WEBINAR REWIND – October 2017: 2017 Organizations of the Year

Two public entities that had to overcome skepticism on the inside and hostility on the outside took top honors at the 2017 IAP2 Core Values Awards. Donna Kell, Communications Manager with the City of Burlington, Ontario, Michelle Dwyer, Burlington’s Public Involvement Lead, and Deanna DeSedas, Public Outreach and Engagement Manager with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency joined us for the October Learning Webinar. In both cases, it was a message from the public, loud and clear, that decisions were being taken that affected them and they wanted “in”. And the proof of the pudding is summed up by one official: “My phone stopped ringing.”

Burlington had a wake-up call in 2010, when a report by “Shape Burlington” – a city-conceived committee of citizens – brought in a scathing review of the city’s community engagement. Not only did it identify gaps in communications and recommend the city make a commitment through an Engagement Charter, it described the current culture at city hall as “toxic”, and said that needed to change if there was to be proper engagement.

The review came out on the eve of municipal elections, so it got a lot of attention in the campaign that followed. Two members of the Shape Burlington Committee were elected to Council. As well, Burlington – with a population of about 180,000 – has been rated the “Best Mid-Sized City in Canada”, so there was a sense that that reputation was on the line.

Effective engagement requires four key elements:

  •         A champion – inside and outside
  •         Interested citizens
  •         A supportive organization
  •         People passionate about P2

One of the breakthrough moments for Council members came in a course on “P2 for Decision-Makers”. Michelle says one could see “the light go on” over the heads of Council members as they realized that P2 is not about giving up authority but about sharing power. She knew then, the organizational support was there.

In 2013, Council approved the Community Engagement Charter, and it was implemented the following year. The Charter Action Plan was drawn up, with the Charter Action Team – aptly called “ChAT” – to ensure the Charter stayed front-of-mind.

burlington - talk bubbles
“Talk Bubbles” were one way for residents to get their point across

Staff in each department received IAP2 Foundations training, as well as training in facilitation and survey writing and analytics. P2 tools are also made available to staff, with the P2 Spectrum front and centre. Tools include workshops, world cafes, focus groups, workbooks, telephone town-halls and a relatively new one, Feedback Frames. The City also launched an online portal where people can give their input as and when they need to and an online portal to give people the opportunity.

Some of the tools were decidedly retro: using good old ViewMasters to show what Burlington’s future could look like

A very important use of the Community Engagement Charter has been in the development of Burlington’s 2015-2040 Strategic Plan. That plan includes Community Engagement as one of its four pillars. Burlington’s commitment to engagement also reaches out to the next generation(s), realizing that they’re building a city not just for now, but for the future.

P2 practitioners often go to great lengths to evaluate the success of a process. For the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, it was summed up by one top manager this way: “My phone stopped ringing.”

What P2 looked like in 2014

It’s a bit more complicated than that, but fewer phone calls meant fewer angry citizens. Public hostility towards the SFMTA – one of the largest multi-modal transportation systems in the USA – had reached a point where staff was resistant to planning or attending town halls and open houses. The Agency had become seen as a major government entity that simply dropped its projects on the public without considering the citizenry. The leadership readily admitted there was a problem, but had to tackle the big problem of how to solve it.

sfmta - golden gateThe solution was POETS – the Public Outreach and Engagement Team Strategy, a three-year project to make the public part of SFMTA’s plans and allow the agency to deliver its hundreds of projects successfully.

Deanna DeSedas, Public Outreach and Engagement Manager, says POETS has four key purposes:

  •         a strategy to strengthen relationships and build trust with the community
  •         a process to improve consistency across projects
  •         a model for other departments in the City of San Francisco
  •         a program to support and recognize staff efforts

Deanna and her team researched practices in no fewer than 25 other transportation agencies, and found almost all were in the same boat. She came up with a five-step approach that involved (1) identifying the “pain points”, (2) researching best practices, (3) making recommendations to officials, (4) implementing those recommendations and (5) evaluating and improving the processes. (Right now, SFMTA is at Step 5.)

