Inside P2 004: Bob Joseph on Working with Indigenous Peoples

In this episode of the Inside P2 podcast, respected corporate trainer Bob Joseph talks with Joseph Thornley about working effectively with indigenous peoples.

Bob Joseph on working with indigenous peoples

Among the highlights of our conversation:

  • How Bob’s career as a trainer was launched through a serendipitous encounter when he was working as a sports fishing guide in Campbell River, BC.
  • Interest in working effectively with indigenous peoples spans the globe. Bob’s work has taken him not only across Canada and the U.S., but also to places like Peru, Guatemala, New Caledonia, and even Switzerland.
  • The organizations interested in understanding how to work with indigenous peoples includes national, state and local levels of government plus natural resources companies, including forestry, gas, mining, and utilities.
  • Where do trainees come from within the organizations? Public relations people, P2 practitioners, environmental specialists, customer service groups, legal departments. Some organizations have also set up aboriginal affairs departments.
  • Bob has noted that many people who are new to this aren’t sure what to expect. We see indigenous people around us, but may not be aware of what we have to learn. And there is a lot to learn.
  • Language can be a barrier to working effectively with indigenous people. Bob holds up the use of “stakeholder” as a term that can bring discussions to a stop when used with indigenous peoples.
  • Research. Research. Research. There is much to learn about indigenous people before you reach out to them. Indigenous communities are contacted frequently by outside groups and they have limited resources to respond. So, prepare well to make the most of your time and to avoid common mistakes.
  • Be straightforward about your naivety in dealing with a community. Acknowledge that you may make mistakes and indicate your openness to guidance to avoid these.
  • Indigenous peoples are not a homegenous entity. Our view of the communities may be shaped by national legal frameworks that imposed a framework on indigenous peoples that masks their true culture, distinctions and history. Be aware that indigenous communities are diverse and distinctive. Avoid trying to apply a blanket solution to them.
  • The biggest mistake you can make? Answering too soon. Aboriginal peoples have oral histories. Their cultures are based on listening and understanding. When dealing with indigenous peoples, learn to listen carefully at a pace that allows for thought and elaboration. To answer too soon can be interpreted as disrespectful.


IAP2 Third Tuesday

A panel of three leaders in the Canadian Federal Open Government community will talk about Open Government and Public Engagement at the next IAP2 Third Tuesday on May 25:

  • Laura Wesley, Executive Director, Consultations and Public Engagement, Privy Council Office
  • Melanie Robert, Executive Director, Open Government and Information Management, Treasury Board Secretariat
  • Dhurata Ikonomi, Acting Executive Director, Community of Federal Regulators

Find out more and obtain tickets.

It’s your turn

Inside P2 is produced by Joseph Thornley. I’d love to know what you think about the topics in this podcast, topics you’d like me to cover in future podcasts and people you’d like to hear from.

You can contact me in several ways

Keep listening. Keep considering what you hear. Keep responding.


Subscribe in iTunes

Reviews on iTunes help others to find this podcast. If you like this podcast, please review Inside P2 on iTunes.

One thought on “Inside P2 004: Bob Joseph on Working with Indigenous Peoples”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.