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IAP2 USA Member Profile Claudia Bilotto

April 22, 2020 Leave a comment

Claudia Bilotto, Georgia Area manager, WSP USA – Responsible for
Transportation Infrastructure Business

How long have you been in P2, and where have you worked?
I’ve worked in P2 my entire career — about 20 years. I have a degree in city and regional planning from Georgia Tech and when I first got out of grad school, I was young and eager and outgoing and interested in transportation. I got a job opportunity that enabled me to leverage those skills and be involved with some of the most exciting transportation projects in the region. It was with a woman-owned firm that did P2 work in transportation — that was our exclusive focus — and I was involved in some projects that connected me with some of the big names in the P2 I worked there for the first four or five years of my career, and that was a great way to meet a lot of the agencies engaging in P2 in this region and I was exposed to all the different types of methods that the clients used. Being with this firm brought other opportunities. I got engaged in some national organizations, including the Transportation Research Board (TRB) and its Public Involvement Committee. I was chair of the committee up until recently — from 2013 to 2019.


Public Consultation always seems to be a big issue with transportation. Why do you suppose that is?
There’s a legislative history in the USA, because there were times when the public wasn’t engaged and P2 wasn’t done effectively while infrastructure was being built. Roads or highways would go right through neighborhoods or sensitive areas without people being consulted, so there was a lot of distrust. With this industry, you can’t just do the bare minimum and “check the box”. Agencies are starting to recognize that they have to engage the public in a way that’s meaningful and that invites people to participate and develop trusting relationships — and the expectation of the public is that agencies will follow through on commitments made during the P2 process.


What have been some big projects that you’ve enjoyed working on?
I worked on a rural and human services transit plan, which was a statewide effort. This plan was focused on serving transit-dependent populations who don’t have other means to get around. Some may be seniors, who live in rural areas and don’t have cars. Because of the nature of the areas, systems are difficult to operate and it’s not a transit-friendly environment. The populations we engaged in this process were very appreciative of having a voice in the process. In a typical urban project P2 process, you are often talking about “another road-widening project” and people simply don’t care that much. But this group truly appreciated being asked for their input on something that would benefit them in the long run.


How did you reach out to people in the rural areas?
We worked through some of the state structures that were in place. In the State of Georgia, we have 12 Regional Commissions — these are agencies that assist local governments on a regional basis. We worked with the staff to identify whom we should bring together and used that as a conduit to find the right people to contact. For our techniques, we held meetings in convenient locations and also used a focus group format, where people understood the topics under discussion. We let people know ahead of time what we wanted to learn. The big thing was, this project did not involve pre-conceived notions. Often, P2 involves “Here’s our idea – what do you think of it?” This project involved listening to what ideas might be beneficial. I’ve also worked with Atlanta Regional Commission, updating their regional plan and community engagement plan. They have been open to new ideas, and are focused on going to where people are and using new engagement tactics, rather than following a predetermined format. It was fun to be involved in a project where innovation and creativity were welcome. One of the projects I was involved in from early on was a reversible express toll lane on Atlanta’s “Northwest Corridor”. This project originally started when I got out of school, and at the time, express lanes were a brand new concept, so we had to do a lot of education in the community. What’s more, the project changed shape many times over
the years. At one point it was going to integrate a transit component; at another point, it became a public-private partnership. With all those changes, you can get disheartened. My role changed, too. When I was first involved, I focused on public involvement, following National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) guidelines. I developed the original
public involvement plan outlining how we would engage the public and host the public meetings and charrettes to consider the various designs. Then I moved into the environmental side as the project evolved.
It opened in 2018 after about twenty years in the planning, design, and construction phases, but people are calling it a life-changing project. So being involved in something that took so long to come to fruition and seeing the impact it’s having on people’s lives is truly satisfying.

Have you had a “Golden Learning Moment” — something that went wrong, but you learned from it?
Certainly there have been lessons learned over the years … one of the things that was a problem early on was “siloing” and not having all the right players in the room when you’re engaging. Engineers don’t always feel comfortable dealing with the public and don’t want to address some of the issues. So what I learned was that bringing more resources to meetings and being willing to engage on topics that might be out of the scope of the immediate conversation goes a long way towards building relationships.
Successful P2 means having a long-term relationship in the community. We work a lot with MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority), and there are some parts of Atlanta where there is a history of distrust. We often have meetings about a specific project, like a transit extension, but citizens will come to the meeting and want to discuss other issues, such as service gaps. MARTA recognizes that it is important to go to any meeting prepared to talk about other topics — to broaden their scope — and have people on-hand to work through those issues; so they can be affected by that input
even though that wasn’t what the meeting was supposed to be about.


