Thursday, May 20, 2010

Public Engagement 101- Sector Reviews

Yesterday, I attended one of the two Public Engagement 101 sessions put on by Dialogue Partners, who will be leading the upcoming Sector Reviews for Edmonton Public Schools. I picked up some critical information that I would like to share with you:

Dialogue Partners adheres to the IAP2 (International Association for Public Participation) core values, code of ethics and practice. You should read through the core values and code of ethics to understand what this means and it will give you a good idea of what to expect.  As well, you should DEFINITELY read the Spectrum of Public Participation and know where this process of sector reviews falls on the spectrum. EPSB is committed to the INVOLVE stage. We have not committed to go beyond to COLLABORATE or EMPOWER.

Here's what INVOLVE means according to the IAP2 Spectrum: 
Goal- to work directly with the public throughout the process to ensure that public concerns and aspirations are consistently understood and considered.
Promise to the public- We will work with you to ensure that your concerns and aspirations are directly reflected in the alternatives developed and provide feedback on how public input influenced the decision.

(FYI- The lower stages of "Inform" and "Consult" are also inherently and automatically included in the next stage: "Involve".)

To contrast, here's what COLLABORATE means (which is the next step beyond INVOLVE):
Goal- to partner with the public in each aspect of the decision including the development of alternatives and the identification of the preferred solution
Promise to the public- We will look to you for advice and innovation in formulating solutions and incorporate your advice and recommendations into decisions to the maximum extent possible.

Many people in the public seem to think we are (or should be) at COLLABORATE, but I must emphasize again that the Board has only committed to the INVOLVE level of public participation.  A good deal of tension exists, I believe, because of a misalignment of expectations.

There was some good information provided at the meeting on what will happen, when and how this will all roll out.

Step One: Between now and June 25- there are workbooks to be completed, community forums to be held, conversations with kids in grades 6 and 7 at several schools, and an on-line discussion to be hosted at starting on May 28. All of these venues will gather input on key principles, values, issues to guide the conversation. Dialogue Partners will be, in essence, holding a values-based conversation to uncover what is important to you and this will form the basis or foundation for the next set of conversations.

Step 2- September and October: more workshops (2 held in each sector) and a think tank of government officials and organizations.  At this point, the foundation established in Step One will meet the data, facts, constraints and realities. We will look at ways to move forward. How do we balance all the needs?   What options make sense? (see website for details:

Step 3-
November 2010:  Dialogue Partners creates a final report for EPSB and presents it to the trustees.
Between November and  January 2011: The EPSB Administration creates recommendations (for closure, consolidation, program reconfiguration, etc.) in consideration of Dialogue Partners report. (see "promise to public" under INVOLVE above to see how we commit to use the report.)
January 2011- Recommendation to consider closures (or other school space changes) will come to Board for a vote. If passed by the trustees, the process mandated by the School Act kicks in, which includes more public meetings, etc.
Approximately March/April 2011: Vote to close schools. Trustees make the final decision.

There were many questions at the session and a lot of table discussion. The facilitators have promised to get answers to the questions and post them on their website.

For more information on Sector Planning Review and how you can become involved please contact Dialogue Partners toll free at 1-866-269-1276 or by email at Project website:


Jodine said...

I was at the morning Public Engagement 101 session, Sue, I assume you were at the one held in the afternoon for trustees?

I do not recall at any time that there was any indication given that EPSB has not committed beyond the "Involve" stage of the spectrum of participation as outlined by IAP2.

I will note there were several in the room who said to me personally that they completely did not believe the part of the process, under Empower, that promises "we will implement what you decide." Clearly they were also left with the expectation that EPSB plans to proceed to Collaborate and Empower.

I also note the promise under Involve which says, "to provide feedback on how public input influenced the decision." Since Dialogue Partners was the consultant for the sectoral reviews that resulted in the most recent school closures, when can we expect to see a report indicating how the public input influenced the decisions in those closures?

I agree with you when you say "a good deal of tension exists, I believe, because of a misalignment of expectations."

Sue Huff said...

Hi Jodine,
I was at the morning session for the public with you. Stephani very clearly indicated that EPSB has committed to (and only to) the INVOLVE stage. There is no commitment to go beyond to the COLLABORATE or EMPOWER stage and if people are expecting this, they will be disappointed. The confusion I think comes from, in part, the spectrum diagram with the large arrow going from left to right...which may lead one to believe that we are moving along this spectrum and will inevitably end up at the "end", or EMPOWER. I must state again: This is not the case. We are at INVOLVE and will stay at INVOLVE the entire time. (Unless the next Board decides to change that.)

RE: Your last question about showing how public input influenced decision-making. The Board makes the decision so they would have to show that alignment. However, the recommendations coming from Planning (which the Board votes on) also need to demonstrate alignment. As an individual trustee, that's what I asked for. I think the public is entitled to see how their input influenced the decision.

Jodine said...

Sue, I just reviewed the information that Dialogue Partners has up on the sector review website specific to the Public Engagement 101 workshop.

None of the information that is here discusses the fact that EPSB has committed to, and only to, the involve stage.

I agree with you about expectations (although I will say the people I have talked to have a very low expectations of this particular public engagement process, anyway.)

-- Jodine

Stephani Roy McCallum said...

Hi Sue and Jodine (and other readers) - I'm writing to clarify what the IAP2 spectrum for public participation means for the sector planning review public engagement process.

This is what I stated in the Public Engagement 101 session:

The IAP2 Spectrum is a MENU that outlines the role of the public in a particular process, and the commitment to the public about what will be done with their input.

I did say that the "INFORM" level will be used throughout this process, to provide participants with balanced and objective information, so that they understand, with a commitment to keep them informed.

I also said that this public engagement process for sector planning review is at the "INVOLVE" level, for input used to develop administrative recommendations to trustees. Trustees will then make decisions.

The Spectrum shows an arrow at the top, moving to the right, with the increasing level of public impact on the issue. That does NOT mean however that the process is cumulative where you move from one step to another throughout the process. Collaborate and Empower are not levels appropriate to this sector planning process.

When you go back to the Core Values for Public Participation, the goal is to consider the needs and interests of all stakeholders, including decision makers. In sector planning, many of the issues under consideration include constraints that must be addressed, and challenges that are outside the control of EPSB, so Collaborate and Empower are not commitments that can be made related to the public process.

I hope that clarifies things!

Jodine said...

Thanks you, Stephani, that does clarify how the information was presented.

I would suggest that if you continue to use this diagram you may want to clarify EPSB's level of commitment in writing so those of us who rely on more on visual than auditory input have a clear understanding of the process.

I still agree with Sue's original point -there is the potential for frustration and disappointment if people are not are not clear on EPSB's level of engagement.

I've included a link to the diagram we are discussing for anyone else who may be reading.

rjkoopmans said...

The engagement of the public is always key Sue. But why were the Trustees beyond Cair Fleming told to keep quiet at school closure meetings?

Rory J. Koopans

Sue Huff said...

We weren't told to keep quiet-- we were free to circulate through the room and listen to (or participate in) conversations happening at the tables. I spoke at the tables I sat with and asked/answered questions. Our main job was to listen to the feedback from people in the room. The Board Chair was the only one who spoke at the microphone, as it is our protocol that only the Board Chair has the authority to speak on behalf of the Board. Some people felt the trustees should have been fielding questions from the public, but we had Dr. Parker from Planning do that because it was felt that he was the one most qualified to answer the questions.