We’re live at the IAP2 2018 PI Works Conference in Portland! Over the two day conference, we’re digging deep into public engagement tips, tactics and success stories, courtesy of the good folks from IAP2’s Cascade Chapter.
Follow along as we share what we’re learning about how to remove barriers, increase participation and build a more diverse community. We’ll be posting to this liveblog, and also tweeting from @ELGL50 and @NWELGL. Buckle up!
Friday, June 22
The venue for the Friday session is the St. Philip Neri Catholic Church in southeast Portland. IAP2 provided a breakfast spread that included hard boiled eggs, I’m in my element.
Today I’ll share ideas, thoughts, musings, and observations from eight TED-style sessions all devoted to different aspects of public involvement and community engagement.
Session 1 – Indigenous Land Acknowledgement – Suzanne Donaldson
We began the morning with Suzanne Donaldson and her mother, Patty, acknowledging that we are on Native land inhabited by the Cowlitz, Grand Ronde, Siletz, Warm Springs, Chinook, and Clatsop Nehalem tribes.
Suzanne let us know that photos are OK right now because this is not an actual ceremony. In addition to performing two songs, Suzanne and Patty shared about their Native culture and answered questions form the audience about their tribe, the Cowlitz Indian Tribe.
Indigenous land acknowledgement is becoming more common and Suzanne encourages us all to explore adding an indigenous land acknowledgment in our engagement efforts.
Metro Regional Government is the nation’s only elected regional government. Metro is responsible for a variety of services including garbage and recycling, cemeteries, and Portland’s beloved Oregon Zoo. Metro serves 1.5 million people in the Portland area. Momentum Alliance is a youth-led nonprofit whose mission is to inspire young people to realize their power individually and collectively and to mentor future social justice leaders. Metro and Momentum Alliance partnered together to implement Metro’s racial equity strategy.
Using a diagram, we discussed how white supremacy shows up in overt and covert ways. We were asked to circle one or two concepts and discuss them with our table. Emily then called us back together as a full group and asked us to share what we circled. The first person of color to respond said “EVERYTHING.”
Leading with race is critical. If we plan for those experiencing the deepest disparities in outcomes we will serve everyone. However, it can be difficult to convince white leaders in local government to lead with race; if you’re having difficulties convincing your organization to lead with race share the disparities in outcomes, the positive economic impact that a diverse community brings, and other statistics and data that will make the case.
Metro has found success in approaching racial justice from an organizational and a personal perspective; yes, that means asking employees to be vulnerable and to learn more about racial justice and how they can use their own privilege to combat systemic racism.
Big takeaways from this session:
- You can have a racial justice policy but if your employees are not personally invested your partnerships will suffer. Just because you have a racial justice plan you can’t make your employees more open and less racist.
- Treat community like consultants. Pay them for their time teaching you (serving on interview panels, focus groups, etc) how to do your job better.
- Asking communities of color to participate with an organization that will not talk about race is traumatic. Hone in on the emotional barriers to participation.
- Don’t expect to authentically engage with communities of color if you can’t retain people of color as employees.
- Learn about trauma-informed care and how it impacts the partnerships/relationships your organization has with communities of color.
- Stop saying “accountability” and ask “what are we doing with each other’s pain?”
- Handing out translated materials isn’t enough to engage. Community doesn’t know what they don’t know. Educate community about the services your city/county provide.
Treat partnerships with communities of color as long term relationships and not booty calls. Don’t call when you need something at 11 pm, build and nurture a long term relationship. – Emily Lau
Session 3 – Innovative Outreach For The Parks And Recreation Systems Plan – Lorna Flormoe
Lorna comes from the City of Eugene’s Office of Human Rights & Neighborhood Involvement where she and her team work to build a prosperous, equitable, and healthy community by working with formally recognized neighborhood associations, the City, and the broader community. Eugene has a large Latino/a/x population and chose to conduct an outreach project to specifically engaged with that community.
By partnering with local nonprofits and the University of Oregon, the City conducted a two-phase outreach approach: phase I involved the Latino/a/x community through partnerships/relationships, investment in local nonprofits, and a broad data gathering effort that netted 11 recommendations; phase II was more in-depth and involved 35 family interviews on the 11 recommendations that informed a plan to carry out strategies to better serve Eugene’s Latino/a/x community.
