Department of Architecture and Planning
NED University of Engineering and Technology
TOPIC: COMMUNITY PLANNING
If you want to know how a shoe fits ask the person who wear it not the person who made it. All over the world there is increasing demand from all sides for more local involvement in the planning and management of the environment. It is widely recognised that this is the only way that people will get the surroundings they want. And it is now seen as the best way of ensuring that communities become safer, stronger, wealthier and more sustainable. But how should it be done? How can local people – wherever they live – best involve themselves in the complexities of architecture, planning and urban design? How can professionals’ best build on local knowledge and resources? Over the past few decades, a wide range of methods has been pioneered in different countries. They include new ways of people interacting, new types of event, new types of organisation, new services and new support frameworks. This lecture provides an overview of these new methods of community planning.
BENEFIT OF COMMUNITY PLANNING:
1. Additional Resources: Governments rarely have sufficient means to solve all the problems in an area. Local people can bring additional resources which are often essential if their needs are to be met and dreams fulfilled.
2. Better Decisions: Local people are invariably the best source of knowledge and wisdom about their surroundings. Better decision-making results if this is harnessed.
3. Building community: The process of working together and achieving things together creates a sense of community.
4. Compliance with legislation: Community involvement is often, and increasingly, a statutory requirement.
5. Democratic credibility: Community involvement in planning accords with people¹s right to participate in decisions that affect their lives. It is an important part of the trend towards democratisation of all aspects of society.
6. Easier fundraising: Many grant-making organisations prefer, or even require, communityinvolvement to have occurred before handing out financial assistance.
7. Empowerment: Involvement builds local people¹s confidence, capabilities, skills and ability to co-operate. This enables them to tackle other challenges, both individually and collectively.
8. More appropriate results: Design solutions are more likely to be in tune with what is needed and wanted. Involvement allows proposals to be tested and refined before adoption, resulting in better use of resources.
9. Professional education: Working closely with local people helps professionals gain a greater insight into the communities they seek to serve. So they work more effectively and produce better results.
10. Responsive environment: The environment can more easily be constantly tuned and refined to cater for people¹s changing requirements.
11. Satisfying public demand: People want to be involved in shaping their environment and mostly seem to enjoy it.
12. Speedier development: People gain a better understanding of the options realistically available and are likely to start thinking positively rather than negatively. Time-wasting conflicts can often be avoided.
13. Sustainability: People feel more attached to an environment they have helped create. They will therefore manage and maintain it better, reducing the likelihood of vandalism, neglect and subsequent need for costly replacement.
GETTING STARTED WITH COMMUNITY PLANNING:
How do we get started with community planning? How do we decide which methods to use, and when? How do we design an overall strategy geared to our own circumstances?
The approach adopted will be different for every community. There is rarely quick fix or blueprint. Each place needs to carefully devise its own community planning strategy to suit local conditions and needs. But there are principles, methods and scenarios which appear to be universally relevant, and can be drawn on for inspiration and guidance. They are based on pioneering projects and experience from many countries over the past few decades. It is unlikely that we would be able to draw up a complete strategy at the outset. Flexibility is important, in any case, to be able to respond to new circumstances and opportunities. But planning a provisional overall strategy is a useful discipline so that everyone understands the context in which the chosen methods are being used arid the purpose of each stage. First, define the goal or purpose. Then devise a strategy to achieve it.
1. At first we need to understand the general principles and philosophy of community planning
2. Secondly we need to understand the methods and range of options available for community planning
3. Thirdly we need to develop a scenario to see if any case exist elsewhere in the world that may relate to our own context so as to get inspiration
4. Fourthly we need to sketch out a scenario of our own situation
5. Fifthly we need to develop our strategies and planner i.e. action plan, event plan and progress monitoring plan
6. Sixthly we think about the people / community to be involved
7. Seventhly we produce an item wise budget and allocate responsibilities to people
8. Finally we need to organise a process planning meeting with the community to review the implementation of our plan
Once we have done this we will be in a position to assess the options available and resources required. We will be working with a fixed budget and known contributors, with our limited options. More likely, securing financial and other support will be part of the process. Raising funding may not be easy, but organisations of all kinds are increasingly prepared to contribute as they begin to see how community planning activity can benefit the communities and there is a great deal that can be achieved by obtaining 'support in kind'; help and assistance in non-financial terms.
PRINCIPLES OF COMMUNITY PLANNING:
People will want to be involved for a variety of reasons, for instance: academic enquiry, altruism, curiosity, fear of change, financial gain, neighbourliness, professional duty, protection of interests, socialising. This need not be a problem but it helps to be aware of people’s different agendas.
2. Accept limitations:
No community planning activity can solve all the world’s problems. But that is not a reason for holding back. Limited practical improvements will almost always result, and community planning activity can often act as a catalyst for more fundamental change.
3. Accept varied commitment:
Far too much energy is wasted complaining that certain people do not participate when the opportunity is provided. All of us could spend our lives many times over working to improve the local environment. Everyone has their own priorities in life and these should be respected. If people do not participate it is likely to be because they are happy to let others get on with it, they are busy with things which are more important to them or the process has not been made sufficiently interesting.