You’re on the Board of IAP2 USA, but there’s no chapter yet in Georgia.
We have two Georgians on the board now (Michael Bailey, in the Department of Human Services, is the other) and the future of IAP2 in Georgia is bright. We have members who have joined, along with P2 specialty firms; there’s also the Centers for Disease Control and more organizations interested in being a part of IAP2. We’re also working
on ideas for engaging state agencies to send staff for P2 training, so I’m excited about the possibility of getting a chapter going. We’re focused on planning a Skills Symposium for this fall in Atlanta if we can get past the current challenges posed by COVID-19.

How important is IAP2?
I find that having a network of professionals that have tried different things and have had lessons learned is so valuable. You need to have people to call as resources and conferences to go to where you can learn valuable information. P2 is very localized — I might not be the best person to lead a project in, say, Michigan where I don’t know the community — but the lessons learned are still things I can apply in my home community.


If you had anything to say to someone just getting into the P2 business …
I would say, approach things with an open mind and an open heart. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that when I’ve been at a public meeting, and someone starts acting in a disruptive way, it is critical to be empathetic to what that person might be going through. There’s a way to change the conversation in a way that benefits everyone. You get better outcomes when you can see the different perspectives

Categories: Member Spotlight

Congratulations to Victor Tran, the first recipient of the IAP2 USA Scholarship!

May 30, 2017 Leave a comment

Tran Victor quote

Victor Tran is currently in his first year of Portland State University’s Master of Urban and Regional Planning program. Motivated by his own family’s story of immigration to Alberta, Canada where he grew up, Victor was eager to learn more about how urban spaces can help reduce real and perceived barriers for different groups of people. How, in fact, the physical design of environments has direct outcomes on the health, sustainability, and overall quality of life for people.

Victor heard inklings of IAP2 when he was working with a business improvement district in Calgary, but as he dove into his planning studies this winter, IAP2’s connection with what he was learning and the work he hopes to do some day clicked. He joined the IAP2 Cascade Chapter and has been an active member since. He also looked around the PSU campus for opportunities to combine his passion for shaping the built environment and public engagement. What he found was a two-day intensive Public Interest Design (PID) course presented by Design Corps, the SEED Network, and the Center for Public Interest Design.

In order to make this happen, Victor sent in an application for the IAP2 USA scholarship in which he described his passion for public participation and the nexus between the goals of IAP2 and the endeavors of PID. The application evaluation panel called his narrative “a story of passion and commitment” said that his “resume shows growth in positions that he has taken starting from university level sustainability research, to designing education spaces [that] enmesh social justice and sustainability practices for youth… [and] most recently doing the leg work for two small community projects. This growth shows initiative, motivation, and passion.”

In April 2017, Victor attended the PID workshop and learned about all the ways in which design can “serve more than just an aesthetic purpose.” The workshop covered a wide scope of projects that demonstrate a truth that often gets missed: planning anything, whether it’s a park or a recycling facility or the place where the planning workshop is happening is a deeply personal endeavor. And it should be. These plans become physical environments that people interact with every day, and their “design should serve public interest.” Victor knows that what he learns through IAP2 can provide him with a wide variety of “tools for informing design strategies” and determining “how to measure and implement good public participation.”

“P2 is a form of democratizing the system so that ‘professionals’ can level the field and understand the people they’re serving. The goal is to remove as many layers of assumptions and biases as possible.”

Victor looks forward to challenging institutions that don’t do any P2 to really think about how their work is being done and the benefits their work is providing. He hopes that he can get them to think critically about how P2 could be integrated, how their constituency would be impacted by more P2, and what kinds of P2 would be possible. That being said, Victor thinks it’s “healthy to recognize that there’s rarely full consensus since everyone comes in the room with their own preferences and biases.” What’s most important is to “take time to listen and appreciate where everyone is coming from.” To him, “good P2 is being able to extend the conversation beyond the single event.”

Victor says the scholarship was a great opportunity and he is grateful to be able to participate. He enjoyed speaking with the panelists, and learned a lot from each panelists unique background and how they were personally involved with IAP2. He is happy to be able to stay connected with IAP2 panelists who are currently in Portland. He hopes to increase his engagement with IAP2 as time goes on. “The scholarship was a great launch into that world, and I have no doubt there are many more great resources that IAP2 has to provide.”

Member Spotlight: Larry Schooler

April 18, 2017 Leave a comment

Larry Schooler

By Lauren Wirtis, IAP2 USA Intern

Larry Schooler is Manager of the Public Engagement Division for the City of Austin, which, Larry jokes, sounds impressive until you realize the division is comprised of two employees. What is truly impressive is all that Larry and his division have accomplished since he started working there in 2009. For one, that was the year Larry became involved with IAP2 USA. After attending his first workshop, Larry thought: “I found it. I found what I’ve been looking for professionally as a field and a secular calling.” During the workshop there was an exercise where participants created headlines they wanted to see for IAP2; Larry still has that posted in his office. Over the years Larry has participated in many of the programs IAP2 USA has to offer.

