Evaluating Public Participation Techniques: Improving the Planner's Tool Box
Ambrose, Zachary T.
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This thesis attempts to examine the variety of public participation techniques used in the creation of neighborhood plans and suggests a multi-criteria analysis to compare techniques against a set of criteria. To pair down the participation techniques studied in this thesis, the researcher used well-known techniques currently in use by planning practitioners. These include: the public hearing, the community workshop, the charrette, the focus group, the citizen panel / community advisory board, ballots or referenda, and crowdsourcing. A multi-criteria analysis is proposed as a means of examining the relative performance of each participation technique against a set of external criteria. Based on the extensive research on public participation and theory, five goals have been identified in conducting a public participation process and include a combination of process-based and outcome-based goals to reflect the nature of public participation itself as both a process and an outcome. Goals are understood as general ends or expected results for a project or process. For the purposes of this thesis, public participation goals identified by Laurian and Shaw (2008) will be used and include mutual learning, democratic process, issue-related, governance, and social outcomes. From these goals, 13 criteria are suggested to evaluate each public participation techniques' effectiveness. Criteria, are understood as measureable aspects of judgment by which a dimension of the various choice possibilities under consideration can be characterized (Voogd 1983). The researcher has suggested criteria based on previous research and theory in an attempt to achieve the predefined goals. The evaluator estimates effectiveness scores for each participation technique based on informed judgment; these scores are based on a ten point (0-10) scale and indicate how well each participation technique fulfills each criterion. Additionally, a criterion weighting mechanism is suggested to account for various interested parties' influence and preference. By weighting criteria, individual parties' values are considered and determine the importance of each criterion. Once weighting is achieved, the weights are multiplied against the effectiveness scores to achieve weighted effectiveness scores. These weighted effectiveness scores are totaled for each participation technique and the result indicates the overall effectiveness of each technique relative to the others. An illustrative model is presented to demonstrate how this type of evaluation can be used in a real world setting and considers a neighborhood planning scenario. This illustration identifies the steps used in a multi-criteria evaluation as applied to public participation techniques and suggests further research opportunities and limitations of this type of evaluation.
- Urban planning