WEBINAR REWIND – November – Charlotte Encore: “Walk it Like You Talk It – Youth Empowerment and Racial Equity”

Our first “Charlotte Encore” – a presentation from the previous IAP2 North American Conference that attendees told us should be shared via webinar – brought back the Thursday lunch keynote speakers. Liz Styron and Kaleia Martin of YES! Youth Empowered Solutions challenged us to consider the intersection of racial bias and marginalizing young people. (Read more) Liz and Kaleia show that, even if everything else is equal or a non-white person has an advantage, race puts that person at a demonstrable disadvantage. Race, they’ve learned, is the number-one deciding factor in health and life outcomes.

Communities of people of color tend to be regarded as “expendable”, as seen in the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, which is predominantly black, or the coal-ash pits in North Carolina, which are located at or near predominantly black communities.

There is an urgency to address the situation, they say. Because today’s youth are tomorrow’s decision makers, it’s vital that critical thinking and critical awareness be nurtured now. Instead, what they are seeing is young people “turning off” as they see the environmental emergency around the world and feel powerless about it. That, in turn, leads to nations that are suffering, economically, spiritually, culturally and civilly. Young people – the under-18 set — need to be “invited to the table” where their ideas will be welcomed and considered and acted-upon.

Youth, they assert, doesn’t mean lack of wisdom, and age doesn’t necessarily mean a “wisdom advantage”; working in a true partnership, with youth at the center – and not “poster children” or “token young people” – leads to more sustainable movements.

Already, there are indications that this kind of partnership can bear fruit. A recent visit by climate change activist Greta Thunberg to North Carolina brought attention to the situation in that state, drew North Carolina’s own youth activists into the spotlight and led to changes in the state’s climate policies. (Kaleia was, herself, invited to the Governor’s Mansion to be recognized for her work in climate change.)

So how does all this relate to Public Participation? Kaleia and Liz make the case that you can’t do P2 properly without marrying youth empowerment with racial equity. How do you do it? Watch the webinar and let them explain more. IAP2 members can access the webinar – and the webinar archive here.

WEBINAR REWIND: October 2019 – IAP2 Projects of the Year

Two projects, which focused on equalizing conditions for everyone, were featured in the October learning webinar. The Canadian Partnership Against Cancer and the Portland (OR) Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) were named IAP2 Projects of the Year for Canada and the USA, respectively, at the 2019 IAP2 Core Values Awards. Portland went on to win the International Project of the Year award, as well.

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Bringing “the locals” onside: the IAP2 June Webinar

June Learning Webinar – Engaging the Rumour Mill

Picture this: you work for a large organization that has plans involving a small community (or several). Your organization means for it to benefit the people, but you run into deep-seated skepticism in a tight-knit community. How do you earn their trust and bring in a project that benefits all concerned?

That’s the situation Carrie McIntosh of the British Columbia Ferry Corporation found herself in. BC Ferries is a vital link among coastal communities, and she details her experiences in the next IAP2 Learning Webinar, “Engaging the Rumour Mill” (Tuesday, June 11, at 11am PDT / 2pm EDT). This is another “Victoria Encore”, reprising a presentation from the 2018 IAP2 North American Conference: one that attendees told us should be shared with others in a webinar.

You can read Carrie’s conference session outline here, and register here. Remember to follow the two-stage procedure for logging in: your confirmation email will include the link to our webinar provider; fill in the form to get your login instructions.

We look forward to your joining us!

All the best,
IAP2 Canada / IAP2 USA

Engaging Youth – register now for the IAP2 May Learning Webinar May 14


“Children are the future,” the cliché reminds us, but many times, young people are not considered in public engagement processes. Our May 14 Learning Webinar (11am PDT / 2pm, EDT) is another Victoria Encore: “Youth Shaping Cities”.

Register now!

Veronika Bylicki of CityHive will reprise this session from the 2018 IAP2 North American Conference, which posits that even though people are becoming increasingly empowered to chart the future course for their cities, youth tend to be overlooked, undervalued, and engaged often simply as an afterthought.

