Public Participation

Nicholas Socrates 2009

Urban Design: Art, City, Society.

Public Participation

Public participation is the involvement of people in the creation and management of their built and natural enviroments.

Its strength is that it cuts across tradition professional boundaries and cultures.

The activity of community particiaption is based on the prinicple that the built and natural enviromnets work better if citizens are active and involved in its creation and management instead of being treated as passive concumers.

The main purposes of participation are;

To involve citizens in planning and design decision making processes and, as a result, make it more likely they will work within established systems when seeking solutions to problems.

To provide citizens with a voice in planning and decision making in order to improve plans, decisions, service delivery, and overal quality of the enviroment.

To promote a sense of community by bringing together people who share common goals.

Participation should be active and directed, those who become involved should experience a sense of achievement.

Traditional planning procedures should be rexamined to ensure that participation achieves more than a simple affirmation of the designers or planners intentions.

The Importance of Participation

The planning system is meant to reflect the general wishes of the local community and there is a need on the local authority to consult widely during the formulation of a Local Plan and in the operation of the development.

The fact that the Council is made up of elected members ensures a certain level of representation, but wider public consultation is required.

When a planning application is submitted the local authority publishes details in the local newspaper and, in some circumstances, a notice is displayed adjacent to the site. In cases of special sensitivity, individual households in an affected area might be asked for their opinions or there may be a small public exhibition.

However, in most cases, if members of the public wish to find out what is proposed they have to visit the planning department, request the material that has been submitted and examine it on the premises. They can then write to the planning committee if they have any objections.

No matter what the scale of proposal, development control can be thought of as a process of negotiation: at its simplest, between the applicant and the local authority, with only rudimentary involvement by the public. In the most complex cases it involves a prolonged process of ‘trading off’ between parties, and high-profile public debate.

Not all of the local authority’s, or the public’s interest in a proposal will be in its visual form: they will also wish to consider its functional content; its impact on the environment (on traffic in particular) and on the local economy.

However, we are concerned here with the visual modelling of proposals, and the ways in which the traditional method of depositing plans and physical models is being replaced by digital methods which have the potential to be developed as interactive tools for use in the negotiation process.

Characteristics of Participation

Although any given participation process does not automatically ensure success, it can be claimed that the process will minimize failure. Four essential characteristics of participation can be identified;

Participation is inherently good.

It is a source of wisdom and information about local conditions, needs and attitudes, and therefore improves the effectivenenss of decision making.

It is a means of defending the interests of groups of people and of inderviduals, and a tool for studying their needs, which are often ignored and dominated by large organizations, institutions, and their bureaucracies.

With the goal of achieving agreement about what the future should bring.

Determination of Goals and Objectives

The planning that accompanies the design of any participation program should first include a determination of participation goals and objectives.

Participation goals will differ from time to time and from issue to issue.

Participation is likely to be percieved differently depending on the type of issue, people involved and political setting in which it takes place.

If differences in expectations and perception are not identified at the outset, and realistic goals are not made clear, the expectations of those involved in the participation program will likely not be met, and people will become disenchanted.

To address participation effectively, the task should conceptualize what the objective is for involving citizens. For example, is the participation intended to;

Generate ideas.

Identify attitudes.

Disseminate information.

Resolve some identified conflict.

Measure opinions.

Review a proposal.

Provide a forum to express general feelings.

Planning for Participation

Once planners have identified the overall goals and objectives for the participation process, planning for participation requires the following steps;

Identify the inderviduals or groups that should be involved in the participation actively being planned.

Decide where in the process the participants should be involved, from development to implemenation to evaluation.

Articulate the participation objectives in relation to all participants who will be involved.

Identify and match alternative participation methods to objectives in terms of the resources avaliable.

Select an appropriate method to be used to achieve specific objectives.

Implement chosen participation activities.

Evaluate the implemented methods to see to what extent they achieved the desired goals and objectives.

All Individuals and interest groups should come together in an open forum.

In this setting, people can openly express their opinions, make necessary compromises, and arrive at decisions acceptable to all concerned. By involving as many interests as possible, the product is strengthened by the wealth of the input. In turn, learning more about itself strengthens the citizens group.

The Process is continuous and ever changing

The product is not the end of the process. It must be managed, re-evaluated, and adapted to changing needs. Those most directly involved with the product; the users, are best to assume those tasks.