Deanna’s team found that stakeholder frustration was costing money both through delays in projects and potential lawsuits, and that it was all traceable to the lack of engagement with the community. People were in the dark about the hundreds of projects around the city and there was no consistency in keeping citizens in the loop.

From there, the team developed POETS, and that strategy has included training over 70 staff across all departments in IAP2 Foundations (over 200 staff members are involved in POETS) and new hires are given an overview course in POETS – POETS 101 — as part of their onboarding.

sfmta - resourcesPOETS includes Public Outreach Notification Standards, guidelines all staff must adhere to for outreach and engagement in their projects. Developing a communications plan is mandatory, including a project needs assessment, stakeholder briefings, multi-channel communications and identifying P2 techniques in line with the IAP2 public participation spectrum.  Staff members are supported with an extensive online library, which includes communications plans from other projects, materials from “POETS 101” and P2 peer group support.

From an agency dealing with a disorganized and often frustrating approach for outreach and engagement, has emerged a strategy, POETS, that has provided standards and structure where there was none. By providing staff with the necessary P2 tools and training, they have become empowered and are now connecting with communities and building a greater sense that staff and community engaged makes for better decisions, trust and relationships.

IAP2 members may watch the webinar here.

En direct du conseil d’administration – octobre 2017

Hugo Mimee – vice-président de l’AIP2 Canada

(English version below)

L’automne est déjà bien en place et avec cette saison arrive aussi le moment de l’année où nous finalisons notre planification, le budget et nos plans d’action pour l’année à venir.

Votre conseil d’administration est en action et s’est réuni pour une rencontre en personnes sur 2 jours en septembre. Cette rencontre a permis d’accueillir nos nouveaux administrateurs et députés et de faire le point sur l’ensemble des dossiers en cours.

Voici un bref aperçu des principaux dossiers en cours :

  • Un nouveau plan stratégique 2018-2020 verra le jour sous peu;
  • L’AIP2 Canada a maintenant comme objectif de devenir une organisation bilingue d’ici 2020, un plan d’action qui mènera à davantage de bilinguisme au sein de l’organisation est d’ailleurs en préparation;
  • Le Comité formation s’est réuni à plusieurs reprises et a notamment proposé l’organisation s’un symposium des compétences qui se tiendra à Gatineau/Ottawa du 19 au 23 mars 2018, nous vous y attendons en grand nombre;
  • Le comité Communications et marketing est également à peaufiner un plan visant à dynamiser nos communications et à revoir notre image notamment sur le site web et dans les médias sociaux;
  • La communauté de pratique en consultation autochtones travaille quant à elle à la préparation d’une formation pour 2018.

Connaissez-vous la communauté de pratique en participation publique pour les entreprises canadiennes et américaines du domaine de l’énergie? J’ai le privilège de mener les travaux de celle-ci qui regroupe désormais des représentants de 13 entreprises. La plus récente rencontre a eu lieu le 2 octobre dernier. Il s’agissait de la 9e rencontre de ce groupe. Elle aura permis de revenir sur les meilleures pratiques issues de la conférence nord-américaine de Denver, du point de vue du domaine de l’énergie. Nous avons également profité de l’occasion pour discuter des aspects de sécurité dans nos consultations publiques. La prochaine rencontre aura lieu le 4 décembre et nous nous questionnerons sur les approches et outils permettant de consigner les commentaires et opinions reçues et de s’en servir dans la prise de décision. Si vous connaissez des gens, œuvrant dans le domaine de l’énergie, qui souhaiteraient rejoindre cette communauté de pratique, n’hésitez surtout pas à communiquer avec l’AIP2 Canada.

J’aimerais en terminant remercier toutes les personnes qui ont contribué de près ou de loin à l’organisation de la conférence nord-américaine de 2017 qui a eu lieu cette année à Denver au Colorado. Bravo. Mission accomplie ! Nous vous donnons maintenant rendez-vous à Victoria en Colombie-Britannique en septembre 2018 !


