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Public Involvement: some parting thoughts from Ascentum’s first co-op student
Thursday, April 29th, 2010

With my current co-op semester coming to an end, it seems appropriate to reflect on my experiences here at Ascentum. As the company’s very first intern, I really didn’t know what to expect when I first began. But now, in considering what I’ve learned over the past four months, it’s challenging to figure out where to begin!

What strikes me most is how I think about public engagement now. Leveraging the values, opinions and ideas of the public and relevant stakeholders is the key to accountability and sustainable decision-making. Since organizations have to manage their time and resources quite carefully, it’s clear that we can’t (and shouldn’t) be doing public engagement for everything. But we should be strategic, and ask ourselves:

  • What issues and/or jurisdictions in Canada could benefit significantly from public engagement?
  • How can these types of initiatives/events be conducted more effectively?
  • How can we ensure that the results actually reach the decision-makers?

This optimism for public engagement has been shaped by the exposure I’ve had to some truly fascinating projects that Ascentum is currently involved with. Two experiences stand out for me:

  1. Strengthening the Red Seal Program through Organizational Performance Standards. Ascentum has been asked to engage regional stakeholders across the country, in order to explore the utility of a more robust model for skills acquisition and recognition for trades workers. Through this experience, I’ve been exposed to the high level of strategic planning, attention to detail, and effective communication skills needed to conduct a meaningful engagement process. You can learn more about this exciting project at: http://strengtheningtheredseal.ca.
  2. Helping our team conduct some of the in-person stakeholder consultations for the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC). These were for Phase II of the Mental Health Strategy for Canada initiative (there are a total of 18 events planned, with the fourth event is being held today and tomorrow here in Ottawa). Ascentum is working closely with the MHCC to lead the facilitation of these consultations, which bring together a diversity of people affected by mental health issues, both personally and professionally. These were very rewarding experiences- not only did I realize how prevalent mental health issues are in Canada, but you could really sense the passion and commitment of the people in the room. You can learn more about this MHCC initiative here.

I’d like to make sure that I thank the Ascentum team for giving me such great opportunities. In considering what I’ve learned about the use of social media, I hope that this last posting has some value for anyone that took the time to read it. As I said in my first blog, if you’re going to say something, make sure it’s useful, or at least interesting!

– Tristan Eclarin –

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