What methodology should be used in order to assess the capabilities of participatory practices to incorporate residents' spatial needs into plans ?
In my book "Public Participation as a Tool for Integrating Local Knowledge into Spatial Planning" (Springer, 2017) I compare between the respective capabilities of different participatory practices - top-down as well as bottom-up - to capture residents' local knowledge (e.g., needs, perceptions, perspectives, opinions) and incorporate it into planning and plans. The comparison is conducted according to dozens parameters such as 'the motivators for participatory processes', 'procedures and tools employed in the participatory processes', 'the interaction between stakeholders', 'exposure of local knowledge', 'characteristics of local knowledge exposed', etc.
I think your question is problematic. In my experience, the issue of participation in spatial planning is less methodological than ontological. The main issue is what does participation mean to all the various people involved? Do they trust each other (a major component in the concept of participatory governance)?
I would contend that a key element in achieving a well supported local plan for spatial or any other development is a trustful social relationship between 'decision-makers' and the affected population. If they' trust' each other and work reasonably well together, outcomes are usually more positive than otherwise. This applies in developed as well as developing countries as it does whether in small or larger communities.
The methodology for recording and providing participation has to be based on a view of the world. The prevailing view accords some components more weight than others, including assigning zero weight to certain items or relationships, like trust. In most participatory planning exercises that I have evaluated, hierarchical political agendas have out-weighed the opinions as well as the actual needs of local residents. Despite bottom-up participatory processes, the 'top' has final decision and the outcome is often against local wishes. Trust diminishes and the next time people are asked to participate in 'statutory' processes, they are less convinced that it is time well spent. You can check numbers of submissions to, and social media comments on, various participatory state and local planning exercises to verify this contention. E.g. in Brisbane, Queensland, neighbourhood planning exercises.
Though there are several methods, depending on the sample size you are assessing, in my perspective face to face interviews/questionnaires are generally feasible to get relevant data, using both focus groups or relevant parts oat the planning level.
Yes I think the first answer here captures the issues and what is required for this kind of research. Work needs to be done to build trust based relationships regardless of who the participants are. I suggest that you look at the work of the Tamarack Institute in Canada which has developed great strategies for involving diverse populations in research and in community development.
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