Fall is here, and that means it’s time to finalize our plans, budget and strategy for the coming year.

Your Board met face-to-face over two days in September. We welcomed our new Board members and deputies and put various projects in motion.

Here’s a brief look at the main projects:

  • The 2018-2020 Strategic Plan;
  • An action plan to increase the level bilingualism is underway, in keeping with IAP2 Canada’s plan to become a fully bilingual organization by 2020;
  • The Training Committee met several times and one of its main accomplishments has been to organize the first Skills Symposium, which will be held in Ottawa/Gatineau, March 19 through 23; we are looking forward to a lot of you attending;
  • The Communications and Marketing Committee is putting the finishing touches on plans to make our communications more dynamic and review the branding – particularly on the website and in our social media activity;
  • The Indigenous Engagement Community of Practice is developing a specific training program for 2018.

Are you familiar with the Energy Industry Community of Practice? This particular CoP is open to IAP2 Canada and IAP2 USA members, and I’ve had the privilege of leading this group, which currently represents thirteen businesses. Our most recent meeting was on October 2, where we reviewed best practices that were discussed at the North American Conference in Denver in September. We also discussed security issues surrounding our public consultations.

The next meeting of this Community of Practice will take place December 4, where we’ll discuss tools and techniques for receiving feedback from the public in the decision-making process. If you know anyone working in the energy field, who would like to join this Community of Practice, please put them in touch with us at IAP2 Canada (info@iap2canada.ca).

I would like to close by thanking all those from near and far who contributed to the success of the 2017 IAP2 North American Conference in Denver. Mission accomplished! We are looking forward to seeing you all again in September 2018 in Victoria!

IAP2 Canada Chapter News – October, 2017


IAP2 BC is partnering with the Planning Institute of British Columbia for the next P2 Drinks event, November 30 in Nanaimo. This P2 Drinks is being held in conjunction with the PIBC-Vancouver Island Annual General Meeting and is an opportunity for members of both organizations to get together and learn about the common and complementary factors in the two professions. More information here.

Wild Rose

Chapter Past-President Amanda Kaiser discusses the process for becoming accredited in the latest Chapter Newsletter (scroll to the third item), and coffee klatches resume in October in Calgary and Edmonton.


A lunch-and-learn postponed from early this summer will go ahead November 2. Engagement, Traditional Knowledge, and Environmental Assessment. Notes from the Field will be a brown-bag event, live at the Stantec offices in Saskatoon and by webcast in Regina. Find more details here. (Details of the webcast location in Regina are still to be confirmed.)

Great Lakes

Join our new Book Club!

The IAP2 Great Lakes Chapter is trying something new to bring our community of practice together for dialogue.

We are launching a Book Club through our “IAP2 Great Lakes Chapter” LinkedIn page and IAP2 members from all across Canada are invited to cozy up with us and a thought provoking book!

Each week, we’ll read a chapter whenever we can.  Then, at the start of the next week, we can exchange ideas, and post and respond to questions in our LinkedIn group.  If this has piqued your interest, why not join the IAP2 Great Lakes Chapter on LinkedIn for further updates.

We have shortlisted 4 books and would like your feedback on which book you think is best to get started.

The shortlisted books are:

  1.    From Voice To Influence: Understanding Citizenship In A Digital Age

Edited by Danielle Allen and Jennifer S. Light (nonfiction)

  1.    The Psychology of Citizenship and Civic Engagement

By S. Mark Pancer, Ph.D. (nonfiction)

  1.    The Break

By Katherena Vermette (fiction)

  1.    The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative

By Thomas King (nonfiction)

If you are interested please email greatlakeschapter@iap2canada.ca and let us know which book you would like included. Once we hear back, we’ll announce the book and start reading!

Save the date!

Join your fellow practitioners for drinks and discussions on the evening of November 20, 2017 in Downtown Toronto. IAP2 Great Lakes Chapter will be hosting “P2 Drinks” – a casual and fun night focusing on the topic “P2 and Fake News”. More details to come but please save the date!

