery of services for all residents across these northern communities.
Have there been times when you and the planners have gone into consultations assuming one thing about the public and finding out something totally different?
In Victoria a few years ago, we were consulting on bus lanes down Douglas Street (one of the main north-south arteries into the city).
Now, a bus lane can move thousands of people quickly and efficiently and take many cars off the road. We had poster boards set up, showing different configurations and we were asking the public which they preferred. But the boards also showed that a number of trees would be removed. People were upset about the trees and missed the point of the consultation: it became all about the trees and not about the buses.
It didn’t help that the renderings weren’t accurate: they made it look like ten trees were coming out in a short section rather than 3. It took a lot of time and conversations with the individuals who were concerned. We involved them in more stakeholder engagement, which gave them a higher level of involvement in the project. The last of the bus lanes – the southbound lane on Douglas – opened in February 2020! At peak times, the bus lanes would drop commute times in half.
If you had anything to say to someone just getting into the P2 business …
Take the training and create that network of support around you, so you can talk about these ideas. It’s a really interesting field, but you need to be able to learn from those who’ve worked in it.
When we moved into our home nearly a year ago, I noticed a big dirt patch in our yard where a deck or patio may have been before. I thought perhaps I would seed it in the spring once things had warmed up a bit. I spent some time once spring arrived, using a thatched rake to get rid of weeds and old roots, tossed a generous amount of clover seed, and set out to water twice a day.
COVID-19 has changed so many routines, habits, and careers. Our members have asked for resources, and our chapters are looking for new ways to connect. I would like to thank our members and volunteers for joining us at our National AGM in mid-June. Thanks to our staff for helping us facilitate using Zoom.
After the formal AGM, we used Zoom breakout rooms to have a networking session and I think that is one habit that I miss, the opportunity to share and listen to others. I was thankful that we were meeting online as we could welcome our members from Coast to Coast, and a new member from Israel (Hi Tomer!!). Connecting our members with training, networking and conferences are one of the strengths of IAP2 Canada that I am most proud of.
My highlight of the AGM is the opportunity to welcome new board members. I’m really looking forward to Jacques Bénard, Precious Ile, Terry Koch, and Rajvir Rao officially joining the board. It’s also a time to thank departing board members for their support and commitment to IAP2 Canada. I would like to send a special thanks to Hugo Mimee who is completing his second term with IAP2 Canada and was a mentor when I considered stepping into a leadership role at IAP2 Canada.
Hugo, j’apprécie vraiment le temps et l’effort mis en IAP2!!
When I planted that clover seed, I had no idea how long it would take or if it would grow at all. I had to trust that it would work. I was really pleased that within a week there was a good amount of little green buds rising from the dirt, and in two weeks it nearly looks like a full lawn!
I feel confident that the seeds of leadership that have been planted will bloom, and am very excited that Catherine Rockandel was acclaimed as incoming president at our first board meeting with our new board. Thank you to all of our members, volunteers, friends of IAP2 Canada, trainers and staff for your commitment to good public participation. It has been a pleasure being President for the past 2 years and I’m looking forward to continuing my work as a board member for the remainder of my term.
by Rebecca Vaughan, Sr. Communications & Engagement Specialist, City of Coquitlam, BC
In March of this year, the appearance of COVID-19 and the resulting response happened so quickly that many projects – including public consultations – were abruptly put on hold. Now, months later, as people are adjusting to a modified way of life, P2 practitioners are turning their attention to re-starting engagement and how this work can carry forward. By measuring the public’s readiness to engage, and gathering information on how they would like to engage, we can continue public consultations in an informed way that meet the needs of the public and our stakeholders in the current pandemic context.
Is the time right to restart engagement?
At the City of Coquitlam, several projects had been paused as the City turned its attention to managing the emergency and response. As we settled into a modified way of doing business as usual, staff began looking at plans to re-start engagement processes that had been in the works. However, without a foundation of understanding the public’s readiness to participate in consultations, we risked conducting ineffective engagements that could result in incomplete, uninformed feedback, in turn affecting project outcomes. As well, the current context sets the risk of appearing insensitive to the needs of stakeholders who may be facing the loss of their jobs or businesses, family members whose health is at risk, or other concerns that supersede the decision-making we are seeking input on.
A national survey conducted in late March 2020 by Hill & Knowlton asked Canadians if they felt the time was right to re-start public engagement. The survey showed that “a majority of Canadians (68%) believe that engagement with all levels of government is more important now than ever. And similarly, 58% indicate that it is still important for governments to consult citizens on issues not related to COVID-19.” (Hill & Knowlton Strategies, “To Consult or Not to Consult: Canadians Say They Still Want to Have Their Say”)
Recognizing that the ongoing physical distancing requirements would require a modified approach to engagement activities, staff at the City of Coquitlam wanted to localize the findings of the Hill & Knowlton survey, and inform our approach going forward.
