It’s Day 2 of the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) Foundations course, and we’re wading in the thick of things. It’s a full, somewhat intense day with lots of information to take in, think about, mull over and, hopefully, fully digest.
Today is all about IAP2’s Five Steps for Public Participation Planning. This title is somewhat misleading, because there’s actually a lot more than five simple steps. Within each of the “Five Steps” are several “activities.” So really, it’s about 21 steps to making a robust, well-documented engagement plan.
It’s a lot of planning, but IAP2 has outlined this detailed process because it works. If you follow these steps with your project team, there’s a very good chance you’re going to end up with a successful engagement project – with both the decision-maker and the public agreeing that it was a success.
Here are four reasons why you should use the IAP2’s step-by-step planning process for your next engagement:
1. Reduce project risk: It’s not enough today for governments, companies or organizations to say “just trust us.” If the public thinks your project is going to impact them negatively, and the proponent downplays that perception, you could suddenly have a long line of angry residents lined up to yell at council during a public hearing. One of the important steps in P2 planning is a pre-consultation with stakeholders. That’s where you might find out that the public is incredibly interested in the decision and wants to be highly involved. Clearing up any gaps in internal perceptions vs. perceived impacts will help reduce risks.
2. Identify and involve all stakeholders: If you don’t follow the IAP2 steps, there’s a chance you might miss a group or individual who could be impacted by your decision. It’s not enough for one person sitting alone at a desk to think for five minutes about who might care about the project. P2 planning involves a team approach, detailed stakeholder mapping, a process to identify impacts, and again, pre-consultation to get external feedback on who cares and why.
3. Plan authentic, meaningful engagement: Again, if you’re launching P2 based on best guesses, you might end up holding an open house with two participants. The detailed planning process, on the other hand, might lead to a Twitter Town Hall, a workshop, and an online survey that results in much more robust, enthusiastic input that’s meaningful for both the stakeholders and the decision-maker. Bonus: this kind of authentic, well-planned P2 helps build trust and relationships over time.
4. Defend the decision: Ultimately, the rationale behind undertaking public participation is to support durable, sustainable decision-making. Detailed planning of the engagement means that you could easily explain or demonstrate why you did what you did. If someone was to complain about the process, or question why you didn’t hold that open house, you could show them the steps you took to arrive at the approach of the Twitter Town Hall, workshop and survey.
I’m sure there are many more reasons to follow the IAP2’s planning steps. I’m still learning. Check back for Day 3’s installment.