IAP2 MEMBER PROFILE — Terry Koch (Class of ’93)

TERRY KOCHPOSITION Principal, Terrydele Consulting Services (Facilitation, Stakeholder and Public Engagement consulting company)

Terry Koch has been an IAP2 member for 24 years and is a founding member, past President and regular volunteer with the Wild Rose (Alberta) Chapter. He was also honoured to serve on the International IAP2 Board as the Treasurer from 2008 – 2010.

What has been your involvement with P2 over the years?

I started with the City of Edmonton in the mid-1980s, working in Community Relations for the Parks and Recreation Department, then moved to Calgary’s Parks and Rec. Then a job came open at Calgary Transit, where they had fewer community relations people (two versus 26), so with that came more opportunity and responsibility.

The GoPlan was being developed at the time, and that opened my interest in doing public engagement. This was the largest transportation master plan and growth plan the City had done to date. Lonny Gabinet (profiled in the June newsletter) was the Corporate Communications person and needed help from a city employee, and luckily, I was it. (Read more)

We were given a million-dollar budget for public engagement – in 1991! That was ten times what anyone had seen before: it was a lot of money for going out there and talking to the public. The former Dames and Moore firm was the successful engagement services provider and fortunately Barbara Lewis and Marty Rozelle were assigned to lead the design of the public and stakeholder engagement program.

The City saw the value in P2. Yes, it generated controversy for some: why were we bringing in consultants from Denver and Phoenix? What was wrong with our planners or city staff? People even asked what the problem was in the first place; why did we need a plan? At the time, there was nowhere near the transportation challenges we now have in Calgary, so we had to be the “doom-and-gloom” people and tell them, “It’s coming, folks!” No, we didn’t have a transportation problem at the time – but then, we didn’t have 1.25-million people at the time, either.

Barb and Marty brought in great ideas for getting the message across – innovative workshops, an active Citizens’ Coordinating Committee, guest speakers and with Lonny’s creative ideas, like staging a TV program, we were successful at getting people excited about the future.

I didn’t go to the Portland conference (in 1992), but I got involved in IAP2 in ’93: that’s when I joined and learned about techniques like the Samoan Circle – which has nothing to do with Samoa, by the way – and how it could work for engaging people in Calgary’s transportation plan.

In the Samoan Circle, you look at comparisons of different viewpoints. We designed a workshop for the 1993 Kananaskis IAP2 Conference using the GoPlan as the case study. What role does the politician play? What role does the senior city staff person, or the consultant or the ordinary citizen play? People would sit on chairs in the middle of the room and play those particular roles, verbalizing their position on the project.

It all proved to be a great example of politicians and staff willing to try new techniques – and that was 25 years ago, and through that I became the GoPlan’s day-to-day P2 guy.

That experience got me excited about marrying long-range transportation and growth planning. The two really go together as it’s all about growth and change with those two areas coming together with good dialogue. The trick is, start early and engage often. Calgary was a big ship going in one direction and it was a matter of taking the ship on a new course – not a total 180, but a course correction so that it’s a smarter-growing city.

I then went to work for then-Mayor Al Duerr as one of his executive assistants. I was taken on there because of my experience with the Go-Plan. My first job there was as Administrative Liaison. There would be letters and calls to the Mayor’s office – because that’s often the place people go to first when they have a complaint – and I had to make sure they went to the right departments. I was supposed to be there on a year’s secondment, but they kept me for four years.

I then went to ENMAX, the City-owned utility company, where I worked as a government and communications relations manager for five years. Following that, I went off on my own and set up Terrydele Consulting. I figured this gave me more flexibility. My first real task was to work for ENMAX as a private consultant. They needed someone to do day-to-day engagement on a project to replace power lines in Mount Royal – one of the older and wealthier areas of the city.

There were these big, beautiful old and new mansions with power lines running past them and that distribution system needed to be replaced.