This session critically examines the underpinning theory and systemic barriers that continue to exclude youth participation, resulting in civic disengagement, lack of trust, and significant missed opportunities.

This is another session that attendees told us would make a good webinar for any P2 practitioner. Come and learn about examples, best practices, techniques, and tools. Here is a chance to consider how to re-imagine and redesign youth engagement practices.

Register now!

Remember the two-stage process: follow the link in your confirmation email and fill in the form to get your login information.

WEBINAR REWIND, Feb. 14, 2017

MONTREAL ENCORE: Making Engagement Meaningful with P2 Toolkits

In your P2 career, are there times when being the professional is almost a hindrance to meaningful engagement? You could walk into a situation where the community is skeptical that a process will be fair and honest, or find that staff are more involved than you’re able to accommodate, or any of a number of other situations.

One solution is to develop P2 Toolkits. These are specialized “packages” of resources that can be provided to “non-professionals” to help them with their engagement efforts. Based on their presentation at the IAP2 North American Conference last September, Cristelle Blackford of CivicMakers, Abby Monroe of the City of Chicago and Zane Hamm, educator and research associate with the Centre for Public Involvement in Edmonton discussed how toolkits have worked in three individual projects.

elk-grove-signCristelle explained how people in Elk Grove, a community just outside Sacramento, California, have guarded their rural lifestyle and atmosphere, and have lately found it threatened by an influx of young families with an urban bent. A proposal to improve mobility in the area – including sidewalks and bike lanes – ran into opposition from those concerned it represented the beginning of a suburban takeover of the rural area; there was also skepticism about the outreach process.

elk-grove-toolkitCristelle’s team determined that the best way to reach out to people in the community would be through other members of the community; that neighbours talking to neighbours would ensure the engagement was meaningful. So they assembled the toolkit that included project information, outreach templates and forms for reporting back. A very plain style was chosen: one that would be more trusted in the community.

Ten “street teams” contacted 115 households – about 95% of the target area – and Cristelle says that’s more than professional consultants could have reached. In the end, the community came up with a mobility approach that focused on what was deemed to be the more immediate issue – street safety – with other work to come later. In the process, community members felt ownership over the process and trust was restored between the community and the City.

weho-toolkitThe City of West Hollywood had a different situation: staff across the board were eager to engage with the public on all manner of issues across departments, but outreach efforts to date had been disjointed. It was necessary to provide them with the tools to do it and consistent messaging that would work no matter what the topic.

Abby Monroe described how that toolkit was put together: elaborate, colourful materials designed by a graphic artist. Brochures, “playing cards”, posters and other resources were packaged and distributed to the various departments, and training was provided. The result was an involved and engaged staff, an enthusiasm for higher-quality public participation and a consistent city voice across departments.

diy-engage-toolkitAnd then, there is the DIY Engage! toolkit. Developed by the Centre for Public Involvement, this grew out of a need identified by organizations for something to address barriers to participation and make the public engagement process more inclusive by putting equitable outreach design in the hands of community members. Zane Hamm explained this is designed to be an open-source toolkit with resources to enable anyone to facilitate a process in familiar spaces and with culturally-relevant resources. The toolkit is currently being reviewed by leadership students for version 2.0 – an interactive game.

This toolkit includes interactive materials such as a guide book to lead a group through the experiential process of designing a public engagement or initiative, and two sets of cards – one set, putting forward challenges to engagement, with the flip-side putting forward solutions. The second set of cards, “Check Your Knowledge”, highlights terms and facts related to the topic. “Perspective” buttons, designed to understand different points of view, encourage creative thinking to solve the problems identified.

IAP2 Canada members can watch the recording of the webinar, and get access to some of the resources mentioned here. Note that Cristelle, Abby and Zane are inviting comments, questions and experiences you might have had with toolkits, yourself.

