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Samantha Mark - Sr. Mgr., Regional & Community Planning, Prairie Wild Consulting

16 Mar 2018 2:24 PM | Anonymous

How long have you been in P2, and where have you worked?

I have been practicing P2 since graduating from the Regional and Urban Planning Program at the University of Saskatchewan in 2010. I began my career with the former West Central Enterprise Region as an Economic Development Officer and Community Planning Consultant.

I had two major roles with the Enterprise Region. The first was to conduct engagement through one-on-one interviews with business owners for a Business Retention and Expansion project within west central Saskatchewan. Secondly, under Prairie Wild’s supervision, I was the co-lead in the West Central Planning Initiative, a collaboration of five districts engaged in community based planning and main street revitalization.

In 2011, the West Central Enterprise Region ceased to exist due to Provincial budget cuts and I became a full time member of Prairie Wild, continuing to lead the West Central Planning Initiative and a number of other projects related to comprehensive regional and community planning and community-based research across Saskatchewan.

What turned you on to P2 in the first place?

As community planners, we are bound ethically to serve the public good. P2 elevates the planning practice to ensure we challenge ourselves as professional practitioners that we are going above and beyond the minimum requirements to ensure local wisdom and experience is captured throughout the process and is reflected in the Plans and related tools/documents we create.

It is an exciting feeling to facilitate participatory sessions with various stakeholders - community members, boards, Councils, committees, organizations, and others, and see the appreciation from people that they had the opportunity to share their input. Utilizing the P2 process helps to build important capacity in the community from start to creation to implementation.

Prairie Wild Consulting Co. was founded by the Directors to enhance community engagement in planning and research processes. The Directors have contributed to engagement literature through research and work with the Canadian Index of Wellbeing – democratic engagement domain. All of our processes include extensive community engagement. We strongly encourage reaching out to community members and stakeholders at the very beginning of a process as we know this helps to build capacity and ownership.

There are many positive successes we have seen as a result of engaging stakeholders throughout the process. This includes:

  • Increasing number of people engaged, 600+, where this type of engagement has not been heard of before;
  • Increasing number of people volunteering on local boards and committees;
  • Community members who have been engaged in our processes run for an elected official position and are successful;
  • There are new collaborations formed between people and organizations that have not worked with each other before,
  • Creation of new events and initiatives; and,
  • Using engagement methods and engaging others including those who may be underrepresented through related processes.

In some instances, communities and organizations prefer a more streamlined process that only involves specific stakeholders. We recognize that engagement and the work we do is based on a state of readiness. It is important to respect where a community or organization is at in regards to their state of readiness and to be flexible through the engagement process. We ensure we remain true to the firm’s values by working with clients who are ready to engage community members and stakeholders to achieve the entire P2 Spectrum.

If you had anything to say to someone just getting into the P2 business …

Build up your toolkit – there are a number of engagement and public participation resources available. It is helpful to learn and use a variety of approaches in order to be able to draw on them depending on the type of engagement you are doing and if certain events present themselves during the process.

As shared in the previous question, it is important to understand state of readiness with people, a community, or an organization. Some people will feel comfortable participating at different stages and in different ways. Respecting this as part of the process help to further build capacity and trust.

Always remember to engage a wide variety of people and in different ways – drawing from your toolkit. Often times there are people who are underrepresented and it is important to think about ways to engage those who may not always have a voice (youth, seniors, various cultural backgrounds, others).

Reach out to those who have experience and wisdom in the P2 field. This could take shape in the form of having a mentor or mentors and staying connected through the P2 network. Having mentors and a network is helpful in terms of support, idea generation, and learning from each other.

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