We launched a survey between May 20 – 31, 2020, which was promoted to both the general public and to our Viewpoint survey panel. The Viewpoint survey panel consists of over 2,000 residents who have opted-in to receive and participate in City surveys, and we typically receive up to 500 responses within 48 hours of distributing a survey. The survey was also promoted with a media release and social media outreach.
Coquitlam residents had their say – what we heard
The survey saw 847 responses (743 from the Viewpoint panel participants, 104 from the open community). Of those respondents, 94% agreed or somewhat agreed with the statement, “The COVID-19 outbreak continues to be a priority, but engaging with the community in modified ways on other City issues is important and should continue.”
So Coquitlam residents are indicating they are ready to engage – what does that engagement look like?
● 76% of those who indicated a readiness to engage said they had also used online meeting tools such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom. 98% of those said they were comfortable or getting comfortable with the tools.
● When asked if they would participate online, 60% said they were interested and would participate or were somewhat likely to participate. 40% indicated they were not sure or not comfortable participating online.
● When asked how they would like to engage, 2% of respondents said by phone; 30% said by virtual events; 65% indicated by email, and 3% chose other options. Suggestions included online surveys; online content they could provide phone or email feedback to; or live online Q&A sessions.
When given the opportunity to provide further feedback, many respondents acknowledged the importance of, and their appreciation for, the opportunity to provide input. Some warned about virtual meeting burnout, as many have been using Zoom and other tools frequently during the pandemic already. Others reiterated the need to use multiple channels to communicate with residents. Some also indicated a desire to resume in-person events, with physical distancing measures in place to ensure safety.
Where we go from here – planning modified engagement
With this localized knowledge about the community’s readiness and commitment to engage with the City, staff have been able to plan informed, alternate ways of public engagement. These adhere to public health and safety measures but also strive to offer all stakeholders the opportunity to engage with the City.
Staff have been investigating new tools for engagement with the objective of identifying creative, outside the box ways to gather public feedback within our current constraints. Tactics are evaluated based on a variety of factors, including project context, cost, effectiveness, and whether they provide access to a wider group of residents and stakeholders.
The engagement readiness survey also provided Coquitlam staff with the knowledge needed to plan for respondents’ comfort and familiarity with virtual meeting tools. Knowing that 24% of respondents were not familiar with using these tools, we developed a facilitator’s guide for online meetings, intended to help remove barriers to participation and ensure everyone on a call knows how to use the features and tools of the meeting software, such as raising their hand, participating in the chat feature, answering polls, and more.
Building a framework
Creating a Community Engagement Framework is one of the City of Coquitlam’s business plan priorities for 2020, and although this work was delayed during the COVID-19 breakout, the engagement readiness survey offers data that will help inform the framework and our engagement plans and processes.
Gaining insight into how people would like to engage with the City, as well as comfort levels with online tools, will help inform engagement plans for the coming year. The City will be able to adapt engagement plans quickly in line with the current public health context, as well as for the long term future.
The pandemic and the impacts on in-person ways of conducting business are anticipated to continue for some time. By using the knowledge gained from Coquitlam’s Engagement Readiness survey, and by employing a variety of virtual and online communication tools as well as offline communication options, the City can continue to provide the community with ways to provide meaningful input and feedback on City plans, programs and projects.
Online Engagement Master Class — from Design to Practice
Many public engagement practitioners had been working with online tools for a few years, but the COVID-19 situation vaulted that aspect of the field from “nice to have” to “gotta have it”. Small wonder, then, that over 300 people registered for the June Learning Webinar, which featured the presenters of two of the sessions at the 2019 IAP2 North American Conference last September.
Miranda Eng of Argyle led off with a look at ways of designing an online engagement process and the delicate balance it requires. She cited four pillars to use: planning, building, reaching and reporting. Within these pillars, she provided a process to design for online engagement guided by a number of crucial steps and questions.
One needs to develop a strategy based on research into the audience. How inclusive do you need to be, and how will you reach all the people you need to? How complex is the information — that is, how well will the people you want to reach understand it? And the more contentious the project is, the more transparent the process has to be. What kind of input are you looking for, how will you use it, and how you will report back to the participants?
She also cited all pillars need to be grounded in a foundation of equity and inclusion, and not see online engagement as a silver bullet. In March, Miranda took part in another IAP2 webinar on “COVID-19, P2 and Managing With the ‘New Reality’”, in which she presented on “Inclusive and Equitable Online Engagement”. Watch that webinar here.
