People sitting in a public area

Engaging with the public in meaningful and effective ways as a municipality, government representative, or economic development practitioner can be difficult at times. As a result, new dynamic and innovative engagement strategies are emerging to keep citizens interested in public engagement processes, ranging from online interactive municipal budget allocation tools, Twitter Town Halls, sounding boards located in high-use public areas, and citizens’ reference panels. These techniques are helping to move engagement beyond “informing” and “consulting” with the public towards “involving”, “collaborating”, and “empowering” community members (see the “spectrum of public participation” for more information).

In an effort to share their own inclusive methodologies on how to build capacity in communities through public participation, the Montreal Urban Ecology Centre (MUEC) recently released its guide Participatory Urban Planning: Planning the city with and for its citizens (hard copies in English and French are available in the MUEC online store).

Highlighting its six-step participatory planning process, MUEC stresses the importance of including citizens throughout the entire life cycle of a project, allowing public debate to shape the plan. The six steps are accompanied by examples of participatory activities, including activities such as an exploratory walk that helps to identify specific issues in a location, scenario validation workshops that prioritize planning solutions, and design workshops that can provide community members who are often excluded from design discussions with tools to participate in a meaningful way.

At the end of the day, MUEC’s six-step participatory planning process encourages celebration of the positive changes that public engagement can bring to communities and recognition of the role that citizens had in transforming their community.

This post first appeared in TINAN 68. Subscribe to TINAN for the latest economic development news and resources.