I mainly wanted to be a private consultant was because I wanted to get into the private sector to assist where needed. I enjoyed the variety: I wasn’t the Calgary Transit or utility guy anymore, and could branch out into health care, energy, utilities, planning – all different fields.

A lot of my clients have been sourced through engineering companies with a strong Alberta presence where I was the engagement lead and worked with the project team.  Lately, I’ve been working with the provincial government on regional plans. Eventually, there’ll be seven master plans based on the watersheds in Alberta. That started in 2008 and it’s still going on today as those regional plans are approved and being implemented.

One of my favourite projects in the past couple of years is the Green Line – the now-approved new LRT line in Calgary. It’s costing $6.5-billion to do 60 percent of the project – getting it tunneled through the downtown into the Bow River and then going north so it will run from the north end to the southeast – eventually 46 kilometres of new LRT line, nearly doubling the current service.

The dialogue for that started 30 years ago and there’s lots of passion about the project. In 2012, we started working on the final stage – the part where we get serious about building it. The Federal government has committed to contributing $1.5 billion; the City of Calgary $1.5 billion and the Province hopefully will be kicking in its share; but it’s going to need a lot of transit-oriented development to get the commercial and retail base to support it.

Have you had a “Golden Learning Moment”?

Mainly, getting to what is the role of the public in a project and determining the appropriate amount of engagement. It could be just at the “inform” level, so people can digest it well before decision-making and you don’t pressure them to come to the table with input until it is the right time.

A lot of the time we haven’t been clear, and people have gotten fired-up about engagement – and then they get disappointed. Part of the “Foundations” training is to decide how to involve people without wasting their time. Even if people don’t like the outcome, if you’re honest with them about their involvement, they are more likely to be good with it.

Recently we were at the final design stage in a highly controversial project and brought forward four or five options for input. But we had to make it clear: we’re not going back to to the budget … or station locations … or bus schedules. We’ve been realistic and honest with people, because if we go off that course, we find we’ve wasted people’s time and raised expectations we couldn’t meet.

I owe a lot of that learning to the Foundations course, which I took in the late 90s after 10 years of jumping in with both feet.

You brought the “Question Quilt” to the Denver Conference. Tell us about that.

QUESTION QUILT-2Yes! In the mid-90s, the Wild Rose Chapter was looking for something to give to IAP3. We simply gathered questions and that generated a lot of dialogue about IAP2’s guiding principles, and it was the evolution towards the Core Values: answer the questions and you get into a good dialogue about what good P2 should look like. Wild Rose had those questions sewn onto a quilt that’s about 8’ by 8’, and you can see it when I bring it to Denver.



Participants in the “Good P2 Questions” session at the 2017 Conference

If you had anything to say to someone just getting into the P2 business …

Definitely, come out to a coffee klatch, a lunch-and-learn or any local IAP2 social and networking event. Meet the people who have been in the profession and give them a good listening to. Learn about what resources there are. Save your pennies and take the Foundations Course and the EOP2. Get a good understanding of the basics and real-life case studies, and do some reading: there’s more literature out there than there ever was and lots more online.

And I always have time for the mentorship program – in fact, I have a phone call later today with my protégé.

President’s Message: Bruce Gilbert

gilbert_bruce_circularLike many IAP2 members from across Canada, I recently attended the 2017 IAP2 North American Conference held in Denver Colorado. Although I can’t speak for all my Canadian colleagues and friends in attendance there, based on conversations I had with many of them, I think its safe to say that this conference will be remembered as an exceptionally inspiring, creative, and fun event. Indeed, in my view, it will likely be recalled over time as one of the ‘great ones’.

