Gary Redmond’s first interaction with the City of Edmonton was borne of frustration: He didn’t like a development that would remove precious green space from his southside neighbourhood, and helped organize a community group to oppose it. As a consultant with an extensive background in facilitation, including work related to air quality and the oil and gas industry, Gary had been through this process before.
“A lot of my work is to bring diverse stakeholders together to find that common ground,” he says, adding that in Edmonton, “There are some big decisions that are being made about density and infrastructure. At a community level, sometimes there are unintended consequences. By bringing communities together, we can share amongst ourselves, but we can also work with the other stakeholders.”
Ultimately, Gary says that his group’s engagement with the City didn’t actually lead to the outcome they were hoping for. But he was very impressed with how well they were treated by Council. Group members came away feeling respected, and like their concerns were not just heard, but seriously considered. That aligns with his professional belief about what the true goal of facilitation is. “If it’s done right, typically all parties will find some wins and some challenges,” he says. “In the end, can you live with what you got? More often than not, the answer is yes.”
Plus, there were other positive side effects to the public engagement process. “It brought together many neighbours who hadn’t met each other,” Gary says, “which I thought was a fantastic outcome to a challenging issue.”