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Systems models can support community planning, and by engaging local government and community stakeholders, these models can be designed to capture a comprehensive but manageable range of key interests, concerns, and values. This study explores a participatory approach for designing a community systems mod-eling exercise. The research involved convening focus groups of local government and diverse community stakeholders in Squamish, Canada, in order to discuss local issues and possible futures for the community. Focus group feedback was used to inform the development of a model of relationships between development paths (reflecting different densities) and multiple community outcomes, such as access to amenities and education, walkability, parks/trails, food and farm systems, public transit, housing affordability, and local employment. A participatory approach to modeling yielded many benefits, including alignment with nor-mative participatory planning concepts, effective model scoping, accessing additional information sources, and enhancing local social capital and investment in the project.
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Newell, R., Picketts, I., & Dale, A. (2020). Community systems models and development scenarios for integrated planning:
Lessons learned from a participatory approach. Community Development. doi: 10.1080/15575330.2020.1772334
Community systems models and development scenarios for integrated planning:
Lessons learned from a participatory approach
Robert Newell1, Ian Picketts2, and Ann Dale1
1 School of Environment and Sustainability, Royal Road University, Victoria, BC, Canada; 2 Quest
University Canada, Squamish, BC, Canada
Systems models can support community planning, and by engaging local government and community
stakeholders, these models can be designed to capture a comprehensive but manageable range of key
interests, concerns, and values. This study explores a participatory approach for designing a community
systems modeling exercise. The research involved convening focus groups of local government and
diverse community stakeholders in Squamish, Canada, in order to discuss local issues and possible
futures for the community. Focus group feedback was used to inform the development of a model of
relationships between development paths (reflecting different densities) and multiple community
outcomes, such as access to amenities and education, walkability, parks/trails, food and farm systems,
public transit, housing affordability, and local employment. A participatory approach to modeling
yielded many benefits, including alignment with normative participatory planning concepts, effective
model scoping, accessing additional information sources, and enhancing local social capital and
investment in the project.
1. Introduction
Community planning is a complex process that requires understanding the relationships between, and
implications for, human and ecological systems. Planners must work with citizens to optimize land use in
order to achieve desired future conditions (Sheppard et al., 2011). These optimal future conditions are
often defined to be sustainable, in that they reconcile social, environmental, and economic imperatives
(Dale, 2001). Due to the complex and interdisciplinary nature of community planning, sophisticated
models can be used to help guide decisions at many scales. These models are often used to examine the
implications of scenarios, meaning they illuminate a range of potential conditions that could result from
implementing particular policies and plans, and/or developing local land in different ways (e.g.,
residential, commercial, mixed-use, agricultural, etc.). For example, Salter et al. (2009) supported
community planning efforts by presenting potential outcomes of different residential density scenarios to
local government and residents of Bowen Island, Canada. These scenarios provided the community with
insights on the implications of densifying development with respect to factors such as water availability,
local population change, energy usage, and waste generation. The use of models in planning processes
can guide community development, that is, the “process that entails organization, facilitation, and action,
which allows people to establish ways to create the community they want to live in" (Matarrita-Cascante
& Brennan, 2012, p. 297). For example, Chase et al. (2010) discuss how models that illuminate trade-offs
between developing cultural resources (e.g., public information centers, public infrastructure, businesses)
Newell, R., Picketts, I., & Dale, A. (2020). Community systems models and development scenarios for integrated planning:
Lessons learned from a participatory approach. Community Development. doi: 10.1080/15575330.2020.1772334
and maintaining natural resources (e.g., water, wetlands, forests) can be used by communities to guide
development of their local tourism and recreation industries.
Systems models can be powerful tools in community planning. Generally speaking, a systems model
can be considered to be a representation of a group of interrelated elements. These elements, which are
often represented quantitatively, may be strictly physical or technical and/or include human or social
factors (Checkland, 1983). Systems models have been used to guide a host of different local decisions,
ranging from transportation development (e.g., Bargh et al., 2012), climate change adaptation (e.g.,
Picketts et al., 2012), and agricultural decisions (e.g., Woodward et al., 2008). Almeida et al. (2009)
describe urban systems models as models that build up from behavioral basics (i.e., predicted human
actions in various settings) to test the individual and, more importantly, aggregated effects of different
land-use policies and infrastructure-related actions. An example is a model that examines transportation-
related greenhouse gas emissions and includes the influence transportation network conditions have on
travel behaviors. Urban systems models are based on the idea that there are significant similarities
regarding the way people behave in an urban environment despite the considerable differences between
them (Barthelemy, 2016). When expanding these models to capture complex relationships between
multiple systems, they can be used to support integrated planning because they can reveal how certain
strategies, policies, and/or plans can benefit or impact a variety of community aspects and goals (Dale,
2018; Newell et al., 2018). Model outputs can reflect a suite of community decisions and aspects, including
transportation effectiveness, land use efficiency, energy consumption, water usage and conservation,
and/or local production of greenhouse gas emissions (e.g., Eluru et al., 2008; Frank et al., 2009; Salvini
& Miller, 2005; Sperling & Berke, 2017; Wagner & Wegener, 2007).
Systems models must take into account a suite of decisions, feedbacks, influences, and behaviors in
order to be effective planning tools, and thus there is great uncertainty about what should be included and
at what spatial and temporal and spatial scale they should be applied. Practitioners and researchers must
attempt to balance the need to consider a range of interconnecting factors with the limits of information
and the models themselves, while at the same time, producing useful knowledge for decision-makers.