It was not only very well-organized, but it had a unique pace and flow that truly allowed people ample time to meet, share insights, and to build friendships. Competent and friendly IAP2 staff and volunteers were always available to answer questions, and to deal with unforeseen issues emerging for presenters and participants. The conference program committee delivered an impressively diverse and challenging content-package perfectly designed for both new and experienced P2 practitioners. They chose talented and experienced speakers and presenters who delivered, and who were unafraid to tackle some provocative topics. The conference fun committee ensured we had diverse opportunities to experience Denver and environs. We explored, learned, sang, danced, and broke bread together because of their smart prep work. Continue reading

Getting to the Heart of the Matter When Facing Emotion, Outrage and Opposition

EOP2 Twitter_canada

by Lauren Wirtis, IAP2 USA Intern

Nelson Mandela once said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” He was so right. When you make the effort to speak someone else’s language, even if it’s just basic phrases here and there, you are saying to them, ‘I understand that you have a culture and identity that exists beyond me. I see you as a human being.”

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

Language is how we communicate with one another. And, since it is how we communicate, it is often the fodder for our emotions. Our hearts swell when someone says they love us for the first time, we weep when we confront terrible news, we laugh when we are told a joke, and we are enraged when we are presented with injustice.

When IAP2 originally created the Foundations course, John Godec was the principal writer of the section that discussed risk communication and dealing with upset people. Frequently, the trainers would receive feedback that they wanted to spend more time on this section. In response to this demand Stephani Roy McCallum, John Godec, and Mary Hamel created a class called Emotion and Outrage in Public Participation (recently retitled Strategies for Dealing with Opposition and Outrage in P2).

The course is about human behavior. It’s about social psychology. About the psychology of people and people’s perception. How people perceive and interpret information differently depending on their emotional state.

– John Godec


Much of the content in the class on risk communication comes from Dr. Peter Sandman, an expert in the area whose model of risk is Risk = Hazard + Outrage. Dr. Sandman discusses three types of  risk communication that can be understood by mapping where they fall on a chart of outrage and hazard, see the image below.

Dr. Sandman graphic

See Dr. Peter Sandman’s full video on this topic here.

This is a helpful tool that provides a practical approach to managing people’s outrage. KKK RallyHowever, when I think about the kind of outrage that troubles the United States today, I can’t help but think that there is a third dimension to this chart. A z-axis that acknowledges that hazards are not experienced evenly across populations. And while we have made a lot of progress on a range of issues, I would also say that this progress was made without acknowledging the z-axis and, to Trevor Noah’s point, only in one language and that is the language of a group that is predominantly upper class, white, and male. As a result, we have left certain important pieces of issues unresolved and unacknowledged and all we know is that the solutions have supposedly “created jobs” or lead_large“grew the GDP.” These aren’t words that go to my heart.

I had the privilege of speaking with John Godec and Stephani Roy McCallum to understand how they believed the patterns of opposition and outrage have changed and what they think we can do about it. Do they see patterns in the opposition and outrage they encounter in their work? Yes. And more of it.

godec (2017_09_07 15_07_13 UTC)John said that he believed a lot of this growth comes from the widening gap between the government and the governed. That gap has fostered a large amount of distrust fueled by rhetoric citing government as the issue rather than the problem and the fact that government doesn’t work well for many people. However, the closer people are to government services, the more likely they are to trust their government, which means somewhere there’s a fundamental breakdown in communication.

STEPHANI ROY MCCALLUM (2)Stephani pointed out that these highly charged spaces are also more visible than ever with the support of social media, with more people engaging in the demonization of people who they view as “on the other side.” She went on to say that this is not an experience unique to the United States, but is occurring across the globe. “[The political situation in the United States] is just a bellwether of that shift.”

White Supremacists March with Torches in CharlottesvilleTaken all at once, these issues are incredibly daunting. What can we, as P2 practitioners, do to manage outrage and opposition in our own communities?

  1. Go beyond the project level

Dealing with emotion and outrage successfully is “about the whole system changing not just about completing a project,” says Stephani. She noted that this is a big challenge in P2, that so much of the focus is on the project level, which is not a way to change people’s hearts and minds. Emotion and outrage are often closely tied to a lack of trust. It’s important to do good P2 even when the public isn’t going to be upset and when you aren’t asking anything of them. Put goodwill in the bank over time, rather than starting from a position of asking for newfound trust at the beginning of each project.

