Voice Public Involvement helps communities facilitate improvement to public quality of life through effective communication and creative community engagement for planning and public policy decision-making.
VPI is an Oregon certified woman-owned and emerging small business (WBE/ ESB # 8884) offering professional consulting services including:
Training & Education
Promote and restore harmony
VPI strategically avoids, mitigates and resolves conflict to promote and restore the harmony all communities deserve. Principles of mediation and negotiation are worked into all processes and active facilitation. VPI asks questions that get to interests rather than positions, maximizing opportunity for parties to share mutual gains through public process.
Identify assumptions and perception-reality gaps
VPI helps stakeholders get on the same page by clearing up issues that lead to misunderstandings and conflict. VPI asks important questions and facilitates an environment that helps others to ask them as well.
Consider cross-cultural dynamics
VPI applies the Platinum Rule: Treat others as they want to be treated. What does success mean to your community? How does your community prefer to communicate on the project?
Use social equity as a guide
VPI can help stakeholders evaluate interests, options and opportunities for a strategy considerate to social equity. VPI asks who is not at the table and finds out why to help ensure effective process.
VPI uses a “Plan, do, evaluate, adjust” method to effectively and efficiently serve project goals and objectives. Evaluation is built into the plan and executed all along the way through a range of means appropriate to the scope, scale, limitations and opportunities of each unique project. This is part of perception-reality checking and an important way to keep projects on target.
Striking the right level of participation
Striking the right level of participation at the right time with the right audience helps processes run smoother, with the least resistance and greatest efficiency -which is good for everyone involved. To help get it right, VPI uses a five-step strategy:
1. Evaluate the level of public support needed
VPI’s project scoping and conflict assessment evaluates indicators to help determine the level of public support necessary for a project. Evaluation is based on Dr. Sam Kaner’s principles for determining optimal level of support.
2. Determine the level of participation needed
With the level of support in mind, VPI then uses IAP2 Spectrum of Public Participation as a guide for recommending a level of participation that will result in the most likely case of mutual participant/ convener satisfaction. Levels of participation are based on project goals. For example, is the goal “To provide the public with balanced and objective information to assist them in understanding the problem, alternatives, opportunities and/or solutions” or is it “To place final decision-making in the hands of the public?”
3. Develop appropriate techniques and strategies for involvement
The level of participation guides VPI’s use of techniques and strategy. Examples are indicated in the IAP2 Spectrum of Public Participation. VPI values active, creative participation and strives to make community engagement fun, fulfilling, informative and impactful at all levels of participation.
4. Foster mutual understanding for the involvement
VPI clearly and consistently communicates the determined level of participation, the participation goal and promise to the public. VPI is clear and consistent in describing decision-making processes and what decisions (if any) the public is being asked to make.
5. Evaluate and adjust as needed
What if there were a natural disaster? Or a political disaster? Recognizing any number of factors could change a project’s stakes, VPI evaluates and adjusts project methods as necessary. It is healthy to make adequate adjustments throughout a process in order to keep it humming through unforeseen obstacles. VPI’s approach in such circumstances is to provide full transparency regarding what has happened, why, and what changes may be necessary. Depending on the level of participation, the public or stakeholder group may become integral in creating their own solutions to adjusting the process.