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Participatory Methods for Urban Development
Despite the fact that vulnerable communities are the most affected by unplanned cities, considerably less attention has been given to involving them in urban development in order to ensure equitable outcomes. In this regard, there is an urgent need for governments to introduce and enforce processes that allow citizens, including vulnerable communities, to participate in development planning and policymaking. However, at present, there is a lack of guidance for practitioners regarding the definition of a clear purpose of community engagement and the selection of appropriate participatory methods to fulfil the set purpose. This study provides a thorough account of the participatory methods that can be used to achieve various engagement goals throughout the urban development process. This structured literature review used 71 reports published from 2000 to 2020. The review revealed 34 participatory methods, wherein most of the methods are devoted to informing, consulting and involving communities, whilst only a few methods are available for interactive public participation that supports true collaboration and empowerment. The study identified 12 purposes of community engagement in urban development, and mapped the 34 participatory methods for achieving them. The analysed case studies showed that the current community engagement practices are mainly in the pre-design and briefing stages of the urban development processes, and that most projects are aiming to achieve the ‘inform’ and ‘consult’ levels of engagement, with a few aiming to achieve the ‘involve’ and ‘collaborate’ levels. This study shows that community engagement is often overlooked during the professional design, development and post-development phases. The paper presents an onion model which can be used by practitioners to choose appropriate participatory methods based on the intended urban development phase, the engagement level and the purpose of the community engagement.
Each urban development initiative affects not only those who invest or occupy buildings in the city but also a wider community who live and work nearby, or simply pass through or visit the area on a regular basis . Therefore, it is the right of all of the affected parties, including local residents and businesses, to be actively involved in shaping the developments to reap the benefits equitably without adverse effects on anyone . In order to address complex urban challenges and to respond to the uncertainties in urban development, a wide range of knowledge and resources is needed from multiple fields; local communities should, therefore, participate as a key stakeholder . Unfortunately, in most cases, the local community is considered as inhabitants, rather than bringing them forward as an active participant in the urban planning. This poses a challenge for the achievement of equitable and sustainable developments as, generally, only governmental strategies are preferentially considered by the decision-makers. The factors that cause the exclusion of communities include their lower capacity and understanding. Communities are unwilling to participate in government-led projects due to public cynicism and distrust in the local authority processes . This is further exacerbated by a range of other factors, such as the low investment for infrastructure and planning required for community engagement exercises, strictly determined top-down procedures, the lack of a participatory culture within practitioners, and their insufficient knowledge and understanding of participatory practices . Therefore, there is a serious concern that the targets set by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, such as Goal 10 (Reduce inequality within and among countries) and Goal 11 (Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable), and the priorities set by the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030 may not be effectively achieved .
In this regard, there is an urgent need for governments to introduce and enforce processes that build trust within communities and allow citizens, including vulnerable groups, to participate in development planning and policymaking . In order to achieve inclusivity in urban planning, industry practitioners (including planners) should have a proper understanding of the available participatory approaches and the true purpose of involving the public during the lifecycle of an urban development project. Partitioners need to strategically select participatory methods that suit the intended outcome of involving local communities in the different phases of urban development, from the pre-design analysis (conceptual design) to the post-development stage.
2. Nexus of Community Engagement with the Urban Development Process
Community engagement is a “purposeful process which develops a working relationship between communities, community organisations and public and private bodies to help them to identify and act on community needs and ambitions”  (as cited in the Scottish Community Development Centre, 2015). Academic researchers from diverse disciplines have produced different models for community engagement in order to widen the public and private sectors’ understanding of public participation. In 1969, Arnstein devised a ladder of citizen participation based on the distribution of power between governments and citizens . The ladder consists of eight rungs under three levels of public participation: (1) the first two rungs, namely manipulation and therapy, represent nonparticipation or no power; (2) the next three rungs of informing, consultation and placation represent tokenism; (3) the last three rungs of partnership, delegated power and citizen control represent citizen power. Later, Glass  defined five stages of public participation in the form of objectives to be achieved in successful community engagement activity. These are information exchange, education, support building, supplemental decision-making and representational input. As mentioned in , the Sunderland Community Development Plan (2008) identified another way of thinking about different levels of involvement, namely: consultation (being informed, consultation, being asked); engagement (commenting on decisions, engagement for developing solutions); and partnership (delivering services).
3. Mapping of Participatory Methods into the Spectrum of Community Engagement
4. Suggested Model for the Selection of Participatory Methods
The onion model proposed for inclusive developments consists of six layers, namely (1) urban development phases, (2) the spectrum of community engagement, (3) the purpose of community engagement, (4) participatory methods, (5) tools and (6) techniques. As proposed in this model, one should peel off each layer of this onion to select the participatory methods which are ideal for engaging communities to achieve the specific purpose of community engagement within an urban development process. This onion model can be customised from one project to another based on the economic, socio-cultural and political contexts inherent within a particular locality where the development is planned.
After deciding the urban development phase in which community participation is required, one needs to define which level of participation is expected from locals (i.e., inform, consult, involve, collaborate, or empower). Following this decision, it is essential to understand the true purpose of the engagement that one expects to achieve. The study identified 12 purposes of community engagement in urban development that serve as the content of the third layer. Next, there are dedicated participatory methods within each purpose of community engagement. The mapping of participatory methods into the spectrum of community engagement provides the basis for this selection, as it places the participatory methods into different community engagement purposes.
The entry is from 10.3390/su13168992
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