Larry enjoys that “IAP2 feels so collegial and focused on the sharing of resources. I always walk away from conferences feeling like I learned so much and gave so much in return.” Larry decided to get more involved and was elected to the IAP2 USA board in 2011. In 2013, he was elected president of the board. At the time, Larry noticed that he was one of the few younger, public sector members of IAP2. He was excited to step up as president, craft a vision, and find people to help him carry out that vision.

Still an active member in IAP2, Larry considers himself to be “a community-wide interviewer” who ensures that decision-makers have information from a broad cross-section of the public when they are creating policy. At the Public Engagement Division, Larry and his team help other divisions implement good P2 by helping design the process, facilitate events, deploy a variety of digital tools, and analyze and summarize data. Larry gets the most satisfaction from his work when he hears from a citizen or member of the public that they feel like the process was a good one. “Sometimes I hear this from people who didn’t like the final outcome but think the process was fair.”

These moments make Larry feel like he’s achieving his mission to make the whole process fairer to a greater number of constituents. As a mediator, he works to develop relationships between diverse groups in order to get to a place of understanding and agreement at the end of the process, and has helped a number of task forces with diverse perspectives come to consensus.

“I think too often in the U.S. we’re so results and efficiency driven that we focus on getting to an agreement before we address the relationship.”

Larry has worked to build relationships between the City of Austin and the community using a wide range of tools. One is the Conversations Corps, a unique program in which volunteer liaisons go out into the community to hold meetings with the different districts. This helps the City reach a wider spectrum of constituents and create more representative policies and programs as a result. It also “empowers people to have conversations away from government that are about government issues.”

One of the greatest challenges Larry faces in his work is meeting people’s expectations for good P2. “There is a really high bar in Austin. A desire to shape, collectively, the city rather than for it to be bequeathed to a group of elites.” Larry continued, saying this is one of the best problems a public official can have, that the community has a strong desire to be a part of the conversation and be involved in City decisions. However, there is a conflict between the desire to do P2 and the amount of resources available. There isn’t a realization of what it takes to make good P2 happen.

This is a challenge many practitioners just entering the field will face. I asked Larry what advice he would give to new practitioners in the field. “My advice would be not to take advice, and have them bring their newness to the field.” While the core values can act as your guide, new practitioners can leverage their existing passions and strengths to become more effective in the field. In Larry’s case, this calls to mind work he has done on television, a media with which he’s more comfortable with than most because of his experience in broadcast journalism.

Tool Tip: “Just because you didn’t hear about a tactic during P2 training, doesn’t mean it’s not P2.”

Larry is certain P2 has a big role to play in the future as cities across the world continue to grow and diversify. “We’re in desperate need of people who are willing to step up and advocate for the field in the country. Through strength in numbers we can each do a little to lead to a big result.” Larry is certainly playing his part as he works as a Senior Advisor on the Divided Community Project, serves as a Local Board Chair for Generation Citizen, and is a Senior Fellow at the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life, all of which promote active citizenship and public engagement.

Larry concluded our discussion with some thoughts about IAP2 USA: “IAP2 has been a godsend to me for about eight years. I’ve been more involved at certain periods of my career than others. I certainly hope to continue to stay involved. I am so grateful for all the organization has given me – training and mentors – and have really seen it change my life for the better.”

Categories: Member Spotlight

Member Spotlight: Lulu Feliciano

March 23, 2017 Leave a comment

By Lauren Wirtis, IAP2 USA Intern

LuLu Feliciano

LuLu Feliciano

Lulu Feliciano is the Outreach Manager at San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). “We oversee transit, parking, traffic, bike lanes, anything that happens on the street regarding mobility.” Lulu first learned about IAP2 three years ago when she was able to get a seat at the City Planning Department’s five-day IAP2 Foundations course. The messages and tools presented in the course (the core values, the spectrum, etc.) struck a chord. Lulu had completed the SFMTA’s Transit Effectiveness Project, during which there was a fair amount of public upset about the redistribution of transit service. “The pain we were going through was beyond transit.” It was clear the community was not feeling heard.

After the IAP2 Foundations course, it was clear that SFMTA needed to create a standardized and streamlined approach to outreach. The agency worked with a variety of stakeholders, conducted numerous focus groups and interviews (both internally and externally) to understand how the public wanted to be engaged and the best way for SFMTA to accommodate those needs. Along with Deanna Desedas, Lulu helped develop Public Outreach and Engagement Team Strategy (POETS), which would eventually mandate that projects requiring a certain number of hours be assigned a public information officer.

