TECHNIQUE OF EFFECTIVE PUBLIC PARTICIPATION: CONSULTATION

Consultation should be as exhaustive as possible like engaging all residents, service providers, public agencies, planning and governing bodies, NGOs and CBOs. Consultation must be interactive like focus group discussion, citizen’s advisory committees. Method of hearing people’s concerns should be open house and concerned persons should be informed at least a week prior to hearing. Methods of inputs of the citizen’s views should be multi-media i.e., written, audio, visual. Ground for consideration of a view should be made clear like the issues pertaining to slum and vendors will be entertained if clamant is registered.

SWOT Analysis can be undertaken for identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats with as much public involvement as possible.  This step can build on the information and findings from the neighborhood inventory and ground realities mapping stage.  Participants in the SWOT analysis should have the chance to review this information, discuss it with others, and provide meaningful feedback.  Depending on the situation, this might be accomplished with a series of workshops where people have the chance to review information, talk together and share ideas.  At this point in the process, all suggestions by the participants should be considered relevant.  There will be opportunities later to prioritize and focus resources.

Workshop facilitation for ensuring that a well-planned workshop goes well, even if it does not go as planned.  A facilitator is a neutral guide that helps the group stay on task, encourages participation, keeps the discussion fair and balanced, and ensures that all voices are heard. All workshops need some form of facilitation. A workshop might need at least one facilitator for every 8-10 participants.

There are several methods to facilitate the prioritization of issues, illicit information or gain group consensus. For example, polling retrieves anonymous and instantaneous quantitative input from a large group of people.  Everyone in a workshop can be asked to respond to simple multiple-choice questions.  Each question can be displayed on a screen with a list of possible responses to facilitate simultaneous response recording through electronic medium or on paper.  A summary of everybody’s response is then immediately available on the screen for everybody to see and further discuss.

A vision can take many forms and one possibility is a vision statement, which captures the desires and aspirations of the community in a manner that is brief enough to be easily communicated but rich enough to be meaningful.  The larger and more complex a community is, the more difficult this step might be.  The vision helps guide the rest of the process.  The vision might focus the process on a particular path, or it might confirm the need to make the process more comprehensive.  This step requires a mix of creative input and careful writing.  If possible, one workshop might be conducted to collect ideas for a vision from a broad range of participants.  Following this workshop, a small working group might spend time crafting a vision from the ideas gathered.  A second workshop should then take place for the public to review the vision.  It might be necessary to repeat this step until a satisfactory vision is obtained.

Drafting Goals and Objectives can build on a vision to create more detailed priorities for a community.  Goals are typically specific and measurable achievements that if met, suggest that significant progress is being made towards the vision.  Objectives are a series of smaller steps that need to be accomplished in order to meet each longer-term goal.  Goals should be developed with significant levels of public involvement, though the process might also call for smaller working groups that can work over a period of time on more details.  Objectives are another more detailed level that might be best accomplished in a series of session with smaller working groups or dedicated staff time.  In either case, when completed, the goals and objectives should be presented to the community in a draft form so that feedback can be gathered and changes made.

Implementation Strategies are another detailed part of the plan that should be constructed with a combination of public input and work from a core group of individuals, including representatives from the community, organizational staff, and perhaps individuals from outside the community who can provide information about efforts and experiences elsewhere.  The list of implementation strategies should be fairly exhaustive so that it includes many possible means to achieve the goals.  However, it should also provide focus so that the organizations and individuals taking responsibility for implementing the plan have clear directions.

Shashikant Nishant Sharma

Urban Planner

{Courtesy: Sharma, S.N. (2012), Participatory Planning in Plan Preparation: A Case of Delhi, Graduate Thesis, Department of Physical Planning, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi}

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