President’s Message – March 2017

P2 and the Global ‘Open Government’ Movement: Connections and Opportunities

Open Government and the Emergence of Open Dialogue

Bruce Gilbert PhD
Bruce Gilbert, IAP2 Canada President

The term Open Government means different things to different people. Its meaning has also evolved over time. Initially, particularly in the 1980s when the push for what would become Freedom of Information legislation was gaining strength across western democracies, the term was used as a type of synonym for government transparency and accountability.

In those days, not unlike today, the term was aspirational in nature. It envisioned modern and progressive ‘open’ governments that would intentionally and freely share information on government activities including decision-making. Such open governments would no longer hide or hoard information – rather they would proactively share it, in a timely and transparent manner, to establish with voters/citizens that they were indeed accountable to them.

Over time, partially due to technological innovations, the idea of Open Government expanded to also include the concept of proactively sharing government data sets. The terms Open Information and Open Data soon found their way into the public administration lexicon.

The idea that governments should make their data sets freely available to the public – and to do so in machine-readable formats and without significant cost to users – became the new Open Government frontier. Open Data approaches, challenges, and technologies soon dominated most conversations about Open Government, although interest in Open Information also remained strong. Around this time, additional ideas about the true meaning of Open Government started to emerge or grow. Although always somewhat implicit in many definitions of ‘government openness’, the idea that ‘open governments’ were also ‘engaging and collaborative governments’ started to gain strength.

US President Obama’s 2009 Open Government Directive – seen by some as the initiative that established the standard for government openness around the globe, and which certainly propelled the Open Government movement forward, established that openness was about more than data and information dissemination when it described how governments needed to be ‘transparent, participatory and collaborative’. The 2011 Open Government Declaration of the Open Government Partnership – an international entity for government reformers committed to open governments and which now has 75 national members including Canada – clearly supports this expanded interpretation of openness when it calls for ‘greater civic participation in public affairs’ and outlines how open governments need to ‘empower citizens’.

With such developments, the term Open Dialogue (or Dialogue) joined the terms Open Information and Open Data in the discourse about Open Government. Open Government became referred to as a ‘three-legged stool’ with Dialogue being described as an essential leg. Today, some interpret the Open Dialogue term literally (i.e., an open government is one that engages in dialogue-based activities with its citizens). Some others, like me, interpret it more broadly (i.e., an open government is one that engages with citizens, and collaborates with stakeholder groups and interests, using any/all tools, technologies, methods, and approaches, including dialogue-based ones, considered appropriate and which are aligned with widely-accepted P2 (think: IAP2) values and standards). Put another way, P2 IS the third leg of the Open Government stool.

What has this got to do with us as P2 practitioners (or with IAP2)?

  • Open Government is a global movement and it is here to stay;
  • Many of the high-level goals of the Open Government movement are squarely aligned with those of the P2 movement including: informed, aware, and engaged citizens; enhanced and accountable government decision-making; community empowerment; inclusion, equity, and justice; and participatory democracy;
  • A major dimension of Open Government – indeed one of its three key ‘pillars’ – relates directly to our work; IAP2 holds a tremendous amount of expertise on all things related to P2 including those involving: dialogue; stakeholder, community, and citizen engagement; and collaboration involving civil society, business/industry, academic and government entities;
  • Our expertise in P2 is also directly relevant to the Open Data and Open Information pillars of Open Government; this is because data and information disclosure efforts are meant to be responsive to citizen, community and stakeholder needs and interests, and this requires appropriate P2 interventions;
  • We can help the global Open Government movement; many of us are involved now, but more is possible; people active in that movement, from both within government (public servants) and outside of government (civil society leaders), can benefit from our knowledge, skill, and experience;
  • We need more government people to join IAP2 (especially those in senior roles given so few are currently members); a huge amount of our collective P2 work directly or indirectly involves governments; government people have a lot to teach us about P2 and Open Government; all of us can all benefit from enhanced cross-sector learning, sharing, and networking.

What does this have to do with you?