That was just the beginning. In 2015, the pre-construction phase for the Van Ness Improvement Project began, in which two miles of the densely developed street were going to be renovated to accommodate a new bus rapid transit service in the middle of the street. Lulu and her team were determined to “engage and inform” the community, which included residents, business owners, and the hundreds of thousands of people that traveled to and through this street on a daily basis. Lulu used IAP2 principles to help create the engagement strategy, which included:

  • The City of San Francisco’s first pre-construction survey
  • The Van Ness Business Advisory Committee
  • Interactive Text Message Campaign
  • Project Overview Walking Tours
  • Meet the Expert Speaker Series

2016 IAP2 USA Core Values Project Award for Creativity and Innovation: Van Ness Improvement Project 

“The fact that this project is now serving as a model and inspiration for further innovation and advances
in the organization’s public participation practices is further testament to the value of this project.”
—IAP2 USA 2016 Core Values Awards Panel of Judges

“Van Ness was the first project to apply IAP2 principles. Now we apply them to all projects small or large.” P2 is equally important throughout the lifecycle of a project, from planning to construction to implementation. Reflecting back on the SFMTA’s P2 journey Lulu noted:

“Sometimes it’s through challenges, mistakes, and heartaches that you really learn your lesson. Now most everybody is mindful of good P2. I realize it’s more difficult, that it requires more time and more resources, but it brings better outcomes.”

Lulu says the biggest challenge of doing this kind of work is trying to balance public versus agency needs, especially in long-term planning. Trying to plan for 20-30 years in the future can seem gratuitous compared to the issues facing the community every day. Sometimes larger goals struggle to meet on-the-ground realities. “We can eliminate parking so that other vehicles can move around, but we have to be realistic that some people need cars. There’s no magic bullet for this stuff.”

One of the most important parts of her job is working with communities of concern and “engaging with them to make sure they have a voice at the table.” Lulu regularly relies on her IAP2 Foundations training as well as what she learned in the Designing for Diversity class: “The loud voices will be heard. It’s the quiet, more silent voices you need to elevate and pull up.”

Read more about the Van Ness Improvement Project in SFMTA’s 2016 IAP2 Core Values Awards Application.

Categories: Member Spotlight

Member Spotlight: Lauren Wirtis

February 23, 2017 Leave a comment

Lauren WirtisIntroducing Lauren Wirtis!

Lauren is a recent addition to the IAP2 USA community, becoming a member in January of 2017! We are also excited to announce that Lauren is our 2017 Intern. Welcome to the IAP2 USA community!

Lauren became a planner because she is passionate about P2. She is interested in what people think about the places they live, what changes they would like to see, and how to get more people involved in their communities.

Lauren recalled a time she took part in a series of open houses that were engaging the community around ways to reutilize a 35-acre waterfront property. During one meeting, community members had the opportunity to talk to Lauren about ideas they thought had been left out of the redevelopment options. Some of these ideas were included in the presentation at the next meeting. People were excited to see their ideas up on the screen. One woman in particular approached Lauren saying, “That was my idea! That’s the thing we talked about!” She showed up to every meeting for the rest of the project.

At the end of the day, “it’s that moment where people feel like they are making a decision about their own lives. A shift in their perception of their own abilities.”

Lauren is a Planner at Maul Foster & Alongi, an environmental consulting firm helping communities with brownfield remediation and redevelopment in the Pacific Northwest. Like many areas across the U.S., former mills and industrial development sites in the Pacific Northwest were tied to rivers and waterways. Now shut down, these sites create unique challenges to sustainability and economic development in local communities. As a planner, Lauren helps these communities figure out how to investigate these sites for contamination and develop short- and long-range plans for remediation that include the community vision and lay out the ordinances the communities can adopt to inform future development. “Participation in decision-making should be accessible, honest, and truly impact the outcome.”

“As a planner in community development, I see my role as the facilitator and interpreter,
translating between the world of public policy and the experiences of everyday life.”

—Lauren Wirtis

In Lauren’s experience, the biggest barriers to quality P2 are funding and time. Being efficient without sacrificing the end product is a tenuous balance. “I don’t bill for a minute more than necessary. Funding is hard to come by. Design standards are high, and we work hard to meet those standards without losing anyone in the process.” The amount of time and funding it takes to reach a truly representative group of a local community is, unfortunately, not always feasible. This can leave people feeling like they weren’t fully engaged or listened to, and being able to amplify the voice of those who have historically been silent is empowering to the community, and rewarding to those facilitating the conversation.

