The Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) Blog Series is designed to share key insights from our ELP program with the entirety of our membership. After each program session, we will share key highlights and resources for those interested in delving further into the topic.

The Emerging Leaders are coming close to the end of this program! With only two modules left to go, the participants have come a long way in understanding themselves and what kind of leaders they will be. Leaders find themselves in all kinds of different situations, and the focus of this program has been to provide participants with an introduction to developing the skills that many leaders need to be effective and great. True to life, some situations are rooted in conflict. In Module 5, ELP participants learned how to address conflict that may arise within an organization, and in Module 6, they examined at what conflict might look like in public contexts.

Module 6 was led by Guy Patterson RPP, MCIP, and partner at Young, Anderson law firm in Vancouver, BC. Prior to his legal career, Guy worked as a planner for local governments and non-profit organizations. Guy’s practice is in municipal law with a focus on planning, land use management, and subdivision regulation.

Pre-Session Readings

Prior to the session, Guy asked ELP participants to review a series of legal cases that provided examples of conflicts with the public, landowners, and elected officials.

Speaker Presentation

Guy took participants through a discussion on planning theory versus legal theory in the context of participation and engagement, explored public hearings and conflict with the public, discussed local government and the importance of transparency in public processes, and touched on elected officials and bias.

The decision-making process involves many parties with varying degrees of power, which becomes a source of conflict. Guy explained Sherry Arnstein’s Ladder of Citizen Participation. This is a model for understanding how the degree of citizen participation can affect public perceptions of legitimacy, with the most desirable forms found higher up the ladder. An examination of this concept highlights the importance of engagement and ELP participants discussed challenges that arise with achieving optimal engagement.

Arnstein’s Ladder

Source: S.R. Arnstein, “A Ladder of Citizen Participation”, Journal of the American Planning Association, Vol. 35, No. 4, July 1969, pp. 216-224

ELP participants also discussed the Open Meeting Rule, the principle that all meetings of a decision-making body must be open (with reasonable exemptions) to the public to ensure transparency and trust in the decision-making process.

Using the examples of conflict that Guy presented, ELP participants were provided with scenarios in which to discuss an approach to resolving issues that may arise with various stakeholders in decision-making processes. The session concluded with an open discussion where ELP participants shared challenging situations that they have found themselves in while receiving input from Guy.

Module 7 will go further into the conversation of accountability, ethics, and conflicts of interest.