There must be compromises, and the outputs are always limited; however, models can still provide
valuable information, test assumptions, and give us insights into the implications of different community
development decisions. The decisions regarding what to model and how to best represent information that
reflects complex interactions between humans and the environment in models are challenging. Given this
reality, some scholars assert that determining what to model is best done in close partnership with the
people who engage in these environments, specifically local stakeholders (e.g., Meliadou et al., 2012;
Prell et al., 2007; Woodward et al., 2008).
Jentoft and Chuenpagee (2009) argue that the governance of a place or resource is most effective
when done in cooperation with those that experience its associated problems and opportunities. Lachapelle
(2008) explains that involving stakeholders and the public in planning processes can promote a sense of
ownership regarding the way their communities develop, which is important for increasing buy-in for
community plans and proposals. In this way, processes that explicitly include stakeholder input are
believed to increase support for and ultimately implementation of plans and strategies (e.g., Raymond &
Brown, 2007; Robinson et al., 2011; Sheppard et al., 2011). Other benefits include enhanced social
learning and social capital simply through convening diverse stakeholders, which possibly can contribute
Newell, R., Picketts, I., & Dale, A. (2020). Community systems models and development scenarios for integrated planning:
Lessons learned from a participatory approach. Community Development. doi: 10.1080/15575330.2020.1772334
to new network formation (Dale & Sparkes, 2010; Newman & Dale, 2005). In the context of community
development, Matarrita-Cascante & Brennan (2012) explain that the process of engaging multiple
stakeholders and idea sharing among these groups can facilitate the formation of community.
Stakeholder participation is an essential component of community planning and development because it
ensures that plans, which guide the development of communities, are grounded in local realities and social,
cultural, political, economic, and environmental contexts (Ling et al., 2009; Schafft & Greenwood, 2003).
As participation is essential to community planning, it is also an important component when
exploring potential community development scenarios (Amer et al., 2013), and this applies to both the
design and assessment of these scenarios. In a similar vein, previous research has found stakeholder
engagement to be useful for creating systems models that illustrate relationships and interactions when
considering environmental management approaches (Prell et al., 2007; Woodward et al., 2008).
Accordingly, this paper argues that participation is an essential component of the complicated work of
modeling community systems and defining scenarios, and it is a necessary for developing better tools for
supporting integrated planning and (ultimately) sustainable community development.
This paper references (and contributes to) research on the use of urban systems models for planning
(e.g., Almeida et al., Eluru et al., 2008; Salvini & Miller, 2005); however, it instead uses the term
‘community systems model’. The reason for employing this terminology is to provide broader framing for
the model and scenario development, enabling a process that allows local government, stakeholders, and
community members to explore elements and relationships that extend beyond what is typically
considered associated with urban systems, or infrastructure associated with transportation, water, energy,
and food (Sperling & Berke, 2017). Community systems can include these types infrastructure
elements/relationships, but they can also refer to broader social, economic, and cultural considerations,
such as local aesthetics, sense of community, recreational opportunities, tourism and employment, etc.
(e.g., Chan & Huang, 2004; Foster-Fishman et al., 2007). This paper does not intend to examine and
articulate distinctions between urban systems and community systems models; however, it specifically
uses the latter term because it frames the modeling process as one that aligns with participatory approaches
to local planning.
This paper reports on a study conducted in Squamish (British Columbia, Canada) that used a
participatory process for guiding the design of a systems model and scenario modeling exercise. The study
explored ways of ensuring that community scenario modeling best reflects the most relevant local values
and information, as determined by a diverse representation of stakeholders. The process was specifically
designed to determine what factors to incorporate in community systems model and what scenarios to test.
This work supports subsequent research that explores the use of comprehensive integrated models as tools
for community planning (Newell & Picketts, 2019a,b).
2. Research Context
This study is part of a greater research project entitled Spaces, Places and Possibilities, which explores
the use of system modeling and visualization techniques to better capture and convey potential outcomes
of social and physical infrastructure decisions to local government and stakeholders. The research takes a
scenario planning approach (Amer et al., 2013), meaning it models and visualizes aspects of potential
Newell, R., Picketts, I., & Dale, A. (2020). Community systems models and development scenarios for integrated planning:
Lessons learned from a participatory approach. Community Development. doi: 10.1080/15575330.2020.1772334
futures that could result from developing the community in a particular way. More information on this
research project can be found on its webpage:
Spaces, Places and Possibilities involves three phases: (1) designing a community systems model
and defining community development scenarios, (2) using the systems model to calculate/estimate
possible social, economic, and environmental outcomes of the scenarios, and (3) creating realistic,
interactive visualizations depicting the scenarios, similar to those studied in Newell et al. (2017a,b). This
paper reports on the first phase of the research, and it details a participatory process used to develop the
systems model and community scenarios. The second and third phases of the research will be documented
in forthcoming publications; however, the project has completed and more information on this work can
also be found in publicly available community reports (Newell & Picketts, 2019a,b; Newell & Picketts,
2.1 Study site
Squamish is a town of 20,000 people located approximately 50 kilometres north of Vancouver on the
traditional territory of the Squamish Nation. Squamish has a very complex and interesting geography due
to many factors, including its situation at the end of Howe Sound Fjord, its close proximity to the Cascade
Mountain Range, and the presence of five major rivers in the valley (Figure 1). The climate of Squamish
is highly influenced by the Pacific Ocean and is characterized by very wet mild winters and warm dry
summers. Squamish has traditionally been a resource-oriented town that was particularly reliant on
forestry; however, in the last 20 years, the population has grown and expanded considerably in the area,
largely due to its proximity to the city of Vancouver. Squamish is seeing increasing acknowledgement for
its recreational opportunities, including world-class skiing, climbing, mountain biking, and wildlife
viewing. Moving forward, the District of Squamish is challenged to manage considerable population
growth pressures, the region’s complex terrain, a changing economy, and an increasing number of
residents commuting to Vancouver for work.