Categories: Member Spotlight

Member Spotlight: Chris Hartye

January 25, 2017 Leave a comment

Chris Hartye

Chris Hartye

Chris Hartye was formally introduced to IAP2 in 2008 shortly after joining the City of Hillsboro and being asked to update the Hillsboro 2020 Vision & Action Plan. Adopted in 2000, the 2020 plan was a 2002 IAP2 Core Values Award winner. The City of Hillsboro has most recently been recognized as the 2016 Organization of the Year Core Values Award winner for North America, due in large part to development of the Hillsboro 2035 Community Plan, which renewed the vision and action plan that guides the city. Hillsboro is a full service city with a population of 99,000.

With a background in strategic planning and stakeholder engagement from a business/economic development perspective, Chris recognized the IAP2 Core Values and Code of Ethics as largely “second nature” in the Pacific Northwest. It seemed a natural extension to conduct the City’s next generation planning efforts using the IAP2 P2 framework.

Chris gets the most satisfaction from hearing about what people are passionate about, “I love to hear firsthand what people care about, especially community members that don’t often voice their opinions, who aren’t always a part of decision-making processes. To directly hear their voice, passion, ideas, and dreams … to me, there’s really no substitute.”

Chris and his team made a point to go where people already are whether it be the farmer’s market, grocery store, or elsewhere. “When we meet people where they’re at, I find that they’re much more forthcoming as opposed to if you host a public forum, for example. People are often more candid, and more passionate, about the things that are important when they’re in their own environment. These are the conversations that carry with me as opposed to anything I’ve seen online or maybe heard at a public forum.”

hillsboro2035P2 = Empower Human Capacity

“Face to face allows for more robust conversation, and the opportunity to discover not only people’s passions, but their talents, resources and the skills they bring to the table. It’s often through P2 that we recruit our volunteers; you wouldn’t know or discover these talents if you weren’t out there doing P2. It helps you discover the human capacity in your city. And then to try to empower that as best you can – find opportunities to involve folks in what they’re good at; what they’re skilled at.”

#1 Challenge – Truly and authentically reach diverse audiences

The biggest barriers to authentic engagement are often language and cultural barriers. “It’s an ongoing, day-to-day thing; a box you never check.”

Hillsboro has communities of “new arrivals”, new residents that often haven’t formed formal organizations, so it’s challenging to reach out to them but the process can be fairly straightforward. From the first awareness a new group is emerging, a few of the first steps are:

  1. Awareness and identification – Understanding the demographics, the numbers, the geography of where folks are settling; what languages are spoken by the community;
  2. Finding community leaders – Whether they come through the faith community, are in the nonprofit realm, the business community, or affiliated through the schools;
  3. Engaging and listening to those leaders – But not by asking them to speak for everybody. “It’s not: we’ve talked with these leaders, so we’re covered; it’s about allowing them to inform you – local government – on the best way to go about engagement.”

“We try to be deliberate with community leaders in clarifying that we’re not here to ask them to be representative or make decisions on behalf of their communities; rather, we’re here to learn how to best engage with the community. And in the end, it’s that “little bit at a time” that moves us forward to creating new futures together by allowing P2 to help grow relationships and capacity.”

Chris has shared his story about the City of Hillsboro’s Community Visioning Process as a Core Values Award winner with IAP2 in the December 2016 webinar, as well as at the 2015 ICMA Annual Conference in Seattle with City Manager Michael Brown, and he looks forward to getting more involved in the IAP2 USA Cascade Chapter. To learn more, visit our 2016 Core Values Awards page.

Member Spotlight: Tom Parent

October 19, 2016 Leave a comment

Tom Parent accepts the 2016 Core Values Award for Respect for Diversity, Inclusion & Culture on behalf of Saint Paul Public SchoolsThree years ago when Tom Parent, Facilities Director for the Saint Paul Public Schools in Saint Paul, Minnesota, embarked on the process to renew the 10-year Facilities Master Plan, he didn’t foresee winning the 2016 IAP2 USA Core Values Award for Respect for Diversity, Inclusion & Culture. What he did see was a district-wide commitment to honoring diversity and inclusion that he was determined to embed in every aspect of the facilities planning process.

To give you a sense of the magnitude of this project, Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) is Minnesota’s second largest school district serving more than 38,000 students with 78% students of color, 72% in poverty, and more than 100 languages and dialects spoken. The district has 72 facilities (68 of which are schools), 7.3 million square feet of space, and 465 acres of land constituting a 2.1 billion dollar portfolio.

Tom was introduced to IAP2 in 2012 by IAP2 USA board member, and then Board of Education member of Saint Paul Public Schools, Anne Carroll, when she delivered a training to district leaders in the three IAP2 pillars: the Core Values, Ethics, and Spectrum. He joined IAP2 USA at the onset of the Master Planning work when he realized how the tools would play a critical role in changing the process.