Webinar Rewind: Participatory Budgeting (January 2017)

Consider a ladder.


Shari Davis

Looks a lot like the P2 Spectrum, doesn’t it? In the January IAP2 Learning webinar, we heard how Participatory Budgeting (PB) lays claim to the topmost rung on that ladder. Shari Davis, Director of Strategic Initiatives with the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP), described how PB gives people – especially those who are often cut out of the democratic process – an opportunity to be fully involved with decisions on how to spend public money.



PB is about more than spending money, Shari explains. The process begins with deciding on the amount of money to be set aside for PB. It has to be a large-enough sum to make it “worthwhile” for people to take part. Shari points out that if a major city designated, say, five thousand dollars for PB, no one would take the process seriously. Dieppe, with an annual budget of $50-million, set aside $300-thousand. The City of Boston designated $1-million for a youth-oriented PB project.


Once the “pot” is identified, the city then reaches out to the communities that would be affected, finding leaders who can then draw in other community members. Shari says it’s vital to have grassroots involvement right from the start, in order to make sure people see that their involvement is being taken seriously. It’s also important to define “equity” from the start, to make sure that those who need to be part of the process are contacted and drawn in.

People brainstorm ideas, develop proposals, find champions for those proposals, vote on them and eventually implement the “winners”. At the proposal development stage, city staff join the process to discuss feasibility and impact, and to help cost-out the proposals. This is where some ideas are pursued, while others drop out of the running.

But as we said earlier, the benefits of PB go beyond simply spending money. Communications between government and citizens are improved, and so is learning within the community. What’s more, more people are inspired to get more deeply involved in public affairs: a Harvard University study found that people who got involved in the process had learned more about local government, and were more likely to work with others to solve community problems.

Luc Richard

Luc Richard described how the City of Dieppe, New Brunswick (est. pop. 30,000), where he is Director of Organizational Performance, launched its own PB process. City Councillors realized that their efforts to consult with the community had been superficial, so determined to move more towards the “right” of the IAP2 Spectrum – i.e. “collaborate” or “empower” – and decided a PB process was the way to do it, enlisting the help of PBP consultants from New York City to make it happen.

pb-5Among the criteria approved by the Steering Committee were that the funding was to be one-time-only, but programs and services, as well as infrastructure, would be eligible. They also decided to give voting rights to people who wouldn’t normally be eligible, such as non-citizens living in the area and people age 11 and over (middle-school age).

Booths were set up in public markets and other gathering places to collect ideas; people could also take part online and at workshops held at various times and days, to make sure people from as many different sectors as possible could participate. Over 100 ideas were submitted, and a selection committee consisting of city staff and community members met throughout the summer to winnow that list down to just under 20.

Then came the three-week voting phase, with a Project Expo at the local Middle School, to showcase the various ideas. Project Champions produced videos outlining the proposals.

In the end, four projects were accepted: a

The emergence of new faces is encouraging for future engagement efforts

ball hockey rink, a climbing wall, renovations to a playground and an outdoor fitness equipment park. All but one has been fully implemented.

While voter turnout was a disappointing 5.4%, a lot of positives have come out of the process. For one thing, there were a lot of “new faces” showing up – public involvement was not commandeered by “the usual suspects”, as can happen in such exercises. Having youth involved meant whole families were getting into the act. And the city received a lot of positive exposure in the media.

“Participatory Budgeting is a cure for the skepticism towards politics.”

Le Devoir, June, 2016

Dieppe is by no means the only Canadian city using PB. Toronto is into Year Two of its three-year PB process; St-Basile-le-Grand, Québec, has done it; so have Hamilton and Guelph, and Victoria is about to launch a project this year.

IAP2 Canada members may watch the webinar and get access to collateral materials here.

WEBINAR REWIND – Decision-Makers and P2 – September 2016

What drives decision-makers to embrace P2? One of the hurdles P2 practitioners have to clear is to convince people in charge of the value of P2. The September webinar gives insight into how one can approach municipal politicians about public consultation.

