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Frequently Asked Questions: Professional Certification Process

What is the IAP2 Canada Certification program? 

The Certification program is a new professional designation available to IAP2 Canada members.Certification proves, through independent assessment, that you have demonstrated the basic knowledge and skills required to perform the role of public participation (P2) professional. 

Why is a Certification program needed? 

IAP2 created the Certification Program in response to requests by members and practitioners around the globe for a professionalization of the field, and standards for practitioners.  Professional certification requires a formal and independent assessment that an individual is able to perform against industry-defined standards. 

IAP2’s 5-day training program was originally called the Certificate in Public Participation.  Some participants in training misunderstood the certificate of attendance to mean Certification in the field.   While the training program did not provide a professional designation, it did provide basic foundational knowledge.  Having training participants wanting to refer to themselves as “certified” showed their desire to have a credential indicating they had a level of knowledge within the P2 profession.

Who created the Certification program? 

In Fall of 2013, the IAP2 USA Board of Directors received permission from the IAP2 Federation Board to proceed with developing a professional certification program for professionals in the US. The Board commissioned a Task Force to design a program. IAP2 USA invited all the Affiliates in the Federation to have representation on the Task Force. IAP2 Canada Board member Brenda Pichette joined the Task Force, as did a representative from Southern Africa.

The Task Force completed an initial design and conducted a pilot Assessment Centre in September of 2015. Efforts then turned towards incorporating lessons learned from the pilot and developing policies and procedures for the program. The Task Force will remain in place until completion of the initial program design; including recruitment and selection of an initial slate of Assessors. IAP2 Canada continues to contribute to this Task Force.

IAP2 Canada convened its Certification Task Force in 2016. Board Member Brenda Pichette was asked to lead this group. Two additional criteria (related to Indigenous Peoples) were added to the core competencies to reflect the profession and context in Canada. The first of two pilot Assessment Centres were held in the fall of 2016. One or two Assessment Centres have been held each year since the pilot. After a few years’ hiatus, an expanded Certification Task Force was convened in the summer of 2019 to finalize program design and recruit an initial slate of Assessors.

We would like to thank the Canadian Certification Task Force Members for all their hard work in establishing the Canadian Certification Program: Brenda Pichette, (chair), Gay Robinson, Natalie Henault, Tracey Ehl, Yvonne Morrison, Jessica Delaney, Jan Bloomfield, Chantal Barton. 

I took the IAP2 Foundations / Certificate in Public Participation training program. Is this not the same as being certified? 

Since 1999, IAP2 has offered training focused on the foundational knowledge and skills needed for designing and implementing effective public participation programs.   People who took that training were awarded a certificate of attendance at the end of the course. 

Some training participants misunderstood the certificate of attendance to mean Certification in the P2 field.  It was in part because of this confusion that IAP2 changed the name of the training program to the Foundations Program in 2014.

Professional certification requires a formal and independent assessment that an individual is able to perform against industry-defined standards.  Because IAP2 training programs have not historically contained an assessment process, there has been no way to confirm the participant’s ability to apply the knowledge and skills covered in the training. 

The five-day training is a prerequisite for certification, which means you are already eligible should you be interested in applying for certification.  The steps in the certification process, once an application is accepted, are designed to independently verify that candidates can perform against essential core competencies. 

Are there different levels of Certifications? 

There are two levels of certification; Certified Public Participation Professional (CP3) and Master Certified Public Participation Professional (MCP3), with different criteria and quality standards. The CP3‐level criteria are those which are indispensable to every public participation professional. The MCP3‐level criteria are additional skills and proficiencies attained by highly qualified and experienced practitioners.  

It is important to note that individuals MUST have their CP3 designation before applying for the MCP3 designation.  

What does a P2 professional need to do to become certified as a Certified Public Participation Practitioner (CP3)? 

P2 professionals wishing to become certified by IAP2 Canada must complete a multi-step assessment process:

  • Prerequisite – be a member in good standing of IAP2 Canada, or other IAP2 affiliate, and have completed the IAP2 Foundations in Public Participation (formerly Certificate in Public Participation) 5-day training program.

  • Application – complete a detailed application including resume, project descriptions and work samples.  Assessors will review the applications and select candidates to attend the assessment centre. 

  • Case Study – if invited to an assessment centre, prepare a detailed P2 plan based on the case study provided.

  • Assessment Centre – complete a series of interviews, presentations and exercises over a period of a day and a half.

Complete details of the assessment process can be found in the IAP2 Canada Certification Program Information Kit.

How do you become a Master Certified Public Participation Practitioner (MCP3)?

Once you have become a CP3 you can apply to become an MCP3.  The certification process for an MCP3 is an application.

What are the core competencies and how were they developed? 

The core competencies are the essential capabilities for a P2 professional to effectively design, implement, and evaluate public participation programs. The competencies emerged from qualitative analysis of a comprehensive list of knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, skills, behaviors, and capabilities identified in June 2014 by more than 100 P2 professionals from around the globe. 

The descriptions and quality standards for each competency were developed, tested, and refined through an iterative process involving IAP2 members. The Core Competencies include:

  • P2 Process Planning and Application

  • P2 Event Planning and Implementation

  • Appropriate Use of P2 Techniques

  • P2 Communication Skills

  • P2 People Skills

Detailed descriptions of the core competencies 

and quality standards are posted on the IAP2 Canada website.

