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Section 2: Community Participation Tools

Encouraging Community Involvement and Informing Initiatives

Community participation tools are fundamental in developing appropriate and effective urban design solutions. The community and users of our towns and cities are the ultimate clients and beneficiaries of quality urban design. Quality urban design is founded on a sound understanding of local knowledge, values and needs. True community participation enables people to influence, and be part of, urban design decision-making processes. This involvement strengthens their ownership of the places they have had a hand in designing.

These tools are a means of identifying community concerns and issues, providing useful information on user needs, values and expectations, creating opportunities for community involvement in the design process and incorporating community concerns in decision-making. Promoters of urban design projects who use these tools will benefit by being better informed and having the community involved in the design and approval process in a constructive way. Ultimately, a well-constructed community participation process contributes to a quality design outcome and a smoother design process.

This section describes:

Community Meeting

What it is:

A chaired meeting held in a community place and used to present design proposals to a community.

What it’s useful for:

Useful for distributing information and undertaking consultation, but offer limited opportunity to involve people in one-on-one dialogue and participation. Community meetings are a means for presenting and explaining proposals to a group of residents, stakeholders or iwi and hapu and an opportunity for the community to ask questions and get immediate answers.

How it’s done:

Community meetings are most usefully held in a local neighbourhood venue where they can be open to all members of the community. Meetings can be combined with interactive displays or other forms of community participation tools. These meetings should be thoroughly advertised through community information networks, such as in local papers or council newsletters, on the radio, or event notice boards.

Alternatively, a ‘hui’ held at a local marae or hall may be an appropriate way to involve residents, stakeholders and, in particular, local iwi and hapu in the design process. A hui should be organised and led by local iwi, and direction for its content and structure will need to be decided upon in consultation with that iwi. Other forms of community meeting that use different cultural protocols should be considered when working with diverse cultural groups.

References

  • International Association for Public Participation: http://www.iap2.org/. Provides practitioner tools, including public participation spectrum, and a toolbox of techniques to share information.

  • Ministry for the Environment 2002. Creating great places to Live+Work+Play: Livable urban environments: process, strategy, action: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/rma/live-work-play-jun02/section-1-2-jun02.pdf (363 KB). Page 16 provides information on a hui, with a checklist and information on a project trail in Rotorua.

Design Workshop

Design Workshop

What it is:

A workshop that involves professional designers, the community and other key stakeholders that is focused on generating design ideas for development. It usually runs for a defined period of time, from several hours to a week, depending on the size, complexity of the project and the number of people involved.

What it’s useful for:

Any design project that involves a large number of stakeholders and where there is a likelihood of constructive participation. Typically, these are major community projects in a context that requires both high-level professional expertise and community participation as a catalyst for beginning the design process. The technique is best used to generate conceptual design options and to gain a consensus on a general direction. At a smaller scale, design workshops with in-house staff can form an important exercise in collaboration of different design disciplines.

How it’s done:

A design workshop requires a collaborative design process. The organisers and designers provide technical expertise, facilitation and creative design skills, and work with a range of stakeholders who provide information on their expectations and values, and offer critical feedback on initial design options. In these workshops, design solutions are not usually tested for technical viability because of the short timeframes. Benefits include quick response to design options, and enhanced community/stakeholder awareness and ownership of the project.

A design workshop is also known as a design ‘charette’ and may be part of a ‘community planning forum’.

Particular types of design workshops include ‘enquiry by design’, ‘planning weekend’ and ‘ideas workshop’. ‘Action planning’ is a design workshop where a team of design specialists, known as an ‘urban design assistance team’ (UDAT), collaborates with community and user groups to produce a proposal for action.

References

Examples

Focus Group

Focus Group

What it is:

A structured, small group meeting made up of stakeholders sharing common demographics (for example, young people) or stakeholder interests, who discuss a specific topic. Often used to test differences, degrees of consensus and deliberating opinions between groups.

What it’s useful for:

Used as an efficient means of obtaining the opinions of experts, informed members of the community or a party on a defined topic, and deliberating on those opinions.

How it’s done:

A focus group generally meets for around half a day, is facilitated, and is usually limited to around 10–12 people to allow full participation. A detailed record of the session is required so that this information can be used in future design work.

References

Interactive Display

Focus Group

What it is:

A display on urban issues or on a project that allows the community to make its views on the issue known by voting, putting post-it notes on the display, or physically altering the display. Best used as part of a forum, design workshop, exhibition or other event.

What it’s useful for:

Allows people to engage and debate urban issues in a fun way by making additions or alterations to a prepared display. It generates ideas, creates interaction and records feedback from a wide range of participants. It can be used in exhibitions, street stalls, design workshops or public meetings.