Figure 1. Location and map of Squamish. Base map was retrieved from the Government of British
Columbia’s iMapBC system.
Newell, R., Picketts, I., & Dale, A. (2020). Community systems models and development scenarios for integrated planning:
Lessons learned from a participatory approach. Community Development. doi: 10.1080/15575330.2020.1772334
3. Methods
This research developed a systems model and community scenarios based on the input of local government
and stakeholders in order to incorporate community participation in the design of a scenario modeling
exercise. The primary methodological challenge of the model/scenario development process was to
determine how to translate the thoughts and ideas of community members into a systems model and
scenarios. Asking study participants to simply identify key elements and relationships of their community
systems and potential future scenarios likely would constitute tasks that are too abstract to be performed
effectively. Therefore, data collection instead involved engaging participants in discussions on the
challenges facing their community and their aspirations for its future. Outcomes of these discussions were
subsequently analyzed and used to identify key model elements and relationships. Collecting and
analyzing the data in such a manner allowed participants to provide thoughts and ideas based on their
experiences, concerns, and values for their community, which can then be used as the basis for systems
and scenario modeling.
Data used to develop the systems model and define the community scenarios were collected
primarily using focus group methodology. Two focus group sessions were held, and the first involved a
smaller advisory group from the District of Squamish. This session served to ground the research in the
local context and create a draft of development scenarios. The second session involved a larger group of
local government and community stakeholders, and it served to refine (or potentially develop new)
scenarios, as well as identify elements and relationships within the systems model. An ethical review was
conducted prior to performing this research, and all participants read and signed research consent forms
before engaging in focus group activities.
3.1 Local advisory focus group
The first focus group served as a preliminary meeting and involved four members of the Community
Planning and Infrastructure Department. This type of smaller meeting with key government or stakeholder
groups is important, as it can give researchers a sense of local planning realities before engaging in broader
stakeholder discussions (e.g., Newell et al., 2017a,b). In this case, local planners were selected as they
have direct involvement and expert knowledge in the planning challenges and potential strategies for
Squamish. The purpose of the session was to gain insights into local planning challenges, develop rough
ideas for possible community development scenarios, and identify neighborhoods that are of particular
interest in terms of future development planning. The session was held in a meeting room at the District
of Squamish municipal building, and it lasted 1.5 hours. The focus group began with a presentation on the
research and its objectives, and then the group engaged in a primarily unstructured discussion that was
guided by open-ended questions, such as (the following are paraphrases):
What are the major planning and development challenges Squamish currently faces?
What direction is Squamish heading, and what types of development scenarios and patterns are
plausible for the community?
What neighborhoods would serve as good examples of those that would be particularly altered
by the scenarios?
Newell, R., Picketts, I., & Dale, A. (2020). Community systems models and development scenarios for integrated planning:
Lessons learned from a participatory approach. Community Development. doi: 10.1080/15575330.2020.1772334
Data consisted of audio recordings of the discussion and researchers notes, and these data were
examined in order to identify key factors and considerations for developing rough scenarios relevant to
Squamish. These scenario ideas provided a useful starting point for further scenario development (Amer
et al., 2013), and they were used in the subsequent focus group to stimulate discussion. In addition,
particular neighborhoods were identified by the focus group participants as those that could be used as
potential sites of hypothetical redevelopment when exploring the scenarios. The neighborhoods were
selected based on the expert knowledge of planners, who identified a variety of different types of
neighborhoods (e.g., residential, rural residential) that would each (likely) experience significant changes
if Squamish took a particular development path. The purpose of selecting neighborhoods was two-fold:
(1) it provided areas that could be altered in scenario modeling process (Newell & Picketts, 2019a,b) and
depicted through visualizations (Newell & Picketts 2020), and (2) it gave examples that could be discussed
in the second focus group to better ground the discussion in real-world local places.
From the data and analysis, a series of rough community development scenario ideas were created,
which involved different development patterns that could be applied to the neighborhoods. These were
then distributed to the members of the first focus group for review and comment to confirm the scenarios
were based on the focus group and did not misrepresent or exclude significant ideas that emerged from
the discussion.
3.2 Community stakeholder focus group
Potential participants for the second focus group were identified by the researchers through an online
search and snowball sampling (i.e., some invitees suggested others that could be valuable and interested
participants). The primary criterion used to build the invitee list was to ensure the group consisted of a
mix of people from private, public, and non-profit sectors and collectively represented a range of social,
environmental, and economic interests. Approximately 30 people were invited to the focus group through
an e-mail recruitment letter sent to the individual (i.e., not a mass e-mail or public announcement), and 15
accepted, with 12 ultimately attending. Each participant was specifically selected due to their knowledge
and involvement with the community; thus, this method follows other research involving small focus
groups of people with specialized knowledge (Onwuegbuzie et al., 2009). The participants were diverse
and represented a range of groups, including non-profit, local government, elected official, business
interests, private developers, transportation authority, student, and academia.