Three municipal politicians joined us to talk about the value they’ve found in P2: City Councillor Blair Lancaster from Burlington, Ontario, told us how they came up with an Engagement Charter – the first of its kind in Canada – which calls for citizen involvement in all decision-making.

Austin, Texas, Council Member Leslie Pool described the complete overhaul of her city’s culture, during which a Task Force On Community Engagement was set up and an online tool was developed to make sure neighbourhood groups had the information they needed on plans in the area.

Mayor Dennis Coombs of Longmont, Colorado, explained that his city’s council (put in a link) realized as far back as 2001 how getting multiple inputs from citizens leads to better decisions. Watch the whole webinar and download some of the presenters’ collateral material here.


In 2011, a fairly new council took office in Burlington: three new councillors and a new mayor. Coun. Lancaster described how the IAP2 model provided them with a framework to follow in decision-making, where people know what their place is and how they can contribute. About 60 staff members and several citizens were trained, and that led to the development of an Engagement Charter – which she calls a “powerful document’ that was one of the first in Canada to put the city’s commitment to engage with residents into writing. The charter calls for engagement with citizens in all decision-making.

The first community engagement was a big one: creating the 2015-2040 Strategic Plan. They trained about 60 staff members and several citizens in P2 practices and used the IAP2 model. They went through three phases, which brought over a hundred changes to the plan, including a number of changes that came out during a World Café that was held to look over what staff thought was the final draft.

An important point, Coun. Lancaster says, is that the public realize that community engagement is a two-way street. Council has a responsibility to engage; citizens have a responsibility to be aware. A case in point was a recent review of the city’s parking by-laws, which had undergone four changes in as many years. This had become a source of frustration and confusion for the residents.

Consultations were held, citizens came out to give their feedback, and many more vocal types showed up late in the process. Thanks to the IAP2 model, Coun. Lancaster was able to show that the consultations had been going on and that public opinion was being taken into account. The IAP2 model not only ensures people affected by a decision have a voice in that decision; it provides a “backstop” for people in government, to show that they have been doing due diligence when it comes to consulting with the citizens.

The bottom line for Burlington? An engaging city involves residents and leads to good governance.



When Leslie Pool was elected to Council in the capital of the Lone Star State, the council passed a resolution at its first meeting to gather best practices for communicating into and out of the city. They had heard that people were concerned they weren’t being heard, and wanted to explore areas of public engagement and find where they can make improvements.

A 13-member task force on community engagement was set up, including Council Members and appointees from the general public and a P2 professional from outside was hired to facilitate.

CM Pool notes that it’s vital to get clear, understandable information and then to show how their public feedback is being used. They ensured staff had training in P2 and recognized that it was important to re-design the website to make it accessible – not just ADA-compatible, but with things like a proper search function and language accessibility.

Austin’s system includes a tool to help neighbourhood groups stay on top of development plans in their area, an online commenting system for constituents and accessibility in meeting places around the city. With 60 boards and commissions, standardizing procedures is important, as is live-streaming of their meetings, rather than publishing the meeting minutes after the fact.

CM Pool is looking to the IAP2 model for some difficult conversations coming up in the next year: re-designing streets to accommodate bicycles. Changing parking regulations and giving over space for bike lanes can always be counted on to generate controversy, and she says following IAP2’s procedures will allow for greater explanations and understanding among the competing interests.



Community involvement in this city of 93,000, 37 miles (60 km) north of Denver, goes back to 2001. The council of the day realized that multiple inputs make for better decisions.

Mayor Coombs says Longmont’s strength is in its diversity. Diversity of perspectives, cultures and ages strengthen the process because as we engage the entire community, we create more a thorough, informed decision-making.