  1. Do your due diligence

If there is one thing that John and Stephani taught me, it’s that there is no excuse for not knowing about opposition. None. You should never be surprised by the fact that there is opposition. To make sure this carnal offense never happens, do your due diligence. Talk to the community and ask them who else you should talk to. John said “the ability to predict how people are going to feel about a project is critical to the process.” Get out there and get to know your community!

  1. Don’t underestimate your community

Believe it or not, people want to help. Stephani said that she enjoys working in spaces with high emotion, because they “are spaces of opportunity and possibility; when people have passion, they give you something to work with.” An example of this is a story John told me about a transportation project in Arizona. A major intersection was going to be redesigned and would shut down access to downtown for 18 months. An environmental study predicted this work would lead to the closure of 15 local businesses. Originally the approach was an informational campaign, but then John brought the stakeholders into a room together with local residents and business owners to talk about any possible ways to mitigate the impacts. They adjusted, tweaked, and pushed the schedule around in a way that was able to “minimize anger and optimize the situation.” This was supplemented with a targeted promotional effort for the businesses that were going to be impacted the most. After much relationship- and trust-building, the community was determined to support these businesses. In the end six businesses opened, zero failed. Never underestimate a community’s ability to be creative and pull together.

  1. Put down the templates

IAP2 courses on emotion, outrage, and opposition will provide new ways of thinking about these issues and will provide tools and approaches to try. They will also help you think about how you show up to a meeting and what issues you and your organization are dealing with. Stephani said, “the course is a powerful first step in thinking differently and learning how to approach opposition and polarization in a different way. But it is not a magic wand.” Sometimes people think that if they fill out enough forms or the poster boards are good enough that it will overcome the outrage, but that will never be the case because then you are speaking a language they understand rather than their language. Stephani worked on a project in Canada dealing with conflict about language, a highly polarized issue rooted in identity, and she said “it is not about results or facts. It’s about the culture of communities. For this, we need a model for having brave and honest conversations.” In her work to unpack this issue and transform the nature of the conflict, Stephani worked with participants to create a story-based process where they could share their experiences- good, bad, and ugly. There is no template for doing this, but effective and successful P2 will help participants see the whole person and not just the issue.

  1. Relax, nothing is under control

Over-reliance on tools, process steps, and check boxes will gain you the illusion of control, but lose, as Stephani pointed out, “the heart, soul, and complexity of the issue.” It also, as John pointed out, makes you “lose sight of the fact that there are real human beings affected by what [you] do.” There is no magic formula for avoiding outrage. If opposition (that, hopefully, you were anticipating) arises, stop. Talk to people. Give them individual or small group attention and consideration. John noted that “the worst thing you could do is hold a public meeting.” This is an opportunity to build trust for both you and your community, and it is important to be able to trust them enough to give the control away. As Stephani said, “The messier it is, the more there is to work with.”

There is a lot of despair here in the United States and around the world. Despair created by nature, by humankind, and a combination of the two. I spent the last week surrounded by P2 practitioners at the North American Conference hosted by IAP2 USA and Canada, but attended by people from Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, South Africa, Europe – and those are just the people I personally encountered. Each one of these people attended the conference to become better at showing their communities not what makes them different, but what they have in common with one another. It certainly gave me hope to know we’d all land back home re-energized and ready to expand our community vocabulary.

Thank you to John Godec and Stephani Roy McCallum for taking time to speak with me about their experience designing the EOP2 course and their personal experiences dealing with emotion and outrage in communities.


WEBINAR REWIND: “Understanding the Squishy Stuff” + “Are We Smarter Together?” – August 15, 2018

Two presentations that challenged some of the key principles of P2 were featured in our last “encore” from the 2016 IAP2 North American Conference in Montréal.

MARK SZABODr Mark Szabo looked at the way the “squishy stuff” – emotional responses that are hard to quantify but no less important to consider – can be addressed. Jacques Bénard discussed the collective mindset, questioning whether decisions reached collaboratively are really the best ones.