“Getting off the ground was as important as anything. We understood facilities master planning from the perspective of technical experts, and we needed to be clear with everyone involved that we had a lot to learn from community aspiration, and how to capture that for our vision for the learning environments we create for students.”

Tom relied on the IAP2 Spectrum to help his team make the transition from “technical experts delivering design conclusions to the community” to engaging the community in every step along the way.

“It was important to consistently establish where we were on the Spectrum and target our activities based on who would be at the table. It was an iterative process of defining first where we were and where we wanted to be and being inclusive in the ways we chose to get there. Using the Spectrum in this way became very aspirational. We set ambitious process goals and were excited to see them come to fruition.”

Another early critical decision was to require every district employee as well as external consultants who participated in the Facilities Master Plan to undergo intensive racial equity training – the district even invited all members of the local chapter of the Institute of Architects to participate.

“From the onset a key focus was having people show up authentically in the process. We didn’t want people to show up with administrative privilege. The people facilitating the meetings had to have the ability to navigate the challenges of structural racism and honor different perspectives. The 16 hour training we went through helped us develop a framework for how we identify, talk about, and address issues of systemic racism. It’s about understanding these topics are hard, and there a lots of challenges that come with them that make it too easy to shut down, but we all have to live in the discomfort of addressing them.”

Throughout the process, Tom was most personally impacted by the student voice.

“Hearing what students had to say was the most powerful work we did. When we hear the perspective of students who spend 13 years in our educational system, and learn about how they work, socialize, and learn, that’s when some really great work happened. To give them the ability to have input into end design was as empowering for us as it was for them.”

All too often Facilities Master Plans are driven by compliance and destined to sit on a shelf. In contrast, this plan is intentionally not complete, but rather is set up to support ongoing engagement and planning to honor the process. “We’ve changed the culture around how the the district does master planning. It’s a living document that reflects how we approach managing our buildings and grounds moving forward.”

Tom ParentAnd Tom is sharing his department’s learning with principals and administrators across the district.

“This August, we did a workshop with systems leaders – the academic and operational staff dedicated to student learning – about how the master planning process unfolded, and how we used stakeholder mapping and identified the various levels of communication and engagement in daily practice. We were able to share how it doesn’t need this big process like a master plan to be intentional about including the end-users of decisions.”

Tom has presented locally and nationally on issues of long range educational facility planning, equity, and the intersection of the two.

Member Spotlight: Traci Ethridge

September 13, 2016 Leave a comment

Traci Ethridge

Traci Ethridge

Traci Ethridge, Assistant Director of Corporate Communications & Marketing for the City of Charlotte, North Carolina, first learned about IAP2 from colleagues who had attended the IAP2 Foundations in Public Participation program. “I was part of a working group tasked with examining how the city was engaging with the community and developing an overall strategy moving forward. We wanted to make sure that we were bridging the gap between the community and local government. Our organization has success around a lot of projects and initiatives and we wanted to implement a standard practice such as the IAP2 Spectrum.” The Spectrum will become the foundation to community engagement planning and a key piece in shaping the city’s overall strategy.

The City of Charlotte was one of the first municipalities to take advantage of the IAP2 USA Government Membership program when it was introduced in January 2015. “We definitely saw it as an investment in the direction we were moving and wanted to make IAP2 resources accessible throughout our organization. As we continue to engage the community in initiatives like the Community Investment Plan, we recognize that various projects can be in different places on the Spectrum. The important thing is that the community engagement plans begin with a high level overview of the Spectrum and the understanding that we are connecting with the community throughout the life cycle of the project.”

Beginning in the fall of 2014, the city conducted a series of community meetings to begin planning efforts for the Cross Charlotte Trail (XCLT). “The team decided to organize pop-up meetings to engage with the community and this method proved to be very successful. They attended neighborhood meetings, participated in weekly bike rides and connected with people at local festivals and events at locations along the proposed trail route.” This spring the trail project was awarded the Region of Excellence Award by the Centralina Council of Governments.

 

 

For the City of Charlotte, community engagement isn’t just about planning capital improvement projects. It’s about reaching people, listening and even tackling tough, sensitive issues impacting the community. The work being done by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) is a great example. An initiative called Cops & Barbers provided a forum for open, honest dialogue on police and race relations in the African American community. It is an opportunity to meet people where they are and where they routinely go (the barber shop) and start a conversation between officers and people of all ages in the community. Last year, CMPD partnered with the North Carolina Local Barbershop Association to coordinate town hall meetings throughout Charlotte. The program was recognized by the White House Task Force on 21st Century Policing. A simple, yet impactful idea turned into a form of community engagement that brings diverse groups together.

