What do you get out of Professional Certification (CP3)? By Sara Dechter, CP3, AICP

What do you get out of Professional Certification (CP3)?

By Sara Dechter, CP3, AICP

The funny thing about public participation is that it is hard to know if you are “good” at it.  My first 10 years as an urban planner, getting ready for public participation was something that kept getting assigned to me.  I hadn’t been to any trainings except what my employer offered, and I was awed by the skills of the facilitators that we would occasionally hire.  Eventually, I was the one my peers would call when a project was controversial, or they were stumped on how to get from the point they were at to the decision.  But the nagging question persisted, “Am I any “good” at this?” 

In 2019, I applied for evaluation as a Certified Public Participation Professional (CP3) to find the answer. From start to finish, the process was designed to test all the things I had wondered if I was “good” at: can you put together a professional portfolio of your work, do you ask the right kind of questions when there are unknowns, do you have a bag full of techniques and tricks ready for quick deployment in tough situations, can you listen with openness and help a participant feel seen and heard, etc. It took everything I learned in the Foundations courses and add, “So now what can you do with that?” Going to the in-person assessment center was nerve racking and exhilarating, you are meeting people from all over who share your passion for participation, and at the same time, you are being observed and evaluated for your skills. Being judged that way is intimidating but the judges were thoughtful and kind (with some seriously good poker faces). Being given your evaluation feedback, gives you the chance to grow, synthesize and know you are “good” at this. The process is so comprehensive and deliberate, it makes receiving the honor of being certified even sweeter. 

Coming back to the community I serve with CP3 certification instilled new confidence in me and new purpose in my work.  It didn’t make the work I do easier, but it pushed me to step up to new and bigger challenges.  Public participation skills that we all aspire to create opportunities for collaboration, inclusion, and deep understanding. It can heal communities and grow organizations. It is a gift that professional practitioners give openly.  Certification gives us the gift to do it fearlessly. 

Certification assessment centers are now scheduled.  

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