4. Agree rules and boundaries:
There should be a common understanding by all main interest groups of the approach adopted. Particularly in communities where there is fear – for instance that others may be trying to gain territorial advantage – it is vital that the rules and boundaries are clearly understood and agreed. In particular it is important to be clear about what can and cannot be changed as a result of any community involvement.
5. Avoid jargon:
Use plain language. Jargon prevents people from engaging and is usually a smokescreen to hide incompetence, ignorance or arrogance.
6. Be honest:
Be open and straightforward about the nature of any activity. People will generally participate more enthusiastically if they know that something can be achieved through their participation (eg if there is a budget for a capital project). But they may be quite prepared to participate ‘at risk’ providing they know the odds. If there is only a small chance of positive change as a result of people participating, say so. Avoid hidden agendas.
7. Be transparent:
The objectives and people’s roles should be clear and transparent at events. For instance, it may seem trivial but the importance of name badges to prevent events being the preserve of the ‘in-crowd’ can never be stressed enough.
8. Be visionary yet realistic:
Nothing much is likely to be achieved without raising expectations. Yet dwelling entirely on the utopian can be frustrating. Strike a balance between setting visionary utopian goals and being realistic about the practical options available.
9. Build local capacity:
Long-term community sustainability depends on developing human and social capital. Take every opportunity to develop local skills and capacity. Involve local people in surveying their own situation, running their own programmes and managing local assets. Help people to understand how planning processes work and how they can be influenced. Communications and cultural activities are particularly effective at building capacity.
10. Communicate: Use all available media to let people know what you are doing and how they can get involved. Community newspapers or broadsheets in particular are invaluable. Community newspapers and, increasingly, websites are invaluable. Information provision is a vital element of all participatory activities.
11. Encourage collaboration:
Create partnerships wherever possible between the various interest groups involved and with potential contributors such as financial institutions.
Be prepared to modify processes as circumstances dictate. Avoid inflexible methods and strategies.
13. Focus on attitudes:
Behaviour and attitude are just as, if not more, important than methods. Encourage self-critical awareness, handing over control, personal responsibility and sharing.
14. Focus on existing interests:
Start participatory working with a focus on the existing interests and motivations of local people. They will then see the relevance of being involved.
15. Follow up:
Lack of follow-up is the most common failing, usually due to a failure to plan and budget for it. Make sure you set aside time and resources for documenting, publicising and acting on the results of any community planning initiative.
16. Go at the right pace:
Rushing can lead to problems. On the other hand, without deadlines things can drift. Using experienced external advisors may speed up the process but often at the expense of developing local capacity. Get the balance right.
17. Go for it:
This is the phrase used most by people who have experienced community planning when asked what their advice would be to others. You are bound to have doubts; it is usually a leap in the dark. But you are unlikely to regret taking the plunge.
18. Have fun:
Getting involved in creating and managing the environment should not be a chore. It can be a great opportunity to meet people and have fun. The most interesting and sustainable environments have been produced where people have enjoyed creating them. Community planning requires humour. Use cartoons, jokes and games whenever possible.
19. Always Work on Human scale:
Work in communities of a manageable scale. This is usually where people at least recognise each other. Where possible, break up larger areas into a series of smaller ones and translate regional issues to a local scale. Working on regional planning issues requires a high level of coordination between community and interest groups and the use of specific methods.
20. Integrate with decision-making:
Community planning activity needs to be integrated with government decision-making processes. Participatory processes are undermined if there is no clear link to decision-making.
21. Involve all those affected:
Community planning works best if all parties are committed to it. Involve all the main interested parties as early as possible, preferably in the planning of the process. Activities in which key players (such as landowners or planners) sit on the sidelines are all too common and rarely achieve their objectives completely. Time spent winning over cynics before you start is well worthwhile. If there are people or groups who cannot be convinced at the outset, keep them informed and give them the option of joining in later on.
22. Involve all sections of the community:
People of different ages, gender, backgrounds and cultures almost invariably have different perspectives. Ensure that a full spectrum of the community is involved. This is usually far more important than involving large numbers.
23. Learn from others:
There is no need to re-invent the wheel. One of the best sources of information is people who have done it before. Don’t think you know it all. No one does. Be open to new approaches. Get in touch with people from elsewhere who have relevant experience. Go and visit them and see their projects; seeing is believing. Do not be afraid of experienced ‘consultants’ but choose and brief them carefully.
24. Local ownership of the process:
The community planning process should be ‘owned’ by local people. Even though consultants or national organisations may be providing advice and taking responsibility for certain activities, the local community should take responsibility for the overall process.
25. Maintain momentum:
Regularly monitor progress to ensure that initiatives are built on and objectives achieved. Development processes are invariably lengthy; the participation process needs to stay the course. If there has to be a break, start again from where you left off, not from the beginning. Periodic review sessions can be very valuable to maintain momentum and community involvement.
Use a variety of involvement methods as different people will want to take part in different ways. For instance, some will be happy to write letters, others will prefer to make comments at an exhibition or take part in workshop sessions.