It is worth noting that the community stakeholder focus group was held during the afternoon
(2:00pm to 4:00pm) on a weekday, and many participants were attending in a professional capacity or to
represent a community organization. Taking this and the small sample size into consideration, the
participants could not be considered representative of the entire population of Squamish. However, the
participants were affiliated with different local networks, organizations, and associations, and they
represented diverse interests and groups within the community. In addition, although demographic data
were not collected, observations and knowledge of the participants indicated the group consisted of a
diversity of ages, ranging from young undergraduate student to senior professional.
The stakeholder focus group session ran for approximately two hours. The session began with a
presentation and discussion on the research project, as well as the rough scenario ideas developed through
the first focus group. Participants were then arranged into two similar and representative breakout groups
Newell, R., Picketts, I., & Dale, A. (2020). Community systems models and development scenarios for integrated planning:
Lessons learned from a participatory approach. Community Development. doi: 10.1080/15575330.2020.1772334
to provide more opportunities for feedback. They were asked to comment on the scenario ideas, as well
as provided other ideas for scenarios (and potential futures for Squamish) that were not captured through
these ideas. Participants provided comments through group discussions (which were recorded) and
feedback forms, both of which solicited comments on the following questions:
Comment on the suggested scenarios. What could be added to or changed in these scenarios?
What are some other development directions or changes in Squamish that you would like to
explore in scenarios?
What might be a desirable potential future (i.e., goal) for Squamish (at the community and/or
neighborhood level)? Please describe what this (or these) might look like.
What are key questions that emerge when exploring a particular scenario?
What are the major planning and development challenges Squamish currently faces?
Following the breakout session, participants gathered for a plenary discussion. In the plenary, the
researchers firstly summarized main ideas from each breakout group discussion, and then the full group
was invited to comment on these ideas and add further thoughts. Following the summaries, the researchers
facilitated a conversation aimed at focusing and finalizing ideas for community development scenarios
that can be used in the modeling and visualizations phases of the project, and this discussion was guided
by the question:What are some development directions or changes in Squamish that you would like to
explore in scenarios?”
3.3 Data analysis
Data consisted of transcripts of the recorded discussions and written comments provided through the
feedback forms. Data were analyzed through thematic coding methodology (Gibbs, 2007; Seidel and
Kelle, 1995), using a coding framework developed by the researchers based on common themes that
emerged through the discussions. An initial coding framework was developed based on the researchers
notes from the focus group, and then this framework was revised after reviewing the full dataset (Boyatzis,
1998). Altogether, 32 codes were applied to the data, and coding was done using NVivo (v. 11).
The codes were arranged into broader categories, and these categories were examined to reveal the
main concepts and ideas emerging from the discussion (Saldaña, 2009). These are described in this
research as the model considerations for developing a systems model and community scenarios. The
systems model was developed in a manner that was consistent with the elements and relationships that
were defined in the considerations. The community scenarios were designed/refined in a manner that
ensured that all the model considerations could be explored through the differences between these
After identifying the model considerations, relationships between systems elements were mapped
to create a comprehensive picture of the model. This process employed a method similar to Newell et al.
(2018), which involved first recategorizing codes as model element types and then arranging the codes in
a matrix that displays relationships between the elements. The model considerations provided the context
for the element type categories, and four categories were defined: model drivers/constraints, land-use
types, development strategies, and community outcomes. Once relationships were defined, the model was
Newell, R., Picketts, I., & Dale, A. (2020). Community systems models and development scenarios for integrated planning:
Lessons learned from a participatory approach. Community Development. doi: 10.1080/15575330.2020.1772334
visualized using yEd Graph Editor (v. 3.17.2), and this model depiction provided a clear picture of the
different scenario outcomes (i.e., the community outcome elements). Through a review of primary and
grey literature, a series of metrics and measurements that could serve as potential indicators for these
outcomes were identified. These indicators were further refined through follow-up conversations with
individual participants, in which other potentially interesting ways of measuring community outcomes
based on available data were discussed. More details on these follow-up conversations will be presented
in a forthcoming publication on the modeling process.
Ultimately, three outputs resulted from the data analysis: (1) the considerations for model and
scenario development, (2) the community systems model, and (3) the community development scenarios.
It is worth noting that the scenario modeling exercise can be conducted using only the latter two outputs;
however, identifying the model considerations is important for facilitating a participatory process for two
reasons. Firstly, these considerations represent the main ideas that emerged through the local government
and stakeholder discussions, and thus, both the systems model and community scenarios represent a means
for exploring these ideas. Secondly, the considerations provide a clear concept of and rationale for how
the systems modeling exercise will be conducted, which is important when reporting back to the
community on the next steps and proposed approach for designing/conducting the exercise. The
considerations, systems model, and scenarios were documented in a report that was distributed among the
participants (Newell & Picketts, 2018), and they were invited to comment to identify any key aspects that
appeared missing or misrepresented.
4. Results
4.1 Preliminary scenario considerations and ideas
The first focus group discussion primarily centered on how future development could either support or
impact a variety of aspects of Squamish, including public transportation, active transportation, community
health, employment, natural networks (i.e., undeveloped lands, wildlife corridors and habitat), local
viewshed (i.e., landscape views experienced from within the community), agricultural capacity, and the
economic/commercial viability of local businesses. From the discussion, a series of questions emerged
that were deemed to be important considerations for developing scenarios:
What are the density thresholds for achieving high levels of walkability and supporting transit
and business (i.e., will walkability and transport increase as density increases or does a threshold
have to be first reached)?
