World Changers

I just spent a few days working with a bunch of exceptionally smart and driven post-graduate students at the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA). I had a ball and came back re-energized.

Government always involves navigating difficult waters. At this particularly tough time, however, these scholars and overachievers are inheriting some profound challenges around the credibility of public service right when most are about to enter the workforce. But after several days with these people, I’m optimistic. They have the brainpower, creativity and passion to fix where we’ve failed, I hope I gave’em a few more tools. Godspeed, SPEA-ONS!

Stay Curious,


How Would You Feel?  

You’ve spent four or six or eight years pursuing a degree from a school whose motto is “For the Greater Good” and now you’re entering a field that currently has a level of credibility comparable to the dude working at Honest Harry’s Used Car Lot

Motivated Ignorance  

We’ve talked about confirmation bias several times in past newsletters. That’s the tendency for us all to focus on our preconceived beliefs and ignore any evidence to the contrary.

A yet-to-be-released suite of studies says that confirmation bias infects liberals and conservative equally. One researcher calls this “motivated ignorance” and offers some thoughts on how to get beyond it:

Social Facilitation  

People are funny. We all tend to act differently in groups and social settings than we do in private, and we’re seeing this tendency play out in a variety of ways online; at town hall events and other places where people gather. Wendy Lowe tackled this subject in a recent blog:

Context & Relevance  

These are two magic words that one of my marketing and advertising colleagues carefully explained to me awhile back. The work that we do is complex and often tough for people to get their heads around. Putting information into context and making it relevant for people is imperative:

And when you do find yourself in one of those tough, confrontational conversations, here are some ways to handle it…

I highly recommend going to potentially contentious public meetings just to observe — they’re Petri Dishes and I always learn a lot by watching people’s reactions. What is said oftentimes has little in common with what people choose to hear. Observing helps me to better understand the meanings and inferences of what’s being presented:

Speaking to Groups  

There’s a truthful simplicity to the following advice from a former White House speechwriter. It applies both to people giving quick updates to small groups at work and to those giving big keynote presentations. Telling your audience what is glaringly, obviously true has to be the focus:

You want to be well prepared before you face any audience, but sometimes you just don’t have a lot of time. When you’re faced with a last-minute dilemma, here are some tips:

I regularly schedule experts to speak to a group that I facilitate, and they usually ask me how much time they have to present. I’m thinking of limiting them to two minutes…that’s all Lincoln needed at Gettysburg:

Conflict Resolution Strategies & Conflict Resolution Techniques  

The Participation Company (TPC) partners facilitate, consult, coach and train public- and private-sector people with their community conflicts and public engagement programs. Our job is to help you do yours.

Open registration International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) classes include:

The IAP2 Foundations 5-Day Course:

* Denver, CO: June 5 – 9
* Chicago, IL: June 26 – 30
* Orlando, FL: October 16 – 20

IAP2 Emotion, Outrage and Public Participation 2-Day Course:

* Phoenix/Scottsdale, AZ: July 27 – 28
* Chicago, IL: August 17 – 18
* Denver, CO: November 16 – 17

Facilitation for Public Participation Practitioners:

* Denver, CO: October 25 – 27

Click on to
to join us and watch for more IAP2-branded and other original courses in 2017. We continually work with a variety of clients to customize in-house training for their specific challenges.

You’ll also find a lot more original ponderings from Debra Duerr, Wendy Lowe, Doug Sarno and me, and an occasional guest at

The Participation Company LLC is a strategic partner and provider for the International City/County Management Association (ICMA). 

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