A great example of the community being involved was in the planning to become a “gigabit city” – offering fiber-to-the-home broadband access to its residents. State law requires that any plan to provide broadband be approved by voters. Broadband providers mounted an opposition campaign that Mayor Coombs says included misleading statements and misinformation, so it was important to give the citizens the facts and involve them in the planning. By sticking to the IAP2 model, he says, the proposal was approved and then a bond issue in order to pay for it passed with 66% in favor.

Without engagement, Mayor Coombs says, they could never have accomplished that. It was a matter of getting the correct facts and figures to the most people and involving them in the services they expect from their local government.

Another big P2 project is Envision Longmont; a year-long project to develop a comprehensive plan for the city’s future. So far, Mayor Coombs says, it’s been a huge success.

Watch the whole webinar and download some of the presenters’ collateral material here.

WEBINAR REWIND – “White Papers – August 9”

The IAP2 Canada Research Committee commissioned its first two white papers in late 2015, and they were released earlier this year. The authors of the papers shared what they found in the August webinar.

KAREN ZYPCHYNKaren Zypchyn looked at Challenges and Advancements in Evaluating P2 – essentially, determining whether a P2 process has “worked”. One of the main challenges is the lack of what she calls “complete” evaluation instruments available to practitioners. There’s also a “battle of methodologies”, which can hinder things: quantitative evaluation, which measures success on an unvarying set of criteria which can be ported from one P2 process to another; and qualitative evaluation, which treats each process uniquely and involves case studies, interviews and debriefs.


Karen discovered three broad evaluation dimensions: context, process and outputs/outcomes/impact. That said, outcomes far outweighs context and process in terms of importance, as far as practitioners are concerned. Some of the more desired outcomes include better decision-making by leaders and a more informed public. Indeed, it’s been found that people tend to go to a P2 event with the intent not of expressing their opinion so much as learning more about the issue at hand.

zypchyn-ppeetKaren’s white paper recommends one evaluation instrument in particular, the Patient and Public Engagement Evaluation Tool developed by a pan-Canadian team led by Dr Julia Abelson of McMaster University. PPEET won the first IAP2 Canada Core Values Award for Research Project of the Year in 2014, and one of its features is that it can be adapted to other P2 projects.

Nelishcher_HeadshotKate Nelischer tackled the question of Conflict Management in Public Participation, which can actually be a good thing, as having people with wildly differing points of view can lead to deeper discussion and deliberation, which leads, in turn, to stronger solutions. But reaching those solutions requires managing the situation. Kate discovered first that you have to spot why conflict comes up; then, she identified a number of methods for handling conflict, of which four stood out:nelischer-causes-of-conflict

  • Circles
  • Deliberative participation
  • Gamification
  • Dramatic problem solving

Circles comes from the culture of Indigenous peoples, in which people literally sit in a circle and share their experiences and aspirations on an equitable basis.

Deliberative Participation brings a diverse group into the conversation, examining an issue from as many sides as possible. This requires everyone to be well-informed going into the process.

nelischer-gamificationGamification, as the name suggests, involves making a game out of the issue, which helps people get out of their comfort zones, learn about the issues, and have fun in the process.

And then there’s Dramatic Problem Solving, in which the whole issue is played out with a method called “forum theatre”, giving participants “roles” to play and taking them out of reality and into a safe space, where they can work through the conflict collaboratively.

The key to all of this is to identify where the conflict lies and who is involved; and then to spot the most appropriate method for dealing with it.

You can view the entire webinar here.

WEBINAR REWIND: UNDRIP and the New Face of Indigenous Consultation

(The IAP2 July Webinar)

This past May, Canada dropped its “objector” status to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. On July 12, IAP2 hosted a webinar featuring Bob Joseph, founder and CEO of Indigenous Corporate Training, and Anne Harding, Senior Aboriginal Stakeholder Relations Advisor for Suncor Energy.

“We’ll run town-hall sessions until people stop showing up.”

Bob Joseph (1)This is one example that Bob Joseph shared, told to him by a Squamish First Nation person.  He suggests it’s a good way to address public consultations with Indigenous peoples.