How dense can a neighborhood become before experiencing trade-offs, such as loss of viewshed?
How will all of the changes lead to shifts in overall community health?
How can growth be accommodated while still maintaining (or increasing) natural networks?
Much of the discussion on planning concerns and considerations was framed in terms of density.
For example, when discussing transportation and community health, the group considered the
densification needed to support public transit and encourage active transportation. As another example,
employment and economic viability was discussed in terms of the densification needed to support
neighborhood businesses. From the analysis of this discussion, four rough scenario ideas were developed
that essentially represented a range of densities:
Newell, R., Picketts, I., & Dale, A. (2020). Community systems models and development scenarios for integrated planning:
Lessons learned from a participatory approach. Community Development. doi: 10.1080/15575330.2020.1772334
1. Low density residential neighborhoods
2. Medium density row housing and low-rise condo neighborhoods
3. Medium density primarily condo neighborhoods
4. High density vibrant community nodes
The discussion also involved determining which neighborhoods could be redeveloped in a manner
defined by the scenarios in order to maintain a reasonable scope for the modeling and visualization
exercises (i.e., rather than hypothetically redeveloping every neighborhood in Squamish). Participants
expressed that places with defined neighborhood plans (such as downtown Squamish) could make for
interesting visualizations; however, they do not provide realistic opportunities for modeling different types
of development patterns as their development paths are set. Instead, the neighborhoods suggested for
scenario modeling and visualization were those that did not have extensive new development already
planned and approved, and that were also priority areas for neighborhood planning. Three neighborhoods
were selected: two that are primarily residential suburban and one that consisted mostly of rural residential
development. The rural residential was noted to be a particularly good neighborhood for this project
because it has few residents and is not located near a commercial centre, making it a blank slate for
modeling and visualizing scenarios.
4.2 Modelling considerations
The main ideas and themes that emerged through the local government and stakeholder discussions (i.e.,
the second focus group) are described in this research as the model considerations for developing the
systems models and community scenarios. In total, 10 model considerations were identified, and they
capture a collection of planning challenges, local values and concerns, and potential futures that the
participants are interested in exploring.
Thematic coding analysis (Boyatzis, 1998; Gibbs, 2007; Saldaña, 2009; Seidel and Kelle, 1995)
was used to identify the considerations and tease out the main themes from the focus group discussion,
and Table 1 lists the considerations with their associated codes. This section elaborates on each
consideration, how they were discussed in the focus, and what guidance they provide for the scenario
modeling exercise.
Newell, R., Picketts, I., & Dale, A. (2020). Community systems models and development scenarios for integrated planning:
Lessons learned from a participatory approach. Community Development. doi: 10.1080/15575330.2020.1772334
Table 1. Data coding and considerations for informing systems model and community scenario
Squamish is growing
Population growth, Current development patterns
Development has been planned and
Residential neighbourhoods, Downtown development,
Current development patterns
Local employment spaces are important
Regional commuters, Local employment, Commercial
space, Mixed-use development
Explore a range of densities
Missing middle development, Aesthetics and visuals,
Density extremes, Housing availability, Land use
efficiency, Shared lots and infill
Determine an ‘optimal density’
Walkability, Economically viable nodes, Transit
networks, Corridor-based development, Mixed-use
development, Community attitudes
Create an accessible community
Access to green space, Access to education, Access to
amenities, Connectivity, Transit corridors, Walkability,
Mixed-use development, Community health, Air quality,
Greenhouse gases
Develop communities with diverse housing
Mixed-use development, Mix of housing types, Missing
middle development, Social diversity, Shared lots and
Housing affordability is a problem
Mix of housing types, Housing affordability
Developing all land as residential is not
necessarily desirable
Access to green space, Preserving natural space, Food and
farm systems, Steep slope development
Squamish is in a floodplain
Floodplain issues, Smaller homes
Squamish is growing. Focus group participants emphasized that Squamish has a rapid population
growth, mentioning the 13.7% population increase that occurred between 2011 and 2016. With this in
mind, a no growth scenario was deemed to be unrealistic, and all scenarios should include population
growth which differ in how the population increase is accommodated (i.e., high density residential
neighborhoods, downtown density, etc.). In particular, participants referred to a growth pattern that would
result in a local population in the mid-30,000 range within 20 years (District of Squamish, 2018).
Newell, R., Picketts, I., & Dale, A. (2020). Community systems models and development scenarios for integrated planning:
Lessons learned from a participatory approach. Community Development. doi: 10.1080/15575330.2020.1772334
Development has been planned and approved. Many development projects within Squamish have
been approved, and thus new residential units will be available in various parts of the community
regardless of future decisions. These developments should be included in the different scenarios in order
to ensure the scenarios reflect expected housing availability. Once these units have been added, the
remainder of the projected population can be accommodated through different development patterns (as
defined by the scenarios).
Employment spaces are important. Employment spaces and opportunities frequently emerged as
a topic of interest, in particular the need for local employment for boosting local economic development
and reducing commuting distances. In addition, although employment land can be integrated into mixed-
use developments, it was noted that some areas should remain zoned as solely commercial/industrial
because residential zoning can make these places unaffordable for businesses. Such a consideration is
important for modeling as it indicates that some scenarios should look at maintaining separation between
commercial and residential areas.