The professionals role is to facilitate the citizen group’s ability to reach decisions through an easily understood process. Most often this will take the form of making people aware of the alternatives. This role also includes helping people develop their resources in ways that will benefit themselves and others.

The Value of Participation

Informing a large audience about proposals, generating interst, securing approval can take the form of a community meeting, also reffered to as a public hearing or a public forum. An informal meeting, hearing, workshop, or other public gathering of people to obtain comments from the public or other agencies on a proposed project permit prior to the local government’s decision. Public meetings allow community leaders to present project information at anytime during the process. The tight structure of such meetings does not, however, permit ample time for discussions. Although reffered to as community participation, only the most aggressive personalities tend to participate and often dominate the disscusion. Public reactions in public meetings are often taken by a vote through a show of hands. The key to making community design work effectively is to incorporate a range of techniques for enabling proffessionals and citizens to creatively collaborate, where voting is replaced by consensus decision making.

A wide range of techniques are avaliable to designers and planners. Some of these techniques have become standard for use in participatory processes, such as interactive group decision-making techniqes that take place in workshops. At the same time, designers and planners have effectively used field techniques, such as questionaires, interviewing, focus groups, and group mapping, to aquire information. In general, many of the techniques facilitate citizens’ awareness of enviromental situations and help activate creative thinking. The techniques can be classified as awareness methods, group interaction methods and indirect methods.

Methods

Data Collection as Public Involvement.

Interviews.

Surveys.

File Reviews & Structured Observation.

Case Studies.

Small Group Methods, (focus group, Delphi, Charette, etc.).

Secondary data, (e.g., Agency data).

Reviews of Studies.

Content Analyses.

Diary Methods.

Ethnographic Methods, (Field Studies, Participant Observation, Tester Audits).

Interviews

Strengths and Advantages

Data can be rich, descriptive, and nuanced, expert interviews can capture complexity accurately.

Unstructured and semi-structured interview guides can be develped relatively quickly

Personal approach ma work best with hard-to-reach and elite respondent.

Costs, Weaknesses, Disadvantages

Not generablizable.

Time consuming.

difficult to record nuances or exact words.

lack of structure limits comparison.

Analysis can be time consuming.

Surveys

Strengths and Advantages

Can produce results that are statistically precise.

Can generalize if sample design, questions, response rates allow.

Data can be qualitative or quantitative.

Can be an efficent way to gather information from many.

(Especially web surveys).

Costs, Weaknesses, Disadvantages

Can be resource intensive.

Low response rates, questionnaire problems can limit usefulness.

analysis of qualitative information can be time-consuming.

choice of mode (mail or web, etc) affects structure of questions.

Case Studies and Site Visits

Strengths and Advantages

Can provide in-depth information about a topic, can explain complex events and circumstances.

Multiple method approach can be corroborative – increases reliability and validity of findings.

Costs, Weaknesses, Disadvantages

Information is not generalizable.

May require travel time and money.

Analysis can be time consuming – voluminous data, subjective and hard to summarize and compare.

Selection of sites will have a big impact on the data collection.

Small Group Methods

Strengths and Advantages

Allows for group interaction on a topic.

Can surface issues or ideas not obtained from single interviews.

Experts might provide consensus opinion.

Good moderator can ensure civility and equal opportunity to be heard

Costs, Weaknesses, Disadvantages

Not a substitute for individual interviews.

Can be costly – participant incentives, travel, taping and transcription.

Data reduction and analysis can be difficult and time consuming.

Need to control agreement.

Requires trained facilitoror moderator.

Ethnographic Methods

(Field Studies, Participant Observation, Tester Audits).

Strengths and Advantages

Data can be grounded & realistic.

Convincing descriptions of real-time observations.

Data may be less distorted, when collected in their “natural” setting

Costs, Weaknesses, Disadvantages

May be challenging to get access to setting.

Travel and real-time observation can be resource intensive,

May be legal, ethical, political considerations.

WHY INVOLVE THE PUBLIC?

While it may seem easier to simply forge ahead and make decisions on their own, there are many reasons why government and other sponsors are making increased use of direct techniques for public participation.

Public participation can help to:

Enhance effectiveness.

Get it right.

Decisions are complex, (we need to understand and include all relevant information, views, needs, and interests).

Implementation is improved with public consent and commitment.

Participation yields higher quality decisions.

Meet a growing demand for public participation.

Public desire to be involved in making decisions that will affect them.

Need for greater openness of decision processes.

Mistrust of expert advice.

Resolve conflicts.

Set priorities.