How it’s done:

The display material, made up of plans, photos or models, needs to be simple and clear. People record their likes, dislikes, comments, areas in need of improvement and other issues on the display material using post-it notes, dots or handwritten notes, or computer-aided interactive polling techniques undertaken in especially equipped and designed rooms. People’s responses are recorded in such a way that they can be used afterwards.

Another interactive display tool is an ‘elevation montage’. Photographs of elevations of either buildings lining a street or other open spaces are used to generate community discussion, and record comments and suggestions for improvement.

References

  • Community Planning Website, United Kingdom: http://www.communityplanning.net/. Provides further information, tips on interactive displays and elevation montages in the methods section of this website.

  • Local Government Commission, United States: http://www.lgc.org/. Provides information on public participation and visual surveys.

  • The power of the post-it – getting down to community planning with the experts: Some recollections of a participatory planning event: http://www.rudi.net/papers/16954. This Resource for Urban Design Information (RUDI) article outlines a 2005 seminar given by John Thompson and Partners in the United Kingdom on participatory planning and interactive displays.

Examples

  • SmartGrowth Toolkit, British Columbia. Visual Preference Surveys: http://66.51.172.116/Portals/0/Downloads/J1_ToolKitPart_III.pdf (283 KB]. Page 20 outlines what a visual preference survey involves, that is, showing participants a series of different built environment images and then having them rank them in order of preference.

Interactive Model

What it is:

A model-building technique that uses a kit of simple blocks of various sizes and shapes representing typical urban building elements. The blocks are used to construct configurations of built urban form to scale as a way of exploring different three-dimensional options for a site.

What it’s useful for:

Useful for rapidly investigating and visualising options for site planning, urban spaces, and building bulk and form. Helpful in community design workshops, and in urban design education, for example, ‘Box City’ an urban design game that children can play.

How it’s done:

Timber block or paper cut-out modules are frequently used, based on common building types and components. The components should be able to be arranged into the widest variety of configurations, and easily reconfigured into new scenarios. The scenarios created should be recorded as they emerge. An interactive model encourages participation, and enables members of the community and other non-designers to get involved in the design process and to understand the implications of decisions on three-dimensional form and space.

Interactive modelling is sometimes known as ‘planning for real’, or ‘urban modelling’, using an ‘adaptable model’. It may be used to investigate city and regional planning issues, such as growth, using simulation software. See also scenario building.

References/examples

Participatory Appraisal

What it is:

A participation approach to gain a rapid, in-depth understanding of a community, or certain aspects of a community, using visual techniques, models, ranking, discussions, mapping or community inventory.

What it’s useful for:

Allowing people to share and record aspects of their own situation, conditions of life, knowledge, perceptions, aspirations and preferences. From this, plans can be developed for action. This tool is not restricted to urban design issues.

How it’s done:

There are many visual and verbal techniques, methods and approaches used in participatory appraisal. Qualified trainers and facilitators can help select the right mix of creative and targeted techniques.

Visual displays can be used that encourage wide participation and interaction between participants as they respond to the views of others, while adding their own ideas to a display. An ‘interactive display’ can be used as part of participatory appraisal.

Verbal techniques include face-to-face interviews, focus group discussions and ‘speak out’ sessions where members of the public speak and officials listen and ask questions.

References/examples

  • Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) 2007. SpaceShaper: http://www.cabe.org.uk/default.aspx?contentitemid=1675. A UK-based toolkit that uses a questionnaire and facilitated workshop to enable people to evaluate the quality of their public spaces.

  • GreenSTAT, United Kingdom: http://www.greenstat.org.uk/. GreenSTAT is a system that gives local residents the opportunity to comment on the quality of their open spaces and how well they feel they are being managed and maintained.

  • Ministry for the Environment 2002. Creating great places to Live+Work+Play: Livable urban environments: process, strategy, action: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/rma/live-work-play-jun02/section-1-2-jun02.pdf (1.46 MB). Page 18 provides a checklist, and project trail information on participatory appraisal.

  • Smart Growth scorecards, United States: http://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/scorecards/. Scorecards are basic assessment tools that allow communities to rate and analyse policies and regulations that determine their development patterns. This site provides information on three types of scorecards: municipal, project-specific and component scorecards.

  • The Architecture Foundation toolkit for participatory urban design: http://www.creativecommunities.org.uk/essays/66.html. Provides inspiration, ideas and support for creative community involvement in urban design.

Planning and Briefing Workshops

What it is:

A workshop held before beginning any design work. Its intention is to gather information on stakeholder needs and expectations, foster constructive community involvement, and to help develop the brief for a project.

What it’s useful for:

Providing a forum for information-gathering and allowing stakeholders and users a chance to put forward ideas and have a say in an interactive setting early on in the project’s development. Useful in community projects where a participatory process can help clarify expectations, identify common ground and give direction to expected outcomes. Used to enhance understanding and develop ideas, and can be a catalyst for further action.

