A funny thing happened on the way to the public meeting…

1 04 2011

One thing I love about public participation is its sponteneity and encounters with the unexpected. I plan all scenarios imaginable for meeting facilitation, but the real fun comes with real people come through the door. We get to meet people in the course of their daily lives from all backgrounds and with all types of personalities.

I have also learned that in order to be effective in this work, you have to find humor in even the most tense and complex situations. Note that the humor needed to stay afloat is NOT at anyone’s expense and especially should not limit, label or otherwise degrade stakeholders. However, sometimes a simple mispelling (who hasn’t accidentially typed “pubic meeting” instead of “public”?) or delightful turn of phrase deserves attention to recognize the fun and humanity of citizen engagement.

Every project I’ve worked on has had some range of stories of shared experiences and memorable moments. For instance, there was the meeting where I “took the microphone away” from someone a little long-winded. Or the guy who was upset at staff taking photos to document the meeting. Or, in meeting with a group of property owners about potential impacts overhearing a mom and son discussing how it might impact their illegal crop.

Through the course of time, I feel like I have seen and heard it all! But how about you? What are some of the memorable stories and humorous moments from your P2 experiences?