Negotiate tradeoffs.

Seek consensus.

Increase fiscal responsibility.

Establish priorities.

Find partners.

Enhance public knowledge, understanding, and awareness.

Share information.

Opportunities for stakeholders to hear each other and better understand the range of views on an issue.

Meet legal and policy requirements.

International and national agreements.

Federal and provincial legislation and regulation.

Special rights of the people.

Establish/solidify legitimacy.

Participation is fundamental to democracy.

Counter public mistrust of the “system”.

Allocate scarce resources.

Public participation processes include information exchange, public consultation, engagement, shared decisions, and shared jurisdiction.  These processes form a continuum based on the extent of involvement and role in decision making, from information exchange (least) to shared jurisdiction (most).  The processes are not separated by definitive boundaries; they flow into and build upon each other.

In order to choose the right type of process we must understand the rationale for wanting or needing to involve the public.  Each public participation category can be implemented by using a variety of techniques.

Information exchange:

Purpose: creating awareness, education, exchange of views, encouraging responsible

behaviours, and promotion of informed decision-making.

Techniques: open houses, public/stakeholder meetings, surveys, discussion papers,

publications and informal discussion.

Public consultation:

Purpose: two-way communication; getting stakeholder input, advice and feedback; discussion

of tradeoffs and priorities; and becoming better informed.

Techniques: advisory boards, stakeholder meetings, task groups, focus groups, workshops,

public hearings, and a call for briefs.

Engagement/dialogue:

Purpose: in-depth exploration of views, perceptions and interests, with emphasis on listening

and achieving mutual understanding; exploration of values; and in some situations,

working toward consensus

Techniques: dialogue, open space technology, future search conference, and appreciative

inquiry.

Shared decisions:

Purpose: share responsibility, decentralize decision-making to the community level, achieve

integration, resolve conflicts, allocate scarce resources, and manage programs in a

manner that respects and reflects community values.

Techniques: delegation, legislated authority, responsibility and accountability, and local

boards of education, health services, family, and childrenís services.

Shared jurisdictions:

Purpose: recognize constitutional assignment of powers; recognize, respect and reflect

community values in governance decisions; make difficult allocation choices in a

decentralized political context.

Techniques: co-management, partnerships, collaborative processes, formal agreements.

Citizen Engagement

Citizen engagement refers to processes through which governments seek to encourage

deliberation, reflection, and learning on issues at preliminary stages of a policy process,

often when the focus is more on the values and principles that will frame the way an issue

is considered.  Citizen engagement processes are used to consider policy directions that

are expected to have a major impact on citizens; address issues that involve conflicts in

values or require difficult policy choices or tradeoffs; exploring emerging issues that

require considerable learning, both on the part of government and citizens; and build

common ground by reconciling competing interests.

Citizen engagement differs qualitatively from consultation in a number of ways,

including an emphasis on in-depth deliberation and dialogue, the focus on finding.

IMPORTANT FACTORS AND PRINCIPLES FOR PUBLIC PARTICIPATION

The following factors and principles should be considered in developing any plan that involves

public participation in the development of public policy:

Those involved in the process need to:

See the big picture.

Know why this is being done.

Stated objectives.

Processes need to be guided by clear objectives:

For overall outcomes, (for policy, planning, etc).

For public participation that are expressed in writing, (terms of reference, preliminary letter).

Clear expectations.

There’s needs to be clear about:

Roles and responsibilities.

What the public can expect from government.

Who has the final decision.

Inclusive process.  Processes for citizen participation need to:

Use processes appropriate to the level of feedback required and the available time.

Involve the right participants at the right time.

Create opportunities for expression of ‘first voice’ and social/economic inclusion.

Have clear criteria for stakeholder selection.

Know who has an interest in a decision.

The following factors are important when it comes to establishing trust:

Openness.

Honesty.

Shared information.

Transparency of process.

Consistency.

Avoiding surprises.

Those designing processes need to:

Have flexibility.

Know their stake-holders.

Accommodate diverse needs and preferences.

Be prepared to use a variety of methods to accommodate diverse interests and styles.

Respect for divergent values and views.

Effective processes need to:

Place emphasis on understanding

Avoid win-lose/adversarial process

Ensure ground rules are in place

DESIGN AND IMPLEMENTATION OF A PUBLIC PARTICIPATION PROCESS

A public participation process is designed and implemented in four discreet stages, as outlined

below.

1. Preliminary Design

(a) Situation analysis.

