How long have you been in P2, and where have you worked?
P2 has been part of my professional responsibilities for just over 5 years. However, I’ve been reading, learning and intrigued about P2 since early 2006, and actually doing P2, unknowingly for about 13 years. I completed the P2 Certificate in 2013 and got accepted for the IAP2 Mentorship Program in 2013. I then joined the IAP2 Board as a Deputy Director in 2014 and attended the NA Conference in Winnipeg in the Fall of 2014. I’m currently on the IAP2 Atlantic Chapter Board.
My career path is somewhat unorthodox. I have an education degree, specifically physical education, and began my working career in the public school system. After 3 years, I chose to follow my passion for hockey and joined Hockey Canada. I spent 6 plus years in the development side of the game educating, coaching and promoting best practices with volunteers, parents and local minor hockey associations.
In 2003, I decided to return closer to home and began a new challenge as Deputy Director of the City of Dieppe Community Recreational Department. This role had me work very closely with our citizens and not for profit sector. After 3 years in that position, the Chief Administrator Officer of the time offered that I join his office to work on Corporate Initiatives related to continuous improvements. This lead to also working closer with elected officials.
What turned you on to P2 in the first place?
Questions around protocol and governance got my attention when I realized how much politics played a role in the city’s decisions. As I was under the impression that some key decisions at both management and city council levels were made in the absence of valuable data, I began Googling for best practices in governance and decision making. This is where I found IAP2 and a whole new world out there!!!
As a public servant, I had a goal of serving for the greater good. As an engaged and active Dieppe citizen, I had an interest in knowing our tax dollars were well spent and was hoping to contribute positively to the development of my community beyond my professional responsibilities.
Have you had a “Golden Learning Moment”?
When I first saw the IAP2 Spectrum, it clarified a lot of questions and confusing thoughts I had from all the reading I had done. It was at that time I could finally bring the theoretical and practical aspects of P2 together. It brought up the fact that we were doing some good things at the city level but that we were missing out on clarifying the Why we do P2 in the first place.
What “big wins” have you had?
The adoption of a municipal P2 Policy in 2014 was certainly a positive step towards institutionalizing public participation. However, our Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP) in 2015 was also a huge step in getting city council to actually agree to put some concrete action behind our P2 Policy. I was the “internal champion” with the city, and council agreed to move the process forward. We hired consultants from the Participatory Budgeting Project out of New York City to help build the process. Close to twenty people signed up to be on the steering committee and we made sure they represented the rich, poor, young, old, educated, non-educated.
The committee developed the guidelines for the projects that could go on the ballot and the consultants from PBP shared best practices from other jurisdictions; the committee then decided what would work for Dieppe.
One decision council had to make was who was eligible to vote: with PB, you don’t have to be a Canadian citizen to vote: if you live in the community, you have a right to say where your taxes go; council also agreed to let kids as young as Grade 6 vote – so you had 11 or 12-year-olds whose vote had the same weight as a 96-year-old.
Council put $300-thousand on the table – Dieppe’s total budget is about $45 million – and then stepped back to let staff and consultants put the committee’s decisions into action. I should note that they decided on $300-thousand after the PBP consultants told them St-Basile-le-Grand, Québec, had put $200K on the table and has a much lower population – there might have been a bit of “ego” there.
The Steering Committee collected ideas from the community, pared it down to the top-20 to go on the ballot, and four won the voting. Three of those ideas were things council probably would have been reluctant to accept, if it had been up to them: outdoor fitness equipment next to the aquatic centre; a climbing wall at the Dieppe boys’ and girls’ club; special flooring for the ball-hockey rink at the Youth House and renovating one of the playgrounds at an elementary school.
Other projects that didn’t make the cut – like a dog park, arts and culture ideas and some projects for seniors and the environment – are now being incorporated into the city’s future plans, anyway.
One of the disappointments for me, though, was that there was only five percent turnout. The PBP consultants said that was one of the higher turnouts they’d seen, but I think some people were skeptical about the process and some may have confused it with a budget simulation exercise we did a few years ago. That exercise was closer to “consult” on the Spectrum; Participatory Budgeting is more like “empower”.
Another thing the PB exercise did was let people express their views. Because Dieppe is one of the faster-growing cities in Canada, it’s had to invest in infrastructure and there’s a perception that the city is in debt. Some people said the city should take that $300-thousand and put it on the debt. This gave them a chance to be heard and showed that the debt is a concern for many.
We’re now going through a third-party evaluation: a professor from Université de Moncton has been meeting with focus groups, and now we’ll be taking her findings and our own report to council in September to decide whether there should be a second cycle. The Mayor wants to do it again, and at least one Councillor is in favour of making this an integral part of the budgeting process.
If you had anything to say to someone just getting into the P2 business …
For someone working in an environment where there isn’t much knowledge or understanding around what P2 really means, it is extremely important to find and network with colleagues that work in the similar area of business. In my case, I found resources and people with experiences in the Municipal sector with much insight and knowledge to share. Hence, I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. This allowed me to pursue my questioning and understanding of P2 with people that understood the framework and lingo.
It is also paramount that you help your colleagues within your own organization to get better acquainted with P2 values, principles and tools. You may still end up being the internal P2 champion but at the very least, you may or will, hopefully, have others who support your interventions and share your vision for what authentic P2 actually looks like!!!