Mark’s presentation aims at finding a better way to make sense of complex conflicts and help practitioners face these conflicts with confidence. The “squishy stuff” takes a project beyond simply following regulatory requirements and legal procedures. That understanding can help address things like “scale deficit” (where a narrow view misses a broader implication), a sense that people feel left out (even if they have been given a chance to be included), abuse of the system (such as protesters disrupting P2 sessions) and the wide range of public policies inherent in a democracy.

Not understanding the emotional aspect leads to what Mark suggests is an incorrect approach, in which values take a back seat to interests, and people’s emotions are discounted. Over-controlling something that is uncontrollable leads to what Mark calls the “Coherence trap”.

AUGUST WEBINAR-1Mark likens these emotion-related conflicts to the movements of a flock of starlings: there’s little real leadership and each bird’s actions feed off those of the ones close to it. You can’t predict where it’s going, and it’s impossible to control it.

Because these conflicts are dynamic, you can focus on specific patterns of interaction within the conflict and design new patterns of interaction. You can do that with five key questions:

  1. Who is actually in conflict?
  2. Who are merely influencers?
  3. What are the possible influencer coalitions?
  4. What are the common elements?
  5. Who needs to be persuaded right now?

As an example, Mark looks at the controversy over the Northern Gateway Pipeline. The broad issue breaks down into two parts: concerns over greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions related to the production and shipping of oil, and concerns over tanker traffic going through the Douglas Channel on the British Columbia coast.

The groups involved in the GHG concerns – the pipeline builder, the oil companies, environmental groups and the Government of Alberta – got together to discuss how to deal with that issue. Those concerned about impact on the Douglas Channel – the oil companies, the pipeline builder, the Aboriginal communities (there are nearly two dozen of them along the pipeline route from northern Alberta to the Coast) and the government of BC – got together.

Determining these “coalitions” is not easy, but Mark contends it leads to a much better outcome. It requires

  • Going against our natural urge to “make sense” of things
  • a comfort level with uncertainty
  • collaboration
  • humility
  • persuasion

And when you come up with a design for interaction, be prepared for the fact that not everyone will like it.


Jacques Bénard photo headshotJacques Bénard’s question asks whether we make better decisions individually or as a group. Social scientists have been looking intensely at the way groups operate since the mid-19th Century, during times of political and social unrest in Europe. The French scientist, Gustave Le Bon, observed that people in crowds lose their sense of self and personal responsibility and tend to follow the prevailing view, with collective intelligence falling to the lowest common denominator.

galton and friend
Francis Galton (l) with ox. Possibly, not the same ox.

From there, you could easily question whether crowd-formed decisions are the best ones, but then came the English mathematician, Francis Galton. In 1906, he took an ox to a country fair and offered a prize for anyone who could correctly guess the weight of the ox. The average of all the guesses was spot-on. This led Galton to conclude that, when unbiased by passion and motivated to do their best, a group could be trusted to make better decisions than their individual members.

The American psychologist, KZ Lewin, who coined the term “group dynamics”, noted that individuals behave differently in a group than they do on their own.

Other researchers find that the tendency to conform is so strong that people can be induced to go against not just their own values, but their own senses; the combination of psychological pressures, similar values and a crisis situation can kill any advantage that collective decision-making might offer.

Other factors that can diminish the benefits of collective decision-making include:

  • Polarization
  • the Spiral of Silence – people holding minority viewpoints are muzzled and even agree to things that go against their beliefs and values
  • the false consensus that results from the spiral of silence
  • social loafing – members of a group don’t contribute and leave others to carry the load

Since the notion that “good P2 means better decisions” is a cornerstone of the P2 profession, what does this mean for a practitioner? Jacques points out that the P2 practitioner’s job involves minimizing the negative influences around a group setting. He says we need to take a hard look at how to inform the public of the inherent biases in a process, and what responsibility do practitioners bear when group dynamics lead to an irrational decision.

IAP2 members can listen to the webinar – and the comments and questions that came in – here.