(b) Decision process.

(c) Information exchange.

(d) Public and stake-holders.

(e) Planning team.

(f) Approvals.

2. Developing the Plan

(a) Establish objectives.

(b) Identify and address major issues.

(c) Identify and involve the stakeholders.

(d) Choose techniques.

(e) Prepare to provide and receive information.

(f) Develop critical path.

(g) Budget, staff, resources, logistics, roles and responsibilities.

(h) Prepare to give and get feedback.

3. Implementation

(a) Follow the critical path.

(b) Apply techniques.

(c) Provide and receive information.

(d) Monitor the process.

4. Feedback

(a) Report to decision makers.

(b) Report to participants.

c) Evaluate the overall process.

TECHNIQUES

A number of emerging public participation techniques provide the opportunity for shared

engagement, which has been difficult to achieve with traditional techniques.  This section

provides an overview of both traditional and emerging techniques.

Traditional techniques include print publications, public meetings, open houses, advisory committees, workshops,

bilateral meetings, and focus groups.

Emerging techniques include open space technology, future search conferences, policy dialogue, and a suite of electronic techniques.

In general, emerging techniques offer more in-depth opportunities for dialogue and collaboration, with emphasis on value exploration and reaching consensus on shared outcomes in complex situations.

It should be noted that public servants and community groups have numerous opportunities to interact with each other, exchange information and gain a better understanding of each otherís views and interests.  All consultation and engagement activities are not necessarily formal.

Traditional public participation techniques

The following are simple descriptions intended to provide an overview of the types of techniques

available:

Publications: All consultations produce some type of published material, which may describe

the process, define the problem, issue or situation; suggest options; or request direct feedback

from readers on their views, interests or alternatives.

Public meeting: Sessions open to anyone with an interest in the subject of the consultation are

publicized and held.  Public meetings often begin with a technical overview of the situation and

process, then provide opportunity for members of the public to speak from the floor regarding

their concerns or to ask questions of expert panelists.

Open house: An open house usually communicates information about a project or proposal

through a series of displays.  Staff are present to answer questions and provide clarification.

Visitors are asked to register their views before leaving.  Information handouts can be available.

Advisory committee/task force: Groups are selected to represent a cross-section of interests,

and may be asked to prioritize, review, make recommendations, develop alternatives, evaluate,

assist, etc.  Advisory groups tend to be long-term, whereas a task force has a short time horizon.

Workshops: Stakeholders are invited to attend a meeting to review information, define issues,

solve problems or plan reviews.  Generally, workshops are expected to educate participants and

solve a problem or develop a product such as an action plan.  Most workshops use facilitation.

Target briefings: These are designed to reach specific audiences who may benefit from private

and individually tailored presentations.  Audiences for targeted briefings could include ministers,

municipal officials, media or specific interest groups.

Focus groups: Groups of eight or ten people are structured to represent a cross-section of the

stakeholders affected by an issue.  A moderator leads a discussion of the facts, exploring

participantsí feelings, values, interests, concerns, etc.

Bilateral meetings: The sponsoring agency meets directly with stakeholder groups to receive

feedback or discuss areas of interest.  This can be useful if the issue under discussion is

accompanied by a high level of conflict.

Toll-free phone line: This provides an impersonal opportunity for the public to give feedback,

provide ideas or identify issues.  The phone can be answered by a staff member who discusses

the issue directly with the caller, or by a taped message and opportunity to record comments.

Interviews:  Individual discussions with the public or representatives of interest groups may

allow participants to cover a wider range of information than is solicited on a questionnaire, and

thus perhaps to identify new issues or concerns not previously considered.

Surveys: Surveys are used to collect information, solicit opinions and build a profile of the

groups and individuals involved.  They provide information to the public and help focus public

attention on specific issues.

Public hearings: A public hearing is a forum at which stakeholders can make formal statements

about the issue at hand.  Oral statements are often accompanied by written briefs.  A panel

representing the sponsoring agency may ask questions of the presenter.  The panel generally

submits a final report with findings and recommendations.

Below are brief descriptions of six emerging techniques;

Open space technology, uses plenary circles (i.e., participants sit in a circle) and has a few,

simple rules.  Breakout sessions are organized, led and reported on by self-selected participants.

This technique can maximize the creativity, energy, vision and leadership of all participants, and

is egalitarian and inclusive.  It can be used to set strategic direction, plan or initiate a project, and develop standards, criteria or regulations.  It has the ability to maximize teamwork.

