Submitted by: Marko Pajalic
This year’s IAP2 BC Chapter Annual Symposium, held on May 24th in Vancouver, brought together 20+ practitioners from transportation, health care, environment, planning and private/consulting sectors and stimulated our minds with presentations on Creative Engagement. The symposium was a wonderful opportunity to learn about some of the creative, accessible and culturally sensitive ways public participation specialists can engage the community, broader public and other stakeholders. It was also a great opportunity to connect to fellow P2 professionals across Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, and Calgary, with Richard (D&A Inc. President) and Valerie Delaney (D&A Inc. Principal) joining us from our home office in Ottawa.
Read on for a quick recap of the presentations.
During the symposium we heard about:
- Graphic facilitation and recording by Tanya Gadsby of Drawing Out Ideas,
- The co-design process and youth engagement by the Co-design Group (Drew Ferrari and Susan Chung), and
- Engaging multicultural groups and stakeholders and overcoming language barriers, by the ICON Project team (Sophia Khan and Barbara Ho).
1. On graphic facilitation and recording
I, and apparently most of the population who are visual learners, really enjoy the idea of expressing and taking-in processes and ideas through creative, visual forms, so the graphic facilitation/recording presentation was quite enjoyable. The real-time illustration of key ideas and processes during a staff or public meeting seems to have the potential to really “pull” people in, keep them engaged and even empower them by enabling participants to guide the artist or create the illustrations themselves. This is important as these graphic recordings can later be shared, publicly displayed, archived and consulted for broader and additional brainstorming, reflection and education. Essentially, they can serve as models or blueprints for advancing long-term visions and strategic planning.
The graphical facilitation and recording process was contrasted to PowerPoints that “push” information out and can sometimes be counter-productive by disengaging the audience. This made me think of Edward Tufte and his views on PowerPoint, although there are others who would disagree with some of what he says. In addition to graphic recording and facilitation, visually engaging the audience can also involve creative infographics or other interactive tools. Flowing Data and Information Aesthetics (two blogs I follow on a regular basis) post some great examples, although they are fairly skewed towards data visualization.
The session also reminded me of the really neat RSA Animate series – if you haven’t seen these, I highly recommend watching a few educational and thought provoking videos covering a wide range of social issues. And while these video illustrations are not “participatory,” they are quite engaging.
Also, thanks to Tanya for distributing some cool handouts! Her website is drawingoutideas.ca.
2. The co-design process and youth engagement
This session explained the co-design process. Part of this process involves having participants guide the artist in illustrating their vision on what a community or a place means to them. The goal is to create an output that reflects the participants’ vision rather than having planning or architectural drawings, which can often be difficult for the general population to relate to.
Another component of this process is to focus participants on thinking about what they like to do in their community and at which particular time of day, as opposed to thinking about the particulars of structural design. Participants can also be given a blank drawing sheet on which they could collaboratively or independently draw out their ideas on what they would like to see in their community. This reminded me a bit of the negotiation strategies of focusing on values, not positions – but that might be comparing apples and oranges! The session also focused on the benefits of engaging youth and how youth can offer insights and perspectives that we adults take for granted, are no longer able to see or notice, or are unable to articulate. Drew and Susan also highlighted differences between engaging youth and adults and overviewed some engagement and process tactics that are appropriate for various age groups.
The entire co-design process goes from ideation to the evaluation and ranking of ideas by peers and potentially the broader community, which can help identify concepts that have popular support.
Check out their site for more info at www.co-designgroup.ca.
3. Engaging multicultural groups and stakeholders and overcoming language barriers
Lastly, the Inter Cultural Online Health Network (ICON) Project, which is affiliated with the UBC eHealth Strategy Office, provided an overview of their multifaceted (blended) and comprehensive multicultural engagement effort in the health sector. Sophia and Barbara discussed the various tactics and strategies they used to reach out to diverse cultural groups and the various challenges they had to overcome (for example language barriers, cultural differences, time and space…). They discussed how to engage community leaders and ways that internet tools can support public health efforts referencing, for example, their experience with using multi-lingual webcasts and Twitter streams as ways to broaden reach, and the integration of online tools with face-to-face sessions. It was very interesting to hear about some of the large scale community events, where they used live cell-phone polling and translated tweets live into multiple languages.
I probably won’t do the project justice, so do refer to their comprehensive site at: www.iconproject.org.
For additional info on these sessions, check out this nicely done Storify!
I think the symposium was a success and added a few tools to the engagement toolbox – or at least ideas to consider in future process designs. We’re looking forward to next year!