Explore a range of densities. The scenario ideas that emerged from the first focus group centered
on different residential densities, and the second group agreed that this was worthwhile to explore.
Suggestions were made to explore extremes for residential density, from large, single-family houses to
high-density, high-rise buildings; however, it was noted that defining high-density could present
challenges as this term means different things to different people (e.g., buildings that are 5-story, 10-story,
etc.). Suggestions for addressing this challenge included characterizing density based on other
developments in Squamish or deriving density classifications through reviewing relevant literature. In
addition, it was also suggested to include a missing middle density form, which consists of a mix of
housing types such as a such as bungalow court, duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, and row houses (Parolek,
2015). Determine an optimal density. In addition to a range of densities, the idea of optimal density
was discussed. This refers to the level of residential density required in neighborhoods for local businesses
and transit to become viable. For the latter, it was also noted that transit viability can be achieved through
developing along corridors rather just in nodes. Optimal density can guide certain scenario development
as it can provide neighborhood population targets that are needed to achieve potential community benefits
from densification. The ability of neighborhood visualizations to effectively model viewsheds was
highlighted as an aspect of the project that may help define and refine what optimal density means in
Squamish because a major trade-off experienced from densification is obstructed views.
Create an accessible community. The focus group discussion on density and mixed-used form
covered considerations around access to services and amenities, including green space and schools. For
the latter, it is important to consider both physical access to schools and the student capacity of the schools
as the population grows. Access to services and amenities was also noted to relate to questions around
walkability and the health and other community benefits received from developing compact, walkable
communities; however, it was noted that a health outcome is exceptionally hard to model or quantify.
Accordingly, it was discussed that health benefits could be explored through proxies, such as numbers of
people engaging in active transportation and reductions in air pollutants resulting from decreased
vehicular traffic. The latter was also noted to have the added benefit of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Newell, R., Picketts, I., & Dale, A. (2020). Community systems models and development scenarios for integrated planning:
Lessons learned from a participatory approach. Community Development. doi: 10.1080/15575330.2020.1772334
Develop communities with diverse housing types. In addition to density, the groups discussed the
mix of housing types within a neighborhood. It was expressed that developing neighborhoods with a
diversity of housing options (including affordable housing) would allow people to reside within these
neighborhoods throughout different stages of their lives and also encourage social diversity.
Housing affordability is a problem. A lack of affordable housing in Squamish was noted to be a
significant issue. Although it is difficult to predict future market prices of houses, the modeling could
approximate housing affordability by considering the mix of housing options available in different
scenarios (i.e., does housing consist of just large, single-detached units or are smaller units available?).
Developing all land as residential is not necessarily desirable. The rural residential neighborhood
that was initially identified as a good candidate for scenario modeling was later noted to be a valuable
space for agriculture. Building on this comment, scenarios could involve reserving land for purposes other
than residential, such as agricultural or commercial/industrial development. In addition, the importance
of maintaining natural spaces was mentioned, and one comment framed this in terms of avoiding
overdeveloping the land. It was discussed that the scenarios could involve steep slope development to
accommodate more residential units without occupying valuable valley floor space. However, as
mentioned in the focus group, it is worth recognizing that development on hillsides could have viewshed
impacts (which is a trade-off that could be explored through visualizations).
Squamish is in a floodplain. Focus group participants highlighted the fact that many
neighborhoods in Squamish are located within a floodplain. This dictates the types of residential units that
can be built in these areas, and it creates challenges for building certain types of dwellings, such as smaller
housing units (e.g., tiny house” buildings). Avoiding floodplain development by encouraging steep slope
development was identified as a possibility for one or more of the scenarios.
4.3 Systems model
A systems model was developed in accordance with the 10 model considerations listed above. The
elements in model were based on the codes used to analyze the data, and the nature/types of these elements
were informed by the considerations. For example, the “create an accessible community” consideration
was derived from text coded with “mixed-use development”, “access to amenities”, and “walkability” (see
Table 1). This consideration is captured in the model as relationships that represent how residential
proximity to commercial space (i.e., mixed-use development) can increase walking access to goods and
services (i.e., access to amenities) and thus community walkability. The model features
drivers/constraints, land-use types, development strategies, and community outcomes. Most model
elements directly corresponded with a particular code; however, in some cases (particularly with land-use
type elements), new codes/elements were created based on other codes to clearly and concisely capture
elements important to the model (as per the model considerations). Examples of the latter include a
residential space model element that was derived from residential neighbourhoods and housing
availability codes, and a local businesses model element that was derived from local employment
and economically viable nodes codes.
Figure 2 provides visual representation of the community systems model and the relationships
between systems elements. These relationships were derived from analysis of a coding matrix, and they
were defined in accordance with the 10 considerations. The elements driving and constraining systems
Newell, R., Picketts, I., & Dale, A. (2020). Community systems models and development scenarios for integrated planning:
Lessons learned from a participatory approach. Community Development. doi: 10.1080/15575330.2020.1772334
dynamics in the model are population growth and land availability. The former refers to the need to
provide an increasing population with housing, employment, services, etc. The latter relates to various
competing land uses, such as residential, commercial/industrial, agricultural, and green space (i.e., the
land uses frequently discussed in the focus group).