“It is exciting to see the connection grow between our organization and the community we serve. We have a unique opportunity to effectively engage with our community through many platforms and cover a variety of topics that matter to those who live, work and play in our city. I look forward to seeking out ways to incorporate more of the IAP2 Spectrum into all aspects of our engagement.”

Traci volunteered to serve on the IAP2 USA Communications Committee in 2016, and has gotten involved in the organization’s communications planning initiative. “IAP2 USA is committed to helping organizations figure out where they are on the Spectrum and helping them be successful with their community engagement initiatives. I’ve learned so much from other committee members and from members in other cities who are trying new things and engaging in different ways. IAP2 USA is a perfect fit for what we’re doing here at the City of Charlotte.”

And she’s excited about bringing community engagement to the next level at the city. “There are people who do some form of community engagement in every department. Whether it’s employees out in the field, project managers, city leaders or elected officials, there is interaction with the public on a daily basis. As an organization, we want to engage, build relationships and actively collaborate with the community.”

Traci is hoping to reconvene the working group to look at embedding P2 in the city’s overall strategy for planning and delivering city services. “We’re seeing the positive impacts when we listen to what matters to the community and bring back what we’ve learned. Now I want to look more holistically at how we put all of the pieces together to establish community engagement at the core of everything we do.”

Traci recognizes the city can’t use a one-size-fits-all approach, but is asking questions around “What does engagement look like from an overall standpoint? Are we hitting the target to engage effectively? Are we being intentional about looking for ways to engage the community?” While these questions will be answered over time, she sees the IAP2 Spectrum as the foundation to build a lasting strategy for engagement.

Member Spotlight: Deanna Desedas

August 5, 2016 1 comment

Deanna Desedas

Deanna Desedas

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Public Outreach & Engagement Manager Deanna Desedas was first introduced to the IAP2 Core Values, Code of Ethics and Spectrum by Lewis Michaelson when she attended the IAP2 Foundations in Public Participation program (formerly called the IAP2 Certificate Program) in June 2013.

In her role with SFMTA, Deanna oversees the outreach and engagement for major capital construction and neighborhood-focused projects conducted by the agency. “We have hundreds of staff who conduct public outreach and engagement as part of the work they do for the agency. The challenge was how to bring authentic public engagement to scale.”

“We had identified a number of pain points. The community expressed growing frustration with the Agency’s approach to public outreach and engagement, and we would receive complaints about outreach occurring too late in the process, difficulty in reaching the agency and understanding who is in charge of a project, and a lack of consistency across projects. When this frustration turned to opposition, it created costly delays in project delivery in several ways, such as threatened lawsuits, negative press, protests and political pressure.”

sfmtaThe San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) oversees the public transit system (MUNI), bike and pedestrian programs, taxis, parking and traffic control operations in San Francisco. It is responsible for moving over one million people safely and efficiently each day and employs over 5,000 staff. It must deliver hundreds of capital projects to improve public transit, streets and safety each year.

 

To take on the challenge, Deanna embarked on a process to develop a Public Outreach and Engagement Team Strategy (POETS) that would help develop public outreach notification standards for all staff conducting outreach and engagement. By August 2014, she had launched the “POETS Peer Group” a team of 40 hand-picked Project Managers and Project Leads chosen for their leadership skills from multiple divisions across the agency with buy-in from all departments. Over the course of the next year, the POETS Peer Group conducted research on best practices, solicited feedback on drafts and vetted standards and guidelines. Ideas were sought from Portland, Boston, Los Angeles and New York. A grant from the Davenport Institute for Civic Leadership and Public Engagement supported development of the program.

“We needed to put together something compelling about how we engage the community when we implement projects with significant impact. We needed something different than a spreadsheet that listed public engagement as a task to be checked off without further elaboration.”

In early 2015, Deanna enrolled SFMTA in IAP2 USA’s Government Membership Program, which allowed her to enroll all project managers and project leads with public participation responsibilities. Since that time she has worked with IAP2 USA and Lewis Michaelson to bring the IAP2 Foundations program in-house. “Broadly training our project management staff gives us a common language – the IAP2 framework – to talk about and measure the effectiveness of our public participation efforts.”

Deanna and her colleagues within SFMTA use the Core Values and Spectrum every day. “Every project that involves putting together a Project Needs Assessment and Communications Plan requires us to think about the level of engagement we’re looking for depending on the nature of the project, and we frame the techniques we use around that level of engagement. Another way to look at is that we use the IAP2 Spectrum to put together the plans.”

While continuing to push forward, Deanna is now able to sit back to reflect on her efforts. “Now when we engage with stakeholders we try to really listen to them and take their concerns and input to help shape a better project, which helps projects run more smoothly and reach completion within better time frames.” But what Deanna finds most rewarding is building relationships and trust for the agency. Through the work she has done to bring authentic public participation to scale, Deanna has seen a change in public perception of the agency and its role in the community. “You have to have a base, and IAP2 is the solid base from which we started.”