Future search conferences, are workshop conferences at which 40-80 people join forces to

visualize a desired future and then design the steps needed to get the organization there.  This

technique uses a ìwhole systemî approach and places emphasis on self-managed, small-group

discussions.  It can be used when the solution to an issue or problem resolution may require a

change in organizational mission, functions or structure.

E-participation, includes a wide range of specific individual techniques, including e-mail,

provision of Web site information, bulletin boards, chat and news groups, dialogue groups and

virtual communities.  These low-cost approaches are only available to those who have access to a computer and are useful when the policy community is spread over a broad geographic area, or where open information-sharing is important.

Public policy dialogue, involves in-depth, detailed work with a variety of stakeholders in a

committee or workshop format, usually to achieve consensus on diverse views, interests and

values.  In the policy development process, dialogue is especially useful at the value and goal

clarification stage and during option selection if tradeoffs are required.  Dialogue may last from

two days to two years, commonly two days per month for three to 12 months.  Inclusive

representation of key stakeholders, often including the sponsor, is essential.

Appreciative inquiry focuses on the positive aspects of a situation, opportunities, strengths,

proven capacities and skills, resources ó and affirms, appreciates and builds on existing

strengths.  Appreciate inquiry is a very effective way to get people to think about their

demonstrated abilities instead of listing and dwelling on problems or challenges.

Study circles, explore a critical public issue in a democratic way; analyze a problem, develop

strategies and actions; and look at issues from multiple viewpoints.  Small-group discussion

among peers is often facilitated.  Study circles have eight to 12 members and meet regularly over a period of weeks or months.  This technique is especially useful at the problem definition,

values and goal clarification, option generation, and selection stages of policy development.

Characteristics and features of emerging public participation techniques;

Engage citizens/public in a more meaningful way.

Too much emphasis in the past on stake-holders.

Reduce concern about corporatism.

Allow deeper conversations about values, beliefs, concerns.

Go beyond superficial discussions.

Develop/expose common foundations.

Collaborate and work toward consensus.

Seek win-win outcomes.

Place emphasis on understanding.

Place emphasis on desired future.

Think about/visualize where we want to go.

Move away from negative past.

Appreciate the positives and build on past success.

Appreciative inquiry.

Take what we want into the future.

Allow participants maximum freedom.

Rely on knowledge, skills, commitment and leadership of individuals.

Open space, participant design.

See a ‘big picture’ view.

Involve the whole system.

Avoid fragmentation.

Include low cost/high impact techniques:

E-techniques:  access, flexibility, narrow-casting.

E-mail, newsgroups, discussion groups, Web pages, on-line review and feedback.

Create effective policy networks.

Redefine the ‘policy community’.

Communities of interest, identity, place.

Information, education, continuous shared learning.

Virtual communities.

Fully inclusive, speaking own voice.

CITIZEN AND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT IN THE POLICY DEVELOPMENT PROCESS

For each of the six stages in the policy development process, how might we engage citizens and

the community?  What factors will we consider?  What techniques might be effective?

1. Problem definition

2. Value/goal clarification

3. Option generation

4. Selection

5. Implementation

6. Evaluation

• The issue of citizen participation has gradually gained importance since the end of the 1960s.

• Various forms of participation that might improve the quality of democracy have been discussed in recent years. These include participation through constitutional reforms, the use of ICTs in politics and policy-making, and interactive policy-making. In general, the existing political institutions and the traditional hierarchical way of policy-making are not criticized.

• Citizen participation is mainly seen as an instrument to strengthen and support the way representative democracy is functioning now.

• The local or national government should take and keep the initiative in policy-making. Initiatives ought to be taken from above. The process of involving citizens in politics and policy-making should not lead to the erosion of the primacy of the representative institutions. The central focus of thought is not on citizens, but on the government.

• The role of participation is mainly an instrumental one. That is, its main objective is to give citizens and their organizations a say in the official political process. Participation is not regarded as a value in itself, but is merely aimed at producing a government.

• Participation has no other functions.

• Massive participation is undesirable and could even be dangerous. Though this is the dominant view, some authors (academics in particular), point to different, more expressive elements of participation and consider citizen participation as essential to democracy.

Guidelines for Involving the Public for Participation

Visual urban planning documents presented to the public should display data in forms which are easy to understand by a layperson, allowing for simulation of future states of a site after introducing parameters describing current state and planning conditions.

The basis for analysis is the model of current land use.

