Definition – Also sometimes referred to as public involvement or public engagement, participation refers to the involvement of citizens and other stakeholders in the process of preparing a SUMP, resulting in improved planning outcomes through:
- inclusion of new ideas and knowledge;
- increasing the range of options;
- testing evidence and positions;
- addressing uncertainty and conflict; and
- making public acceptance of the final plan more likely (see also ownership).
Participation processes contribute to the preparation of a high quality plan with locally appropriate mobility solutions, while minimising risks for decision-makers and facilitating implementation of the SUMP.
While there are clear benefits to participation, there are also challenges to running an effective participation process, including:
- there can be a lack of political will for carrying out an open and transparent participation process (sometimes due to a lack of experience with citizen participation processes);
- additional staff time and resources are required;
- it can be difficult to create a fair balance in the involvement of different stakeholder groups;
- the process needs to be open and honest, i.e. participants need to feel their input is valuable and their ideas will be taken seriously.
- clarity (with yourselves and your participants) about what you expect from them and what role their input will play in the process (i.e. you won’t implement every idea they come up with);
- a low level of interest from some people (whose input could be valuable)
- poor coordination with other participatory processes or simply asking too much of participants can result in “consultation fatigue”; and
- potentially as a result of the points above, it can happen that public engagement only occurs in the form of objection when proposals are at a late stage of development or during implementation – the so-called “dilemma of participation”.
Relevance to SUMP – Adopting a transparent and participatory approach to plan-making is a main characteristic of the SUMP approach. A plan for stakeholder and citizen involvement should be prepared at an early stage of the SUMP preparation. This should aim to ensure that the participation process is balanced and seeks input from groups and people with different backgrounds. See also diversity, equity and “hard-to-reach” groups.
A wide range of formats can be used to engage citizens in the planning process, some of which are described below. These approaches can also be used to facilitate integration, by inviting representatives from other stakeholder institutes and organisations.
A citizen jury involves setting up a series of hearings about a proposed transport policy or strategy, to which a small number of inhabitants of a city or neighbourhood are invited to participate in discussions. The citizen jury is then asked to make recommendations to be taken into account in SUMP preparation.
Source: participedia.net (online)
A small group of people, usually previously unknown to one another, are invited to discuss specific topics or issues relevant to a mobility project with the support of a facilitator. A focus group can be used to explore stakeholder perceptions and concerns, obtain detailed feedback, promote interaction and inform stakeholder opinion.
Source: Guidemaps, 2004
Future Search is a “learning laboratory” for getting everybody involved in improving the whole system. This kind of planning workshop enables organisations and communities to learn more together than any one person can discover alone. The meeting is task-focussed. By putting a focus on the whole system, participants are faced with the complexity and uncertainty of the situation, and can take more informed and clear decisions and actions.
Such workshops are typically three-day meetings which bring together 60 to 100 people from all stakeholder groups in one room (or hundreds in parallel rooms). People tell stories about their past, present and desired future and, through dialogue, discover their common ground. Only then do they begin making concrete action plans.
OpenSpace is a methodology for running self-organising meetings and conferences, sometimes also referred to as “unconferences”. Participants create and manage their own agenda of parallel working sessions around a central theme. The organiser prepares a notice board with a grid of parallel working sessions and time slots. Participants then fill out post-it notes with subjects they are interested in discussing and put them in free meeting slots on the grid. The emphasis is on conversation and not presentation. The process can take 1-2 days. The most important topics, insights, questions and recommendations are documented in a report.
Planning for Real is a trademarked participation tool that aims to allow local citizens and communities to have their say in the planning process. At Planning for Real events, a map or model of the urban area is provided and people are invited to fill out cards with issues, suggestions and ideas, which are then laid out in the appropriate locations on the map or model. All suggestions are categorised under issue topics, such as health, crime or safety (using different coloured cards), so that the main issues for a particular area or place can be easily identified.
A workshop is a participation event used to address a particular SUMP topic or activity which usually involves brainstorming or discussion to develop a series of conclusions, recommendations and/or actions. A workshop usually consists of a single event, lasting for one to four hours, and can be combined with other participation techniques.
Source: GUIDEMAPS, 2004
A world café is a meeting facilitation method that is intended to allow for introductions, information sharing and collaborative discussions amongst diverse groups of people in an informal setting. Three rounds of conversations are set up, each around 20-30 minutes long. Each “café” table has a topic and a host who remains at the table for all three rounds. Participants form groups around paper-covered tables. Pens are provided for writing/drawing on the table to record ideas. After each round, participants move to a different table. The host explains what was said (and recorded on the table) in the previous round(s) and the new group builds on the conversation at that table.
Source: www.worldcafe.com; IEE, 2014