Take the time to tell/remind your colleagues, friends, and family members who work in governments about the IAP2. Ask them to join us as members. When giving them your 30-second ‘elevator pitch’, use the term ‘Open Government’. Remind them that IAP2 and its members have important expertise that is directly related to one of the three pillars of the Open Government movement. Tell them about the many learning, networking, and skill-building opportunities available to them via IAP2. Tell them we need them. Don’t forget to tell them how much fun we are to be around.

President’s Message – September 2016

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Yesterday as I sat on my deck in a melancholic end-of-summer mood trying to zero in on a theme for this month’s Presidents Message an annoying yet important question crept into my mind and lingered: Why exactly am I ‘really’ involved with IAP2?

Sure an association of people committed to P2 that enables sharing, networking, learning and so on is obviously a good thing.

Of course an association that mobilizes P2 knowledge, does research on P2 themes, and builds awareness of the importance of P2 is sorely needed here and beyond.

Certainly an entity that creates diverse opportunities for members to build their skills is critically important if they are to effectively deal with complex and often nasty issues and challenges facing society. Indeed, the value of skilled professionals who can bring ‘snarling dogs’ together and even get them to collaborate harmoniously should not be underestimated (enter stage-left dog-juggling picture).

Bruce, taking part in his summertime activity: dog-juggling. To add a degree of difficulty, when he gets all three dogs in the air, an assistant tosses him an opossum.

But do these reasons actually explain why I am ‘really‘ involved? Only partially. There is something bigger at play for me (and likely for many of you too). Something that has to do with a desire to strengthen participatory democracy, address a worrying and expanding democratic deficit, build ‘real’ open and progressive governments across our country, and create a more just society for all.

These goals cannot be met by any one individual working alone. They can only be met by a collective of people with common values and principles who trust and respect one another and who are willing to work hard together for change. IAP2 offers me such a space – one where I can think big, boldly imagine a more just and equitable future for us all, and take concrete steps to try and actually do something about our shared problems.

I am happy in this community that others have built and which I have somewhat belatedly joined. This is a good, solid, principled and needed entity. Hopefully, by working together, we will be able to articulate to leaders and decision-makers the critical need for high-quality P2 even when the economy is struggling and bottom-lines are heading in the wrong directions. Maybe as a broad and diverse community we will even be able to prevent the possible ‘rolling-back‘ of P2 that often accompanies economic downturns, tight-budgets and austerity agendas.

We need all hands on deck for the various storms ahead. I and my fellow Board and Chapter members will do our parts but we need you and others too. If you are already involved stay involved and tell your friends. If you are not yet involved, find us and tell us where you think you might want or like to plug in. There is certainly room for you in IAP2 Canada.

Hope to see you at the conference in Montreal!!

President’s Message – July 2016

Bruce Gilbert, IAP2 President

Dear Colleagues and Friends

I hope you are now enjoying the well-deserved and long-awaited balmy days of summer in your respective corner of our amazing country. Suffice to say that now is not likely the best time to capture the attention of busy people with a lengthy summer Message about P2 matters. With this in mind I would like to use my brief opportunity here to say three things:

  1. Welcome aboard to the new Directors and Deputy Directors who have recently joined the IAP2 Canada Board. Thank you for stepping forward to become part of the leadership team for this important P2 organization. We’re pleased to welcome Jorge Avilès, Sarah Rivest and Michael Waters to the Board, along with new Deputy Directors Morgan Boyco, Kristen Farrell and Dhurata Ikonomi. Thank you also to the returning Directors and Deputy Directors: Jan Bloomfield, Hugo Mimee, Amanda Mitchell, Brenda Pichette, Noreen Rude and Ashleigh Weeden, and Deputy Director David Turner. Their particular responsibilities will be announced in September.

IAP2 Canada is a flourishing, creative and productive entity only because people like you have offered up your skills, knowledge, experience and elbow-grease for the P2 cause.

2. The 2016 IAP2 North American Conference (Who Cares About Public Participation?) being held in Montréal is now sold out. Congratulations to the organizing committee members for making this a reality. Thank you for your dedication and hard work especially since some of you will likely need to continue working on this event over the summer months when your friends are at the lake, the park or with their families. We clearly owe you. You have also at least partially answered the conference theme-question noted above – it’s obvious that you care a lot.