Figure 2. Integrated systems model for examining community scenarios. Population growth and
available land are represented using dark grey rectangles, and types of land uses are represented using
blue diamonds. Strategies are represented with brown octagons, and community outcomes are
represented with orange ovals. Solid green connecting lines refer to positive relationships between
variables (e.g., a strategy or community outcome promoting another community outcome), and red
dashed lines refer to negative relationships (e.g., a challenge or trade-off). Grey dotted lines refer to
relationships that are positive or negative, depending on how a strategy is executed.
Newell, R., Picketts, I., & Dale, A. (2020). Community systems models and development scenarios for integrated planning:
Lessons learned from a participatory approach. Community Development. doi: 10.1080/15575330.2020.1772334
The systems model features development strategies/approaches such as densification, mixed-use
development, corridor-based development, smaller housing units, missing middle density, mixed housing
types, and steep slope development. The strategies have implications for a variety of community
outcomes, including access to schools, food and farm systems, local businesses, local employment, access
to green spaces, access to amenities, walkability, community health, reduced traffic and commuting, air
quality, social diversity, affordability, transit accessibility, and viewshed quality. For example, mixed-use
developments can increase local employment by adding commercial space in addition to residential units,
which (subsequently) can reduce regional commuters. In some cases, the systems model characterizes
nature of a relationship between a strategy and outcome as dependent on how a strategy is executed. For
example, density can increase access to schools, but only if densification occurs near schools and does not
overburden a school’s student capacity in a particular catchment.
4.4 Measuring community outcomes
The systems model provided guidance on what should be measured in a quantitative modeling exercise,
in particular the community outcome elements (Table 2). Through a review of academic and grey literature
and conversations with research participants, a series of potential measurement methods were identified
for the various systems model outcomes. For example, research by Sturm & Cohen (2014) suggests that
400m and 800m (i.e., quarter- and half-mile) distances can be used for evaluating accessibility, and other
research (Burke & Brown, 2007; Manaugh & El-Geneidy, 2013), as well as ideas from the stakeholder
focus group, indicate that the “access to amenities” community outcome can include walking access to
shops, parks, restaurants/cafes, schools, etc. As another example, Easton & Owen (2009) provide
examples of neighborhood nodes and the local residential density that appears to make their commercial
centers viable, which can be used to develop measurement methods related to the “local businesses”
community outcomes (e.g., indicators for potential viability of local businesses). In some cases, the review
did not explicitly identify a particular method for calculating an indicator, rather it served to stimulate
thinking about relationships between various fine grain aspects of a community and possible ways to
quantify these. For example, Aurand (2010) discusses how increasing varieties of housing types to include
those beyond single-family detached dwellings can increase housing affordability, suggesting that the mix
of housing types (and average prices for these types) can be used to infer local affordability. In addition,
it was recognized that the methods could change as data is collected and the modeling process develops;
however, identifying and compiling these methods provides a valuable launching point for the scenario
Newell, R., Picketts, I., & Dale, A. (2020). Community systems models and development scenarios for integrated planning:
Lessons learned from a participatory approach. Community Development. doi: 10.1080/15575330.2020.1772334
Table 2. Community systems model outcomes and potential measurement methods
Model outcome
Potential measurement methods
Access to amenities
Distance to green space, schools, health, restaurants, grocery
stores (i.e., walkability)
Access to schools
Distances from residences to schools
School space per number of children
Access to green
Distances from residences to parks and trails
Park area per person within a neighbourhood
Preserving natural
Residential, commercial, agricultural encroaching on habitat
Residential density near sensitive habitat and ecosystems
Transit accessibility
Density around transit stops and routes
Distances from residences to transit stops
Estimated public transportation ridership
Reduced commutes
Estimated change in number of vehicle kilometers travelled
Air quality
PM2.5 emissions based on vehicle kilometers travelled
GHG emissions
CO2e emissions based on vehicle kilometers travelled
Air quality community outcome
Numbers of people walking/biking to work based on distances
from residences to employment
Food and farm
Amount of land reserved for agriculture
Distance from residences to food services
Distance from high-density residences to community gardens
Local businesses
Amount of space reserved for commercial/industrial
Number of nearby residents to support local businesses
Local employment
Amount of space reserved for commercial/industrial purposes
Potential jobs produced through new employment space
Percent of population commuting outside of Squamish
Social diversity
Inferred through diversity of housing types in neighborhoods
Inferred using average prices for different housing types
Assessed through visualization
Newell, R., Picketts, I., & Dale, A. (2020). Community systems models and development scenarios for integrated planning:
Lessons learned from a participatory approach. Community Development. doi: 10.1080/15575330.2020.1772334
4.5 Community development scenarios
The scenarios were refined based on the analysis of the stakeholder focus group data. All scenarios assume
population growth will continue to occur in Squamish, and it will follow a growth scenario identified by
the District of Squamish (2018), reaching approximately 34,000 in 20 years time. The scenarios examine
different development patterns for accommodating this growth, and they look at ways of developing
housing for the new residents (after currently approved developments have been taken into account).
For the most part, the refined scenarios (Table 3) followed a density pattern in a similar manner to
the scenario ideas developed through the first focus group. However, the refined scenarios did differ from
the initial ideas in that other land uses were incorporated (e.g., commercial, agriculture), as well as
geographical aspects such as developing on hillsides rather than valley floors. In addition, residential
forms were made more explicit in the refined scenarios, in particular mixed-use buildings and missing
middle development.
