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. 

Characteristics of Participation 

Although any given participation process does not automatically ensure success, it can be claimed that the process will minimize failure. It is a source of wisdom and information about local conditions, needs and attitudes, and therefore improves the effectiveness of decision making. It is a means of defending the interests of groups of people and of individuals, 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 perceived 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; 

  1. Identify the individuals or groups that should be involved in the participation actively being planned 
  2. Decide where in the process the participants should be involved, from development to implementation to evaluation 
  3. Articulate the participation objectives in relation to all participants who will be involved 
  4. Identify and match alternative participation methods to objectives in terms of the resources available 
  5. Select an appropriate method to be used to achieve specific objectives 
  6. Implement chosen participation activities
  7. 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 groups 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. 

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

Methods of Data Collection 

  • Interviews 
  • Surveys 
  • Reviews and 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)