Why is the 5-day IAP2 Foundations (previously Certificate) training program a prerequisite to Certification? 

While developing the Certification Program, the Task Force learned that most other professional certification programs rely on an academic program to provide foundational knowledge. Given that public participation professionals come from a wide range of academic backgrounds, the Task Force was not able to specify a single academic discipline that provides the definitive and most appropriate background for the P2 Professional.  

The Task Force eventually decided that completion of the IAP2 5-day Foundations in Public Participation training program (formerly called the IAP2 Certificate in Public Participation) was the most appropriate prerequisite.  Some reasons for this include:

  • Research has not revealed an academic or training program that provides equivalent comprehensive basic principles of P2, as endorsed by IAP2.

  • In order to offer a professional credential, IAP2 must be able to verify that the basic knowledge of candidates is adequate and comprehensive. The only knowledge base IAP2 has control over, and verification of, is the IAP2 Foundations Program. This knowledge prerequisite ensures candidates have a basic understanding of the important principles and aspects of public involvement.

  • The goal of the prerequisites was to ensure to candidates and the assessors that everyone starts the certification process with similar foundational knowledge.

What is the value of certification for IAP2 Canada members? 

Certification proves that you have demonstrated the basic knowledge and skills to perform the role of a P2 practitioner. You have been assessed against an established standard and been successful. The certification will prove to employers and clients that you have demonstrated your abilities in the core competencies of a P2 professional.  

When will I be able to apply for certification? 

We will have an ongoing application process and hold Assessment Centres when we have enough participants to run one – minimum of 3 participants. Assessment Centres are usually held twice a year: in May/June and November.

What does it cost to go through the Certification process?  

  • Certified Public Participation Practitioner (CP3):  the Application process is $250 and the Case Study Review is $450. If accepted the Assessment Centre process is $1,800.  The total is $2,500.  All fees are non-refundable.
  • Master Certified Public Participation Practitioner (MCP3): the application process is $750.  All fees are non-refundable.

Who will receive the Certification Program fees? 

Program fees will go to IAP2 Canada to cover costs associated with the program - including administration, expenses, honourariums for assessors, etc.  It is intended that the Certification Program will be a revenue neutral program for IAP2 Canada.

What happens if I apply and there aren't enough qualified applicants for the Assessment Centre?

We need three (3) qualified candidates to proceed with an Assessment Centre (AC). Why? A number of the Core Competencies rely on seeing individuals work in group situations; for example, Core Competency 5.1 "Work successfully with the public". So in order for assessors to appropriately evaluate you we rely on a minimum number of participants.

If IAP2 Canada is unable to proceed with an AC they will let you know as soon as possible and work with you to get you into the next available Centre. You will NOT be expected to re-apply or complete another Case Study. You will only need to prepare for the new Assessment Centre and pay accordingly.

What happens if I apply and there are too many qualified applicants for the Assessment Centre? Will I have to reapply, and pay the application fee again? 

If you apply and your application qualifies for invitation to an assessment centre, you only pay your application fee once. If we cannot accommodate you in that Assessment Centre we will hold your application until we find an Assessment Centre spot for you.  It is envisioned that there will be more than one Assessment Centre each year.

What criteria will be used to evaluate candidates and is there a scoring system? 

The application, case study response, and assessment centre are designed to accumulate evidence of each candidate’s knowledge and skills related to the core competencies.  It is recommended that candidates become thoroughly familiar with the core competencies, criteria and quality standards and approach the certification process as an opportunity to demonstrate and document their experience, capabilities, and performance against all of the criteria in all five core competencies.  Merely saying “I have done this before” or “I know how to do that” may not present compelling evidence to the assessors of a candidate’s capabilities.

Who will assess the Certification candidates?  How will these assessors be selected?

Assessors for the IAP2 Canada Certification Program are members of the IAP2 USA and IAP2 Canada Certification Task Forces. The process to select assessors is currently being developed.

Will Certification granted by IAP2 Canada be recognized outside of Canada? 

You will be recognized as having completed the rigorous certification process finalized by IAP2 Canada.  We anticipate that this certification will be recognized worldwide.  Please note that each Affiliate Certification Program is based on the foundations established by IAP2 USA – there are some unique elements added to reflect each country's requirements.

If an IAP2 Canada member has another type of professional accreditation (e.g. project management, coaching, facilitation or communication) is there credit available towards the IAP2 certification? 

It will not be considered as a direct credit toward certification (note there are some exceptions in the MCP3 process). However, the experience gained through that accreditation will most likely be evident in the application and assessment process.

Once I have become certified, what do I need to do to maintain my CP3 or MCP3 designation? 

There are both ongoing and periodic requirements for maintaining your certification designation.  On an annual basis certified practitioners must:

  • Remain a member in good standing in IAP2 Canada or another IAP2 affiliate.

  • Provide a minimum of 20 hours of volunteer (unpaid) service to IAP2 on an annual basis.  Eligible activities include leadership positions at the IAP2 Federation, affiliate or chapter level, service on IAP2  committees, participation in the Mentorship Program, development of case studies for use in the Certification Program, authoring articles for newsletters, leadership of an IAP2 sponsored webinar or conference session, etc. 

  • Participate in a minimum of 12 hours and two different professional development events annually.  Eligible activities include attendance at webinars, conference sessions, academic courses, training classes, etc.

Every three - five years (this is still being finalized), certified professionals must undertake recertification.  Details of the recertification process are currently being developed.

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