Big takeaways from this session:
- Get creative with your engagement efforts. PLACE IT! engages community through art, how cool!
- Pay community for their engagement with you. Those 35 families were compensated with gift cards to local grocery stores. Do you see a theme here?
- Make sure your park reservation system is accessible. If no one can find how to reserve a park and no one is out in the parks to ensure that those reservations are honored, you don’t have a very good reservation system.
Don’t speak “park planner” with community. Ask the simple question, “What is your ideal park?” – Lorna Flormoe
Lunchtime Awards Ceremony!
The following individuals and organizations received an IAP2 Core Values Award for embodying IAP2’s core values in public involvement.
Best Research Project – Coalition of Communities of Color: Leading With Race: Research Justice in Washington County
Best Planning Project – Portland African American Leadership Forum: PAALF’s People’s Plan
Best Organization Award – Camas School District: All Student Wellness Program
Respect for Diversity, Inclusion & Culture – Ripple Planning: Queets Village Relocation Plan: A Community Vision for a Safe Future Queets
Honorable Mention: Research Project – Metro Regional Government: Metro Mosaic Communities of Color
Honorable Mention: Respect for Diversity, Inclusion & Culture – City of Eugene Parks & Recreation Facilities Planning
Session 4 – Storytelling Makes For A Good Story – Kit Cole
Kit lucked out in her career and has always been the person the organization sends out to the angry neighbors! She shared her thoughts on how to engage effectively no matter how large or small or pleasant or pissed off your community may be.
Kit’s presentation began with a discussion about the power of reciprocity or as she put it “Everything I Needed To Know About Public Participation I learned From Brownsville.” Some advice:
- Be nice to everyone.
- Even if you disagree with someone you can work with them.
- Reciprocity works.
The second part of Kit’s presentation focused on the intersection of information and emotion. Community members come to situations with high emotion. Cities and counties come to situations with high information. Don’t come at high emotion situations with high information and expect to change minds; you can’t change hearts with information. People dig deeper into their positions when their in a high emotion state.
Big takeaways from this session:
- Conduct your public meetings in Spanish and interpret the meeting for the English speakers. Not the other way around as is typically done.
- People dig deeper into their positions when they’re in a high emotion state. Don’t take it personally. You’re not effective if you’re in a high emotion state yourself.
- Read Influence by but don’t use your newfound powers for evil.
The whole world is a small town. You don’t have to agree with someone to work with them to improve your community. – Kit Cole
Session 5 – Storytelling For Social Media – Jess Columbo
Jess shared her story about launching (and failing) the biggest campaign of her career. Everything felt like a big takeaway so here are some bits of advice (applicable for organizations and individuals alike) about how to stop sucking at social media.
- Today’s expectation of intimacy and access is unlike anything we have ever encountered. There is still something redeemable about the internet. Context is queen and requires a depth of empathy and understanding your user behavior. Content matters but context is more important.
- Instead of being the social media police give people the tools to use social media safely at work.
- The world is changing and the beautiful things don’t always make the front page. Stay engaged and look for the good stuff.
- Storytelling is good marketing.
- You use the internet to seek information, to get social support, or for emotional discourse. When you craft messages online make your users feel safe and pretty and loved because we need that right now.
- We don’t need to disrupt people, we need to add value. Don’t make local government a big disruptor, make it a big value add!
- DO NOT link your organization’s Facebook/Twitter/Instagram accounts. Create engaging content for each platform.
- Don’t ask your followers stupid questions like “What are you thankful for?” on Thanksgiving.
- Don’t go dark and share your thoughts and prayer unless you really really really have something to add to the conversation. Most of the time you don’t.
- Don’t give into trolls but understand that someone had a negative experience with your organization and that’s why they feel they have license to troll you.
- Your people are already telling amazing stories. Create the space for them to create your content.
- Own yourself in the digital space. Curate what people find about you. Log out of your social media accounts and see what is visible to the public. Google your name and fix anything that doesn’t align with your brand.
- Take your employees to the Apple store (or wherever you buy their phones) for a tutorial on how to take and send photos so Joe Schmo in government relations doesn’t send you another photo with people’s heads cut off.
