Planning in Secret: Effective Strategies for Keeping the Public Out of the Planning Process

It’s “Architecture Week” on Prince Edward Island, a fact that the crafty architects of the Architects Association of PEI have (again) worked hard to prevent the public from realizing by updating neither their website nor their Facebook page with any hint that it’s anything more than a regular old week. Fortunately The Buzz steps into the breach and you can get the lowdown there.

I have my own little role to play in the festivities this year: the Atlantic Planners Institute 2013 Annual Conference is taking place here in Charlottetown this week and I’m on the program on Friday morning in a plenary session called “Engagement and Collaboration” where my contribution is labelled “Citizen Engagement”, an attempt, I guess, to boil down the full title, “Planning in Secret: Effective Strategies for Keeping the Public Out of the Planning Process,” into a couple of words.

Here’s how I’ve described what I’ll be talking about in the conference program:

Effective public engagement in community planning in the digital era requires that citizens be equipped with access to a richer set of tools and data about their communities, how they are planned, what is planned, and the success or failure of planning decisions.  What have previously been regarded as proprietary tools, techniques and data inside the planning priesthood must be thrown open to (and explained to) digitally literate citizens, and creativity must be applied to developing new techniques for managing expectations, leveraging citizen input to good end, and harnessing the energy and imagination of newly-engaged communities. I will examine the status quo with an eye to pointing out opportunities for simple steps planners can take to improve engagement, and will review the kinds of tools I envision that, in the near future, will enable an entirely new methodology for citizen participation in planning.

All that in 15 minutes or less! My goal is to present planners with a handful of easily implemented open data initiatives they can undertake without spending a lot of money or changing any bylaws. I approach this as someone who knows (next to) nothing about planning: I’m just a citizen with a MacBook and a desire to help broaden the citizen toolset when it comes to making communities.

I’ve been chewing on these ideas since I first proposed the topic a few months ago; this week I’m banking on them being ready for harvest and conversion into a Keynote presentation.  I’ll post the slides when there are slides to post.

In the meantime, look at The Buzz and plan your Architecture Open House tour for Thursday: there will be lots of opportunties to drink wine with the talented architects of PEI and learn more about who they are and what they do. I enjoyed myself immensely in 2011, so much so that the switchboard here in the Reinventorium was flooded1 with calls asking where I was when I went MIA for the 2012 edition.

1. I received one call.