Categories: Member Spotlight

Member Spotlight: Theresa Gunn

June 2, 2016 Leave a comment

Space station astronauts see 16 sunrises each day, and with each sunrise comes the thrill of a new beginning. Have you ever met anyone who has had the good fortune to be in on the new beginnings? That’s been Theresa Gunn’s experience with IAP2.

Theresa Gunn

Theresa Gunn

Theresa served as Chair of the transition committee that formulated the IAP2 USA Affiliate agreement, and subsequently served as President of the inaugural IAP2 USA Board of Directors from 2011-2012 where she oversaw the nascence of IAP2 USA. She also served on the first IAP2 Federation Board of Directors following the March 2010 decision to move to an Affiliate model, first as Treasurer, 2011-2012, and then as Deputy Presiding Member in 2013. After a short sabbatical, Theresa volunteered to chair the Membership Services Committee, 2014-to-date, where she continues to champion new beginnings.

“As a membership organization, we need to continue to grow the practice of public participation by expanding our reach and creating attractive membership and learning opportunities for people within the practice. In the beginning, we primarily represented sole practitioners whereas today we’ve grown to serving agencies and organizations who are living the Core Values every day. We want to make sure they’re part of our organization and we’re meeting the needs of our members.”

Theresa and the Membership Services Committee piloted the Government Membership program which began with the cities of Fort Collins and Longmont, Colorado in late 2014, and has since grown to include government entities representing municipalities, transportation, natural resources, regional planning, and school districts. Later this summer, the Government program will launch IAP2 USA’s first online Community of Practice to provide members in the same industry with opportunities to network, share best practices, and bounce ideas off each other.

Designed to allow the members of the community to define what they want to do and how they want to engage, the program will expand to include additional, self-defined communities so as to meet the needs of that group.

Theresa is looking forward to the day when we can offer tracks at the North American Conference to represent member interests whether it be by organizational type such as nonprofits or local government, or industries such as infrastructure (e.g., utilities or transportation), or issues such as the environment or sustainability. “Already we have members coming together by geography through chapters, and we need to find more ways to support networking to share best practices and build the profession.”

While not directly involved with the Certification Task Force, Theresa is a champion of their efforts and a proponent of developing the Professional Certification program. It was a priority for her as a Federation board member where she was able to shepherd the process that gave IAP2 USA permission to develop the program.

“IAP2 USA is a global leader in establishing the gold standard for public participation. Professional Certification will ensure organizations relying on certified practitioners are going to get the best of the best, and community residents who are participating in these process will be assured these are transparent, open processes founded on research-based best practices.”

And she is a champion of the work the organization is doing to support chapters. “We’ve seen some really good work come through the Chapter Liaison group this past year from developing the Chapter Handbook so everyone knows what resources are available to launching the chapter grant program and developing a chapter mentor model for emerging chapters. The services the central office can provide are much better defined, and chapters are better positioned to take advantage of the support that can be provided.”

Theresa is extremely passionate about the practice, and has seen the impacts P2 can make whether it be through a local flood control project or being the change agent who is able to help organizations fully value what their community can add to the decision-making process.

“Oftentimes we’ll hear ‘Oh, I’m the planner’ or ‘I’m the engineer, I have the expertise to do this.’ But then they’ll jump to the tool without really defining what they’re looking for. When we show people the Core Values and help them create an understanding of why they want to reach out, what information do they want, and how are they going to use that information, it changes the conversation. Open, honest, transparent processes allow communities to come together and make a difference. Instead of hearing from just the 10% who want to stop everything, decision-makers hear from everybody, including the people who want to make a difference.”

Where do we go from here? What’s next?
Later this year the Membership Services Committee plans to conduct another membership survey to get updated feedback on what members are looking for and how best to deliver programming.

“The last membership survey we did was two years ago when we were working on the 2015-2017 Strategic Plan. Since then we’ve added a lot of programming and we want to make sure our members are aware of the programming opportunities, that we’re presenting them ways that allow them to participate, and that their needs are being met. We need input to shape the 2018-2020 strategic plan and we need to be proactive in how we engage people early in the planning process to learn from membership as their needs change.”

Theresa regularly asks her staff, “How have our projects impacted somebody today? Are we making a difference in people’s lives and the communities they live in?” The projects undertaken by the Membership Services Committee and the efforts of others reflect the passion and commitment of those deeply engaged in the work of the organization and the impact the profession can have in making a difference in people’s lives and in the communities they serve.

Today is a new day at IAP2 USA.

Space Station Sunrise

Categories: Member Spotlight