- Document your social media objectives and create KPIs for social like you would any other program.
Everybody is a spokesperson for their organization. Treat your employees well. – Jess Columbo
Session 6 – Incorporating Trans-Justice Into Public Involvement – Yee Won Chong
Yee Won opened the presentation with a few thoughts to keep in mind for the duration of their presentation.
- Don’t run away from discomfort.
- Commit to non-closure. Terms and phrases used to describe the trans* community change. What is accepted today may not be accepted in the future. Just as some terms and phrases we once used are not considered offensive.
- Embrace paradox. US culture is very binary but gender (among other things) is complex and full of contradictions that can hard to understand.
We had a crash course in the gender binary and learned about assigned sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation: all of these are different things, y’all. We live in the age of Google so please don’t ask a trans* person to provide your education, take the initiative to learn a bit about this information. Basic Rights Oregon has great information, too!
There is a real lack of data on transgender people. There are currently two set of data on transgender people, TWO! The data we do have shows a huge disparity between cisgender and transgender people with regards to unemployment, poverty, and rates of suicide.
Yee Won walked us through the concept of “targeted universalism” to problem solve: solve the problem for the people who are most impacted and you’ll solve the problem for everyone.
Here are three problems transgender people encounter in their lives:
6 in 10 transgender people avoid using public restrooms for fear of being harassed. 17 states tried to pass “bathroom bills” in 2017. Let’s redesign restrooms to make them universal and accessible for everyone. Single stalls for all! Pee alone and wash your hands next to anyone!
1 in 4 transgender people are mistreated at work. Train your staff on pronouns and make sharing pronouns part of your culture. When in doubt use “they.” There are lots of resources available to help organizations support an employee who transitions at work, again, Google!
1 in 3 transgender people had a negative experience with a healthcare provider. Healthcare providers should provide care based on the organs you have, not the gender with which you identify.
Regarding the gender binary, when transgender people achieve liberation, cisgender people will be liberated too. – Yee Won Chong
Session 7 – Creating The People’s Plan – Joy Alise Davis
The Portland African American Leadership Forum exists to help Black Portlanders imagine the alternatives they deserve and build political participation and leadership to achieve those alternatives.
The PAALF People’s Plan came to be out of previously failed efforts to effectively engage with Portland’s Black community. To learn more about these efforts look no further than the Trader Joe’s resistance that took place in 2014.
The People’s Plan is split up into different sections that focus on 69 different actions related to eight specific areas related to the administration of justice, economic development, housing and more.
So, how did PAALF get there? In 2015/16 they held 26 engagement sessions with over 400 Black community members, led by a team of four where only one person had access to a car. <- that is DEDICATION!
They asked the focus groups simple questions:
- If Portland was an utopia, what would the African and African-American community look like?
- What does the current African and African-American community look like?
- How do we get to utopia?
- If you had to pick three priorities for the People’s Plan to focus on, what would they be?
- Where can you be Black in Portland?
PAALF leveraged and used art to draw people in to the engagement process. They met people where they were. They held meet-ups at Black-owned businesses. They worked with Black student unions. They went to parties and asked people “where can you be Black in Portland?” while dancing at 2 am (probably the most fun public participation, at least more fun than a public meeting.) They worked hard and got it done.
There are many ways of being Black as there are Black people, but the experience of being Black is what unites us. – Joy Alise Davis
My head is swimming with new ideas on how to improve the public involvement process. Here are some themes I’ve heard throughout the day:
- The line between a professional life and a personal life is blurred for employees who work in public involvement. That’s OK, figure out how to make it work for you and tell your manager it’s not a big deal. Being personable and vulnerable helps with building trust and relationship which helps the public involvement process.
- Stop depending on people of color, trans* people, and people experiencing disabilities to educate you. There is a wealth of information online, GOOGLE IT. Read a book. Check out So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo.
- The best public involvement processes are multi-faceted and targeted. Don’t hold one meeting and call it good. Engage community through a variety of methods, online and in person. Go to community, don’t make them come to you. Take your public involvement process and add on extra weeks/months to get it right. We can’t make informed decisions without getting solid information and getting solid information takes time and effort.
- Pay community members for their time and expertise. Whether you bring in community members to serve on an interview panel, focus group, or something else, pay them.