Bob, the CEO of Indigenous Corporate Training, Inc., joined Anne Harding, Senior Stakeholder Relations Advisor for Anne HardingAboriginal Communities at Suncor Energy, for the July webinar. The webinar looked at the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), and how those align with IAP2 principles.

Note the nuance. Legal precedents in Canada have established that the Crown carries a duty to consult with First Nations, but that’s not the same as “free, prior and informed consent”. What’s more, the Crown reserves the right to decide when there has been “enough” consultation, and that is also out of line with FPIC. Handing virtual veto power to First Nations is a sticking point for what Joseph refers to as the “Nation-States” like Canada.

Beyond that, Indigenous peoples’ political leaderships are gearing more towards collaborative consent, with a principle that the “50% + 1” paradigm may not be enough. Hence, the Squamish Nation’s goal in its P2 process: having pretty much everyone (at least 70%) supporting a decision, whatever it may be. Reaching the point where people stop showing up for town-hall meetings is a sure sign that people have the information they need to make a decision.

The main thing a P2 practitioner needs to do, Joseph says, is homework. Indigenous peoples in North America have largely had a system of government imposed on them by colonists, with elected chiefs and councils, rather than the system of hereditary chiefs, which had existed prior to “contact”. So when you’re going into a P2 process, you need to find out whom you should talk to and when in doubt talk to more people, not less.  In Canada, a website called ATRIS (Aboriginal Treaty Rights Information System) can help you determine which First Nation actually has rights to a particular area and show you who the elected leadership is.

But don’t stop with the elected chief, Joseph says. The elected-council system has long been a sore point with supporters of the hereditary system, so focusing on the elected leadership may shut out many people who need to be consulted. What’s more, Joseph says, the elected chief or band council representative may be something of a “gatekeeper”, not wanting the hereditary leaders or other community representatives to be part of the process. Joseph has seen some really good agreements go south as a result of that “gatekeeper” attitude.

So you need to get out into the community: go to the potlatches, pow-wows and feasts, the same way you set up a booth at malls and public events in non-Indigenous communities. Ask people whom you should talk to, and aim for that collective decision: it has a greater chance of being the right decision and eliminates – or at least, significantly reduces – the potential for conflict between the traditional and elected leadership.

INDIGENOUS ENGAGEMENT-1Bob Joseph also presents a list of do’s and don’t’s, which includes DO “Learn the pronunciation”: his own Nation is Gwawaenuk – “gwah-WAH-ay-nuk”; and DON’T name-drop, especially names of other Nations you may have dealt with: there may be a “past” between that Nation and the one you’re dealing with now, which could affect the level of trust you need to maintain in order for effective, meaningful P2.

IAP2 Members can check out the webinar in its entirety, and download Bob Joseph’s e-book, UNDRIP and FPIC, here.



Developing a “home-grown” mental health system in a remote First Nation and building a 30-kilometre bus rapid transit (BRT) line through a major metropolitan area seem like as disparate a pair of projects as you’ll find, but our presenters for the IAP2 April Webinar faced some remarkably similar situations.

Pikangikum is land-and-lake-locked, about 400 km NE of Winnipeg

Jeff Cook of Beringia Community Planning won the IAP2 Canada Project of the Year award – as well as the Core Values Award for Indigenous Engagement – for “Working it out Together”, a bold initiative by the Pikangikum First Nation of far northwestern Ontario to take local control of the health system.



A 2012 article in Maclean’s Magazine caught Jeff’s attention, so he had an idea of what Pikangikum was up against when he was hired to oversee a process for turning that community and individual lives around.


It was an exercise in planning around crisis and01 trauma, and involved creating a process and plan that were both community owned and community driven. Top-down approaches had not worked, and the key, Jeff found, was in respecting and integrating Indigenous culture. The Anishinaabe culture had pretty much been lost historically, so this was a matter of re-discovering that culture and re-claiming it.