3. 2016-17 promises to be another very busy year for IAP2 Canada. Rest up and get ready to become involved with one or more of our projects, activities, committees or communities-of-practice in the fall. We are an organization that almost completely relies on the efforts of our member-volunteers. We need you.

Enjoy your summer!



From the Board: May, 2016 – Anne Harding, IAP2 Canada past-president

Anne, receiving 2015 Core Values Award for “P2 for the Greater Good” from Maria DeBruijn

One of my colleagues at work recently moved on from our company to explore exciting international opportunities and before she left she sent a note out to our team. But it wasn’t the typically generic “I’m leaving, thanks for everything, here’s my new email address” kind of note. It was a play on one of her favourite activities called “what I like about you.” The game involves variations on going around a circle and having everyone say what qualities they most admire or appreciate about each person in the group.

As I enter the last few months of my five and a half years on the IAP2 Canada Board, I’d like to offer a similar parting message about the organization, with thanks and acknowledgement to Kirsten for the idea. As far as I’m concerned, IAP2 Canada is not just a professional association. It is a community of like-minded, passionate, and compassionate people who believe that the work they do can make a positive difference in the world.  And for those of you who haven’t experienced this great community like I have, allow me to share what I like about you:

Your mentorship. And I’m not just talking about the formal mentorship program that is currently in its third cohort. I’m talking about all the individuals across the country who live the part of the IAP2 Code of Ethics that commits us to support those new to the practice of P2; those who I’ve connected with through IAP2 and who have supported me in my professional and personal development along the way. Gay Robinson, Stephani Roy McCallum, Jan Bloomfield, Amelia Shaw, Gale Simpson, Geoff Wilson, Terry Koch, Mary Moreland and Deb Eastlick, here’s looking at you. What I’ve learned from and experienced through these folks and others has advanced my career, my network, and my perspective in immeasurable ways.

Your professionalism. As much as IAP2 is a community of wonderful people, you are also professionals with high expectations for your professional association. You expect a lot of yourselves – you are in the business of changing the world, after all – and you expect a lot of IAP2. Thank you to all of you who have pushed the IAP2 Canada Board (and me) to see the bigger picture, live our Core Values, and to be a transparent, fair, and accountable organization. Tiffany Skomro, Hugo Mimée, Stephani Roy McCallum, Brenda Pichette, Gay Robinson, Karla Reesor, Krista Maydew, Michelle Holland, Tracey Ehl, John Glynn-Morris, Amy Hennessy, Amelia Shaw, Maria DeBruijn, and Catherine Rockandel – thank you for pushing me and pushing IAP2 Canada, and for being willing to roll up your own sleeves, get in the muck and work with us to make the organization and practice better for all.

Your openness to new people and new ideas. One of the reasons I believe my career has benefitted so much from my involvement in IAP2 Canada is that I have been given the freedom and encouragement to try new things. The first full-scale engagement process I led in my life was when IAP2 Canada was first being formed in 2011. Sure, I had taken the Foundations Training course and done some consultation work as part of my role here and there, but I hadn’t planned and managed an end-to-end national P2 process on my own before. IAP2 Canada gave me the opportunity to do this, and offered me the volunteers and resources needed to support me along the way (see the “What We Heard” report for more information about that process). I am also thankful for the way the organization has responded to the call for increased Indigenous inclusion within IAP2 and the practice. Thank you to all the amazing practitioners who have recently joined the IAP2 Canada Indigenous Engagement Community of Practice, for allowing me to work with and learn from you on our journey of reconciliation.

Likewise, I’m grateful to those other people who are new to P2 in general, or to IAP2 as an organization, who are willing to get involved and try something new. These individuals are stepping into an established community of passionate individuals, which takes a lot of courage, yet they are willing to work with the organization where it’s at and to do their part to make it a little bit better. Thanks especially to Bruce Gilbert for being willing to step into the President role in his first year on the Board. He’s done a great job of honouring the people and work that came before him while bringing a fresh take to the future of the organization.

Your belief that meaningful public engagement will make the world a better place. I remember one time very early in my career when I was trying to explain to my brother why I wanted to pursue a career in community engagement. I described all the wonderful things that I believed would come from truly authentic relationship building and opportunities for diverse groups to come together to find common ground and work toward a positive outcome for all. While he had been arguing the merits of a nine-to-five job that left work at work, he sat back in his chair for a few seconds and said, “Oh, now I get it. You actually think you can change the world! Good for you – have at it.”