The parameters required show future states are;

Intensity of development,

Accepted height of buildings,

Buildings’ placement on the plot and other conditions that the buildings must fulfil.

The proposed documents should allow for envisioning the land use alternatives and understanding their potential environmental, economic, and social impacts.

Principles of Organization

Citizen participation in community betterment organizations and projects doesn’t usually occur by chance alone. It happens because certain principles of organization are observed at an acceptable level to the participants. Six major principles were discussed:

Citizens will voluntarily participate in a community activity when they:

  • . See positive benefits to be gained.
  • 0. Have an appropriate organizational structure available to them for expressing their interests.
  • . See some aspect of their way-of-life threatened.
  • 0. Feel committed to be supportive of the activity.
  • 0. Have better knowledge of an issue or situation.
  • . Feel comfortable in the group.

Further, citizen participation can be improved by:

  • 0. Stressing participation benefits.
  • 0. Organizing or identifying appropriate groups receptive to citizen input.
  • 0. Helping citizens find positive ways to respond to threatening situations.
  • 0. Stressing obligations each of us have toward community improvement.
  • 0. Providing citizens with better knowledge on issues and opportunities.
  • 0. Helping participants feel comfortable within the development group.
  • 0.

E-government

Public participation in urban planning in the context of e-government, or “the use of information technology to support government operations, engaging citizens, and providing government services.”

The use of the Internet to engage citizens in urban planning has been constrained by the limited availability of suitable technical tools and concerns about digital inequality, as well as a lack of a clear understanding of how technology can meet the needs of citizens and professionals.

New Internet technologies and expanding Internet access addresses these concerns, and why urban planning requires a distinct technological approach from other e-government initiatives.

Contemporary outreach can build from these early models using Internet tools to achieve consensus about and coordination of new urban development.

The Internet is a powerful tool for planners to expand the base of participants in planning processes and enhance traditional engagement approaches. Although Internet technologies are new, the practice of engaging citizens in urban development processes is not. This study contains a critical re-evaluation of planning participation history and theory in order to propose ways Internet tools can be used to realize more inclusive, democratic, and equitable planning processes.

Planners could use internet tools to enhance the practice of planning. Used efficiently, Internet tools could enhance the quality of public debate about planning issues, engage and mobilize previously apathetic citizens, and facilitate the planning process. While face-to-face communications and traditional public engagement methods like public meetings and published reports will continue to be important, they can and should be supplemented with online information and communication.

The Internet has profoundly impacted the practice of urban planning as email, websites, online Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and online research have become central to the profession. However, planner’s efforts to communicate information and interact with the public online has been minimal. Individual agencies have experimented with various tools, but many have not due to technical illiteracy, concerns about cost, equity concerns, or the usability of available tools.

New technologies are making the internet more interactive and easy to use than ever before

The Internet has several characteristics that distinguish it from other mediums of communication. Online information is ubiquitous, available equally wherever an internet connection is available. It is instantaneous, so emails and website updates are instantly reflected irrespective time or geographic distance. It is highly scalable, a website can host one visitor one day and 20,000 the next. It can be highly interactive, supporting quick and easy communication between users and sources. Online content can be highly persistent, available to find far longer and far easier than ephemeral audio and video broadcasts, or even printed documents. It can be conducive to the construction of a historical record, as all information can be available, not just the latest plan.

The Internet is uniquely suited to communicating with discrete communities of interest;

Thousands of neighborhoods, towns, and city-specific websites, called “placeblogs”, have sprung up across the country. These websites host online conversations, link to and analyze online public data, and help connect citizens who might not otherwise meet. These websites are a broad-based and relatively permanent phenomenon.

They publish and discuss information about local community planning. However, these efforts are often inconsistent, and not informed by a deep knowledge of planning processes. To the extent it is already being done, planners could help clarify information by taking the role upon themselves.

Online information enhances transparency and accountability, which benefits the least powerful participants. While elites have lawyers and resources to conduct investigations, those with the least amount of power are most reliant on public sources.

Online information can help build a constituency for planning, explaining planning policies to citizens making them better able to understand and support them in the public policy arena. Online information can help the development community learn about community concerns and also applicable laws.

Online information can help save plans from irrelevance. The persistent, iterative character of online information lends itself to linking visions, plans, and charrettes with implementation processes.

Walter Dwight Moody, the legendary promoter of the Chicago Plan of 1909, “Promotion … is the dynamic power behind the throne of [urban planning] accomplishment.”


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