There was still an ember of self-respect, in the fact that Pikangikum is one of the very few Indigenous communities where there is near complete fluency in the Ojibway language. This has maintained, despite the emotional and psychological trauma brought on by generations of colonization.

pikangikum-3Jeff turned to a strengths-based approach, recognizing the accomplishments, assets, strengths, beauty and honor of the people in the community. This was not easy: in the first couple of meetings, there were lots of empty faces and quiet microphones before anyone started to come up with positive things to say about themselves or their community.

The Pikangikum people had to get used to a different culture: the culture of consultation. It was the first time ever that they – the citizens of the First nation – had been consulted. Gradually, they shared their preferences as to who should be involved, what the process was about and how they wanted to be involved. The symbol for the approach was provided by a young local woman in the form of a dream-catcher.

It took time to pull the opinions out of people – particularly from the women, as it’s the local culture to ask permission of the elders, who are men, for the women to give their opinions.

They used a wide range of consultation tools: staff surveys, Facebook, brainstorming sessions, postcards, story-telling, an exercise in ranking community health needs; it was a huge undertaking, and there is no quick-fix.

One thing Jeff learned was that “deep engagement” can heal and bring people together – which, at the end of the day, was exactly what Pikangikum needed. There was a cycle of colonization and trauma, and self-determination is central to breaking that cycle. For the P2 practitioner, humility, respect and persistence are the most essential tools you can have.

The similarity with Dana Lucero’s project was in the fact that the Powell-Division Transit and Development project runs through some of the most ethnically and culturally diverse neighbourhoods you’ll find. This received the IAP2 USA Project of the Year Core Values Award.

Powell-Division, by the way, does not refer to a particular division called Powell: it refers to an east-west strip bounded by Powell Boulevard and Division Avenue, where the communities are Latino, Russian, Somali, Tongan, Chinese, Vietnamese, Bhutanese, among others. Complicating matters is a history of perceived neglect by top institutions, a lack of public investment and a deep distrust and skepticism of government.


That skepticism coloured the way Dana and her crew had to approach this project. The team was made up of Metro, TriMet (the transit authority), the cities of Portland and Gresham, Multnomah County and the Oregon Department of Transportation. Not only did the residents feel neglected by officialdom, they were also concerned about gentrification and community stability. While a BRT line would seem like a benefit in an area that has very high transit usage and a lot of passups by full buses, it could also be seen as the kind of transit improvement that could make the area more attractive for higher-end development which would lead to displacement of the locals.

One of the principal goals of this P2 project was to let people know they were being listened-to. Dana and her crew knew it would be important to relate to people in the way they relate to the world, and that meant going to them – not expecting them to come to evening meetings. It had to be clear from the start how their input would be a part of decision-making and what kind of results they could expect.

They took it to the streets, with a variety of approaches. At bus stops, they posed a single question in five languages:

What would make your bus ride better?


Along with the bus-stop engagement, they took part in community events, held working groups on important issues, created an interactive map and expanded reach within communities of colour. Probably most important, they practised “equity”, putting members of the community on the same level as the agencies as decision-makers. They created a 22-member steering committee on which half of the members were from the community.


Dana’s team found it wasn’t a matter of creating opportunities: they had to create relationships.

Through those relationships, the project developed according to the input from the community, rather than through a top-down bureaucratic approach.

As the process moved forward, values started to change. Advocacy groups that were prone to using tactics meant to halt the process, shock people or villainize the agencies found themselves at the table – to everyone’s surprise. Making transit improvements a catalyst for reducing disparities became a priority. The agencies made a commitment to prevent market-driven involuntary displacement of residents (a/k/a “gentrification”) and to distribute equally the benefits and burdens of change.

The exercise also built capacity for community members to engage in other civic processes, and for agencies to be more accessible.

An unexpected benefit was seen recently, when the Powell-Division Transit and Development Project had to change its route. But while in the past, this might have been met with cynicism, the agencies were able to show that this was a decision taken by the people affected. The final design plan is expected to be unveiled this fall.