We are a rare breed. And often we are the only person or part of a very small team within our organizations that do or even believe in this work. But when we come together – at the North American Conference, regional chapter events, or even as colleagues on a chapter or affiliate board – something magical happens. We are renewed through kindred spirits and energized by all the great work that is happening to advance the practice of meaningful public engagement right across our country. We learn from each other and try new things with authenticity and in service of the practice, decision-makers, participants, and citizens.

Thank you, IAP2 Canada, for continuing to inspire and energize me. I look forward to the next chapter in our journey together and all the new things there will be to like about you.

All the best,


From the Board – December 2015: Dejana Knih, vice-president

DEJANA KNIH Where has the year gone!

Actual Calgary dog in actual Calgary snow

December is here. The first snow has come and gone in Calgary. And another great year of: board work, theory & best practice discussions, training, conferences and hands-on work at The City of Calgary, is coming to a close.

One of my favorite parts of year end is getting to reflect. What went well? What did you learn? What could be better? Where do you want to go next year?

I always reflect with clients on the lessons learned after an initiative. Well, we didn’t embark on a project together, but that doesn’t mean we can’t reflect together. Here are my reflections on P2 in 2015.

What went well?

  • Critical mass. More and more I am seeing media stories about P2 and stakeholder expectations for P2. This is a huge win for the practice. It is a signal that as a profession we are reaching critical mass, or that point where P2 is shifting into the everyday conversations and more importantly norm expectations.

What did you learn?

  • Creativity is often best realized within clearly defined boundaries. This came out of an enlightening conference conversation and I have seen it realized in many ways. One way is in the requests I get for collaboration and innovation. These requests come frequently in practice but without boundaries implementation can be challenging, if not impossible, without clear boundaries.

What could be better?

  • Big conversations. Organizations across sectors have done great project specific engagements. For amazing examples look no further than the Core Values Award But where I would like to see the practice and practitioners delve into are those big (think global) conversations. Climate change is top of mind right now and big discussions like these need a P2 layer.

Where do you want to go next year?

  • Montréal! I am so excited for the Montréal conference. I have never been to the city and more importantly seeing all of the hard work that is happening behind the scenes has me really excited to attend and be a part of the amazing conversations with brilliant people.

What about you? What went well? What did you learn? What could be better? Where do you want to go and also where do you want to go (or see the practice go) in 2016?

Share your thoughts, reflections and hopes in the comments.

From the Board, Sept. 2015 — Amanda Mitchell

AMANDA MITCHELL-2Whenever I go to a conference, I have a rule: if I can learn five new things or meet five interesting people then it was a success. By that criterion, the IAP2 North American Conference in Portland was a definite success story. Here are my top 5 highlights.

  1. The people. The best thing about IAP2 conferences is being in the same place as fellow practitioners, making new friends and meeting old. It was a pleasure to finally meet in person so many people who I talk to regularly on the phone – including members of the IAP2 Canada Board and the municipal P2 practitioner’s community of practice.
  1. Hearing about innovations in the field, like Toronto exploring Mindcraft for public consultations, Montreal’s experimentations with augmented reality and Portland’s new map app.
  1. Having the space to reflect. During the IAP2 Spectrum at 25 workshop we had a frank conversation about the strengths and weaknesses of the spectrum, which will ultimately help to advance the practice.
  1. Canada House! The IAP2 Canada board held a Canadian-themed house party complete with Hawkins Cheesies, ketchup chips and Timbits which allowed people to connect in a relaxed environment.
  1. Portland. With its ambitious cycling infrastructure, light rail lines, food carts, craft breweries, and ping pong tables in public parks, exploring what makes Portland weird is never boring.

Thank you to the IAP2 USA and the Cascade Chapter for organizing the conference. I left Portland feeling recommitted to my practice. Next year, I hope you can join us in Montreal. The organizing team is hard at work and you’re sure to get more than five things out of it.

What 5 things did you get out of the North American Conference? Comment on this blog and let us know!