How it’s done:

Workshops may be open to the community, or limited to invited participants from key community interest groups and stakeholders representing a wide range of views. Small-scale projects may require only one workshop, but large, complex or controversial community projects often justify a series of workshops. Competing perspectives need to be heard, and participation managed so all attendees can be fully and productively involved.

When used to develop a community plan or a brief for the design of a neighbourhood, a planning workshop may be known as a ‘community planning forum’. Where the aim is to determine the community participation process for a project and gain community approval and ‘ownership’ of the process, it may be known as a ‘process planning workshop’. A ‘future search conference’ is a workshop in conference format where, over a period of two-to-three days, participants identify objectives, initiatives and actions, and establish a common vision for the future.

Reference

  • Community Planning Website, United Kingdom: http://www.communityplanning.net/. Provides information on ‘briefing workshops’, ‘community planning forums’, ‘process planning workshops’ and ‘future search conferences’.

Examples

  • Project for Public Spaces, New York. Place Game Workshops: http://www.pps.org/info/ services/work. These educational community workshops provide a process for the public and private sectors to work together cooperatively to create public space implementation programmes.

  • The Built Environment Trust, United Kingdom. Consulting your Community: http://www.shape-east.org.uk/news/consultyourcommunityFV.pdf (3022 KB]. This is a toolkit for preparing and delivering community consultation workshops about the built environment.

Reference Group

What it is:

A group of interested and affected parties that can be made up of informed community representatives known as a ‘community advisory group’, or key stakeholders known as a ‘stakeholder reference group’, brought together by designers or policy-makers. A reference group acts as a forum and an ongoing point of reference for consultation throughout the life of a project.

What it’s useful for:

Typically used on large community or private projects that are of community interest or affect a range of private or institutional stakeholders. A reference group allows expectations, issues of concern, and possibilities for their resolution, to be identified before the formal policy-making or consent processes begin.

How it’s done:

A reference group is formed at the pre-design stages of a project, and may continue to meet throughout a project for as long as there are issues to resolve. Meetings provide a forum for identification of issues and discussion of both shared and contradicting views.

A ‘community advisory group’ is generally established by a local authority that seeks to act on the group’s recommendations as much as possible. The local authority provides the technical and administrative support. Members of a community advisory group usually represent key stakeholder groups, but may include expert advisors and individuals from the general community.

Scenario Building

What it is:

A means of developing ideas and systematically exploring design, growth or planning options for a town or city under a range of potential economic, social and development scenarios. Often uses computer simulation software both to describe and analyse scenarios.

What it’s useful for:

Providing a range of scenarios at any level, from individual development sites to city regions. It is useful for identifying and assessing the effects, feasibility and implications of likely or possible scenarios. It is particularly appropriate where a number of future scenarios are possible, and the implications of each require investigation.

How it’s done:

Scenarios may relate to any combination of variables, for example, building heights, intensity of development, town boundary conditions, or regional population growth. Scenario building is used to show the possible directions that could be taken in comparative assessments and risk management. Scenario building informs debate and decision-making and is also known as ‘participatory land-use mapping’. (See also interactive model.)

‘Scenario planning’ is related to the use of these scenarios, usually in strategic planning.

Reference

Example

  • Envision Utah (Regional Modelling): http://www.envisionutah.org/. Website sponsored by the coalition for Utah’s future, with information for keeping Utah beautiful, prosperous and neighbourly for future generations.

Urban Design Games

What it is:

A highly visual way of allowing people to explore physical design options for a site through acting, design puzzles, jigsaws, board games or other interactive gaming methods.

What it’s useful for:

Helping people have fun, understanding the urban design process and increasing awareness through playing the games.

How it’s done:

Urban design games are mostly played in groups, usually with either clear instructions from someone who has already played the games or a facilitator. Game types include ‘board games’ that stimulate planning and design scenarios, ‘picture analysis’ to see what different people see in a photo or picture and comparing notes, ‘role play’ activities that allow people to act in someone else’s shoes, ‘storytelling’ and ‘theatre performance’. See interactive model for further refinement of this tool.

Reference

  • Community Planning Website, United Kingdom: http://www.communityplanning.net/. Provides a description on gaming, with information on game types, a list of methods to implement them, tips and links to other urban design gaming methods.

Examples

  • Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, United States. Building Blocks – A density game: http://www.lincolninst.edu/subcenters/visualizing_density/blockgame/index.aspx. An interactive game that allows you to create your own neighbourhood by arranging houses, streets, yards and parks. You can choose from pre-set low-, medium- or high-density scenarios, or create your own situation.

  • My Sust House: http://mysusthouse.org/. This is an interactive game, aimed at 8–14 year olds, that explores what sustainability means and how it relates to the environment. The game looks at ways to create a sustainable environment, including the importance of building location and the creation of a sustainable house.