27. Now is the right time:
The best time to start involving people is at the beginning of any programme. The earlier the better; But if programmes have already begun, participation should be introduced as soon as possible. Start now.
28. Ongoing involvement:
Community involvement in planning issues needs to be an ongoing and continuous activity and be supported accordingly. One-off consultations with tight deadlines only have limited value.
29. Personal initiative:
Virtually all community planning initiatives have happened only because an individual has taken the initiative. Don’t wait for others. That individual could be you!
30. Plan your own process carefully:
Careful planning of the process is vital. Avoid rushing into any one approach. Look at alternatives. Design a process to suit the circumstances. This may well involve combining a range of methods or devising new ones.
31. Plan for the local context:
Develop unique strategies for each neighbourhood. Understand local characteristics and traditions and use them as a starting point for planning. Encourage regional and local diversity.
32. Prepare properly:
The most successful activities are invariably those on which sufficient time and effort have been given to preliminary organisation and engaging those who may be interested.
33. Process is as important as product:
The way that things are done is often as important as the end result. But remember that the aim is implementation. Participation is important but is not an end in itself.
34. Professional enablers:
Professionals and administrators should see themselves as enablers, helping local people achieve their goals, rather than as providers of services and solutions.
35. Quality not quantity:
There is no such thing as a perfect participation process. The search for one is healthy only if this fact is accepted. Generally, the maximum participation by the maximum number of people is worth aiming at. But any participation is better than none and the quality of participation is more important than the numbers involved. A well organised event for a small number of people can often be more fruitful than a less well organised event for larger numbers.
36. Reach all sectors:
Use methods to reach all sectors of the community – for example young people, minority ethnic communities, small businesses, the ‘silent majority’, the ‘hard to reach’. But take care to avoid further alienation of disadvantaged groups by creating separate processes.
37. Record and document:
Make sure participation activities are properly recorded and documented so that it can be clearly seen who has been involved and how. Easily forgotten, such records can be invaluable at a later stage.
Make sure that your approach is suitable for the cultural context in which you are working. Consider local attitudes to gender, informal livelihoods, social groupings, speaking out in public and so on.
39. Respect local knowledge:
All people, whether literate or not, whether rich or poor, whether children, women or men, have a remarkable understanding of their surroundings and are capable of analysing and assessing their situation, often better than trained professionals. Respect local perceptions, choices and abilities and involve local people in setting goals and strategies.
40. Shared control:
The extent of public participation in any activity can vary from very little to a great deal. Different levels are appropriate at different stages of the planning process but shared control at the planning and design stage is the crucial ingredient.
41. Special interest groups:
Important Groups representing different special interests have a vital role to play in shaping the environment because of its complexity. Decision-makers need to consider evidence which represents best the variety of interests of current and future communities, including taking into account views of specific interest groups with particular knowledge.
42. Spend money:
Effective participation processes take time and energy. There are methods to suit a range of budgets and much can be achieved using only people’s time and energy. But over-tight budgets usually lead to cutting corners and poor results. Remember that community planning is an important activity, the success or failure of which may have dramatic implications for future generations as well as your own resources. Budget generously.
43. Think on your feet:
Once the basic principles and language of participatory planning are understood, experienced practitioners will find it easy to improvise. Avoid feeling constrained by rules or guidance
Training is invaluable at all levels. Encourage visits to other projects and attendance on courses. Build in training to all your activities.
45. Trust in others’ honesty:
Start from a position of trusting others and generally this will be reciprocated. Lack of trust is usually due to lack of information.
46. Use experts appropriately:
The best results emerge when local people work closely and intensively with experts from all the necessary disciplines. Creating and managing the environment is very complicated and requires a variety of expertise and experience to do it well. Do not be afraid of expertise, embrace it. But avoid dependency on or hijacking by, professionals. Keep control local. Use experts ‘little and often’ to allow local participants time to develop capability, even if it means they sometimes make mistakes.
47. Use facilitators:
Orchestrating group activities is a real skill. Without good facilitation the most articulate and powerful may dominate. Particularly if large numbers of people are involved, ensure that the person (or people) directing events have good facilitation skills. If not, hire someone who has.
Make use of local skills and professionalism within the community before supplementing them with outside assistance. This will help develop capability within the community and help achieve long-term sustainability.
49. Use outsiders, but carefully:
A central principle of community planning is that local people know best. But outsiders, if well briefed, can provide a fresh perspective which can be invigorating. Getting the right balance between locals and outsiders is important; avoid locals feeling swamped or intimidated by ‘foreigners’.
51. Walk before you run:
Developing a participatory culture takes time. Start by using simple participation methods and work up to using more complex ones as experience and confidence grow.
52. Work on location:
Wherever possible, base community planning activities physically in the area being planned. This makes it much easier for everyone to bridge the gap from concept to reality.
METHODS OF COMMUNITY PLANNING:
There are so many methods of community planning some of which are given here for the reference of students. The students are advised to search the following sites.
- Open space workshop Participatory editing Photo survey Planning aid scheme Planning day Planning for real Planning weekend Prioritising Process planning session
Reconnaissance trip Review session Risk assessment Roadshow Simulation Street stall Table scheme display Task force Urban design studio User group Video soapbox