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Participatory Planning (2010)

Participatory Planning (2010)

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Published by: Ramiro Aznar Ballarín on Feb 21, 2011
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Participatory Planning by Ramiro Aznar Ballarín
Disenchantment with democratic politics has never been more pronounced (
). Citizens speak of growing disillusionment with government, based on concerns aboutcorruption, lack of responsiveness to the necessities of the poor and absence of a sense ofconnection with elected representatives (
Gaventa, 2002
). In contrast, in the last decades therehas been a clear shift toward the so called ‘politics of inclusion’ (
Roseland, 2000
), in whichcommunity participation is one of their major expressions. Citizen participation, according toArnstein (
1969: 216
), is “the redistribution of power that enables the have-not citizens, presentlyexcluded from the political and economic processes, to be deliberately in the future”.In urban politics and spatial planning, there has also been a clear change of paradigmfrom the classical traditions based on economic, physical and policy analysis to a morecollaborative planning (
Healey, 1997
). In this regard, Davidoff and Gans, for instance, sawplanning as a tool which citizens could use in demanding a more democratic pluralistic polityfrom the clutches of dominant elites (Davidoff, 1965; Gans, 1969;
both saw in
Healey, 1997
).More importantly, as Lyons and colleagues (
) pointed out, participation developmentshould be understood as “an end in itself” instead of just “a mean to”. In this regard, Cornwalland Gaventa (
) suggest that citizen participation is an on-going process developed withinboth physical places and conceptual spaces. The latter indeed are interfaces between citizensand the state and serve as intermediaries who can enhance responsibility as well asresponsiveness on all sides. In addition, they state that each space is itself socially andpolitically located, and therefore, carries ‘tracks and traces’ of previous socioeconomic, politicaland environmental relationships, resources and knowledge. Using this interesting metaphor, it ispossible to create a virtual landscape (
Figure 1
) made by highly multi-tiered layers and shapedby a wide variety of external and internal forces.It is clear that the first stratum of the landscape to take into account is the
local environment 
. In fact, this layer is seen as primordial substrate which can represent values andopportunities for human use but also has certain limitations and even prohibitions to certain ofthese uses (
McHarg, 1992
). Another different stratum of the landscape can be the flows of
. Namely, information as well as misinformation is a source of power in the planningprocess (
Forester, 1982
). In this respect, understanding the gaps and focuses of information isviewed as crucial in order to disentangle how relations of power work to structure the planningprocess. In addition to knowledge, others two cartographies based on
gender and age issues 
 can be added to our model. On the one hand, women, many critics argue, are those most likelyto lose out in apparently “participatory planning” (
Mayoux, 1995; Cornwall, 2003
). Youngpeople, on the other, are rarely consulted too during urban planning processes, despite the factthat they are highly affected by such decisions because they are the most frequent users ofpublic space (
Dennis, 2006
). More and more dimensions can be incorporated to our landscape,but maybe the last mantle which would cover the whole scene of participation is the
daily life decisions 
which the residents of the city make (
Aznar, personal communication
).Finally, it is important to highlight that these layers are not isolated, and on the contrary, theyare highly connected.
Figure 1
Wright’s (
) adaptive landscape made by organisms’ performance in relation to their geneticpool.
In this particular metaphorical territory, evolution is understood as local hill climbing; in fact asparticipation is traditionally understood –Arnstein’s ladder, for instance– 
(source:www.carloetal.blogspot.com/ ).
The final space of participation resulted from the spatial and temporal interactionbetween layers is, therefore, a manifold with hyperdimensional peaks and valleys. Participation
processes can be understood in two different ways, on the one hand, the traditional approachmay picture participation as local
hill climbing 
Smyth, 2001
saw in
Steinmannet al., 2004
). Therefore, a sustainable community could only be achieved at the top of thenearest peak, where the economic, environmental and social dimensions are in balance(
Campbell, 1996
). In the present work, on the other hand, participation development isunderstood as the opposite dynamic, namely,
downhill sliding 
rather than hill climbing.Consequently, herein participation is more focused on the processes than on the results. Whatis more, it is understood as an
open dynamic process 
of a people adapting to, whilesimultaneously changing, their landscape over time (
Durack, 2001; Neuman, 2005
). Theparticipatory landscape outlined above is dotted with tensions and obstacles, but also withopportunities and challenges (
Amin et al., 2000
). In this respect, planners can play the role ofcommunity guides through this complicated path. Further, in order to success, they shouldconsider that context and planning practices are socially constituted together (
Healey, 1997
)and, what is more, no spaces for participation are neutral, but are shaped by the power relationswhich both enter and surround them (
Cornwall & Gaventa, 2001
).In this context, in the first section of this work will be discussed the possibilities ofParticipatory Geographical Information Systems (PGIS) approach to construct and understandthe numerous layers and networks of our participatory landscape. PGIS, in fact, could be usedboth to explore a particular collaborative space and the medium of its expression (
). While in the second, two real examples of public engagement based on the idea ofparticipatory planning as an open dynamic process are described. First, the “Favela-Bairro”project of Río de Janeiro (Brasil) is described. This development which aims to provide thenecessary conditions that would enable
(slums or squatter settlements) to be seen asneighborhoods of the city (
Riley et al., 2001
), has carried out for the last 20 years and it is agood example because of its strong community engagement component. The second studycase is based on the “Tree City” project designed by Rem Koolhaas and Bruce Mau for theDownsview Park in Toronto (Canada). The importance of this example relies on theimplementation of its indeterminate planning strategy which attempts to adapt the park withinthe physical and social fabric through both ecological succession and participatory processes(www.oma.eu/ ).

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