Throughout February, all eyes were on the 2018 Winter Olympics, hosted in South Korea. However, communications studies professor Dr. Cassandra Hemphill recently visited the country not for athletics, but a worldwide conference on urban heritage that she had the honor of presenting at.
Dr. Hemphill was chosen as one of 20 participants in the Experts’ Workshop at the 14th World Congress of the Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC) in November 2017. She was invited due to her work for the International Association of Public Participation Federation’s (IAP2) as that organization’s Professional Development Manager. The OWHC conference, hosted this year in the ancient city of Gyeongju, Republic of Korea, is a chance for mayors and other leaders of the 300 cities on the UNESCO World Heritage Cities to share information and expertise on matters of conservation and management. The 2017 theme was “Heritage and community: Tools to engage local communities.” The Experts’ Workshop resulted in a set of eight conclusions that can be used to improve community engagement in heritage cities and other urban areas.
Dr. Hemphill’s presentation explored how IAP2’s seven core values could enhance community engagement. The core values were developed with broad international input to be applicable across national, cultural and religious boundaries. Using the core values helps ensure decisions reflect the interests and concerns of the people who are affected.
Her presentation was especially valued because it analyzed the potential for improvement in a set of engagement principles previously prepared by the OWHC Asia-Pacific Region. Those principles were based on another IAP2 product, the Spectrum of Public Participation, which has been adopted and adapted around the world for a variety of contexts and issues. Since the conference, a video of Dr. Hemphill's presentation has been released online as well as the full proceedings of the conference.
“The idea behind community engagement is to have the public involved and giving relevant input into big decisions,” she explained. “Effective public participation saves time and money and helps decision-makers avoid litigation and make better decisions. Good public participation also builds citizen capacity for engagement in democracy, which is sorely needed to solve complex problems facing societies around the world.”
Community engagement in governance is especially relevant and valuable in today’s changing communities, and fits in well with a course in Deliberative Democracy that Dr. Hemphill is teaching here at Missoula College. The course builds students’ skills in dialogue and deliberation and abilities to engage in important community decisions with civility and respect for alternative perspectives.
She first became involved with public participation in the 90s when she worked on nuclear and hazardous waste clean-up at the Idaho National Laboratory. She helped design IAP2’s professional certification program and is currently serving as an assessor in the US. She became the group’s Professional Development Manager a year ago, developing and licensing trainers and supporting delivery of their courses on every continent except Antarctica.
Photo credit: International Association for Public Participation