Jamille Robbins of the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), Ashley Bush of AECOM and Dave Biggs of MetroQuest followed, describing how online engagement was successful in increasing participation and, as their Charlotte conference presentation described it, revitalized North Carolina.
Engagement processes had been plagued by low turnout — Ashley noted that when they used “traditional” engagement methods like open houses and public meetings, about 100 people would attend — out of a general population of 17,000. Those 100 tended to be older and white, which was not at all representative of the population. They also tended to be what Dave calls the “motivated few”: those who get excited about a project because they’re against it. Research shows that the more negative someone is about a proposal, the more motivated they are.
Jamille noted that they were not reaching people with limited English proficiency, nor were they getting through to minorities and the younger generation. They were able to develop online strategies to overcome those barriers. The online tools improved transparency, allowed flexibility for people to take part, information was collated into a single dashboard, which made it easier to process, and the cost was lower.
In the case of the Kinston Bypass — a 22-mile (35 kilometre) stretch of freeway with 12 routing options — they came up with online tools that not only gathered information, but made the engagement “fun”. They included interactive screens that participants could “play around with” and in the process, provide the input planners needed.
IAP2 members may watch the webinar and access the slide decks and other information here.
Joignez-vous au Conseil d’administration de l’AIP2 Canada!
Souhaitez-vous joindre le CA de l’AIP2 Canada? Possédez-vous des points de vue et des expériences diversifiées qui démontrent une bonne compréhension des normes de gouvernance et qui ont une vaste expérience dans les domaines liés au plan stratégique de l’AIP2 Canada (le plan stratégique est uniquement disponible en anglais)?
Voici votre chance de participer à l’orientation de l’AIP2 Canada, à la mise en œuvre du plan stratégique et à l’avenir de notre organisation! La période de nominations est en cours et se terminera le 6 mai. La durée de chaque poste est de trois ans à compter du 1er septembre 2020.
IAP2 Canada celebrates our amazing volunteers every day. At this time of turmoil throughout the world, we especially appreciate the ongoing contributions and support to the IAP2 Canada family and to our profession.
Over 190 IAP2 Canada volunteers helped IAP2 grow by strengthening the importance of public participation in Canada and beyond. Here’s just some of our many accomplishments made possible through our volunteers’ committee work, presentations, judging, mentoring and other areas over the past year. Check out the Volunteer Opportunities page
Successful professional development opportunities:
Mentorship Program (15 protégés and their mentors)
Over 15 webinars and Taster Series presentations
Special COVID-19 webinars and resource page
Promoting IAP2 Canada
Launch of the new IAP2 Canada brand, Canadian logo, Graphic Standards
Judging Core Value Awards (18 submissions in 2019)
Increased youth awareness, participation, and involvement in IAP2 Canada
Transitioning IAP2 training to IAP2 Canada
Updated Canadian focused Certification Program ensuring long-term sustainability (8 new CP3s in 2019)
A successful Indigenous Awareness Program to be extended to members in future
L’AIP2 Canada souhaite souligner le travail exceptionnel réalisé tous les jours par nos remarquables bénévoles. En cette période mouvementée d’une ampleur sans précédent, nous sommes tout particulièrement reconnaissants et nous souhaitons les remercier pour leur contribution continue et leur soutien à la grande famille de l’AIP2 Canada et à notre profession.
L’AIP2 Canada compte plus de 190 bénévoles qui ont contribué à la croissance de l’organisation en renforçant l’importance de la participation publique, au Canada et au-delà de ses frontières. Voici quelques-unes des nombreuses réalisations de l’AIP2 qui ont été rendues possibles grâce au travail de nos bénévoles, notamment au sein des comités, par des présentations, l’évaluation de candidatures et le mentorat au cours de la dernière année. Consultez notre page Web consacrée aux occasions de bénévolat.
Activités de perfectionnement professionnel qui ont connu un grand succès :
● Programme de mentorat (15 nouveaux protégés et leur mentor)
● Plus de 15 webinaires et présentations dans le cadre de la Série Découverte
● Webinaires et page de ressources sur la COVID-19
Promotion de l’AIP2 Canada
● Lancement de la nouvelle image de marque de l’AIP2 Canada, du logo canadien et de nos nouvelles normes graphiques
● Évaluation des candidatures dans le cadre des prix d’excellence en participation publique (18 candidatures reçues en 2019)
● Sensibilisation, participation et implication accrues des jeunes au sein de l’AIP2 Canada
● Transition des activités de formation vers l’AIP2 Canada
● Programme de certification mis à jour et axé sur la réalité canadienne en vue d’assurer sa viabilité à long terme (8 nouveaux CP3 en 2019)
● Programme de sensibilisation à la réalité autochtone couronné de succès, qui sera étendu aux membres dans le futur