Table 3. Community development scenarios refined through stakeholder input
family housing
Single-detached family housing (i.e., low density)
Neighborhoods solely consist of residential units with no
mixed-use development
Missing middle
development and
mixed housing types
Mix of housing types (e.g., bungalow court, duplexes,
triplexes and fourplexes)
Densities of up to 35 dwelling units per acre (Parolek, 2015)
Some space reserved for parks and retail
Medium density
townhouses in
community nodes
Townhouses and mid-rise buildings concentrated along transit
More space for commercial, parks, community spaces, and
public gardens than missing middle density
Medium density and
hillside development
Medium density buildings along transit corridors and on
Some valley floor space reserved for agricultural and
commercial development (these can be modelled as ‘sub-
High density
development nodes
High-density, mixed-use buildings along transit corridors, and
commercial centres in neighborhoods
Area allocated for parks and public space
Newell, R., Picketts, I., & Dale, A. (2020). Community systems models and development scenarios for integrated planning:
Lessons learned from a participatory approach. Community Development. doi: 10.1080/15575330.2020.1772334
5. Discussion
Systems models can be highly effective tools to help guide community planning and development
(Almeida et al., 2009). Given their inherent complexity, it can be tempting for researchers to rely on their
expert knowledge of community systems to design the models and experiments; however, it is important
for the tools that guide community decisions to be informed by those affected and who live with said
decisions. Engagement processes have demonstrated value for developing integrated models for
environmental management and planning (Prell et al., 2007; Woodward et al., 2008), and it could be
argued that participatory modeling is particularly important in the community planning context as it
explicitly involves the places where people live, work, and play. Community systems and scenario
modelers should act as facilitators of community needs rather than expert knowledge providers (Ling et
al., 2009). In simple terms, this can be regarded as the modeler/researcher connecting the dots, while
community stakeholders provide the dots. Matarrita-Cascantea and Brennan (2012) identify one of the
key components of community development as elements of community, referring to human (i.e.,
stakeholders), physical (i.e., built and natural assets), and economic (i.e., goods and services) resources.
The connect-the-dots metaphor aligns with their breakdown of community elements in that this approach
engages the human resources to identify the physical and economic resources that are relevant (and
integral) to local values, needs, and concerns.
In addition to the principled argument for participatory modeling, this approach to systems modeling
and scenario design has other distinct advantages. One advantage is that it provides a realistic scope for
creating a systems model. The multitude of interconnected systems associated with a community can
present an overwhelming challenge for those attempting to use systems modeling for urban planning
(Sperling & Berke, 2017). Even when attempting to focus a community systems model on a particular
community aspect or action, this level of complexity can still create challenges. For example, Newell et
al. (2018) developed community systems models that centered on climate mitigation and adaption, which
resulted in seven different models due to the plethora of relationships involved in the systems. The
participatory approach employed provided invaluable guidance for defining the scope of the system. The
key community issues (e.g., population growth, commuting, available agriculture land) and aspirations
(e.g., walkability, access to amenities, local employment) identified connections to be elucidated in a
model that are relevant to Squamish and of a reasonable scope (in terms of using this information for
quantitative scenario modeling and simulation). Schafft and Greenwood (2003) explain that participation
in community development involves contributions from diverse stakeholders in the multiple stages of the
process, from identification of problems to development and implementation of plans. In the case of this
research, community participation was essential for the first stage of the community development process
(i.e., identification of problems), and it enabled the creation of planning tools that can effectively address
critical community concerns and needs.
Another advantage of employing participation in systems modeling is that it can aid with data needs.
Integrated systems models require a large amount of data, and data gaps are a common issue in this type
of work (Prell et al., 2007; Sperling & Berke, 2017). Engaging a community can elucidate what data has
already been collected by government and community organizations, and is available for building a model.
Such data sources can increase with the diversity of engaged individuals. For example, in this study, local
government participants identified sources for data such as road networks, building footprints, and
Newell, R., Picketts, I., & Dale, A. (2020). Community systems models and development scenarios for integrated planning:
Lessons learned from a participatory approach. Community Development. doi: 10.1080/15575330.2020.1772334
approved development, and non-governmental organization participants involved in food security issues
directed the researchers to agricultural land and food assets data. In addition, community engagement can
ensure that a modeling effort builds on previous work. In the case of Squamish, efforts had already been
made to project population growth (District of Squamish, 2017), assess employment land supply and
demand (District of Squamish, 2015), and inventory planned development (District of Squamish, n.d.).
These previous efforts can be incorporated into scenario modeling work in order to identify key
assumptions for the model (e.g., what the population will be in 20 years), determine how (or even if) to
model certain aspects of a community (e.g., employment space and jobs), and ground the model in real-
world circumstances (e.g., future residential building stock). The latter is essential for enhancing
understanding and increasing community literacy around the interrelationships of sustainable community
Finally, the participatory approach to modeling employed in this research was advantageous in terms
of creating connections between the researchers and community members. This finding is consistent with
previous work that has found community-based participatory research to be beneficial for building
researcher-community partnerships and social capital (Hacker et al., 2013). The connections made in the
focus groups opened opportunities for following up with the participants to gain further insights on where
to source more data and how best to model certain aspects of the scenarios. Such opportunities for further
conversation are valuable because the time available in focus groups sessions is limited, and also it is
difficult to determine all information needs for building the model in the initial design stages. By involving
stakeholders in the early stages of a modeling, the model becomes relevant to the interests and needs of
participants (both professionally and personally), thusly increasing their investment in the project.
Lachapelle (2008) discusses how including stakeholders and the public in community planning processes
can promote a sense of ownership in community development, and in a similar vein, perhaps involving
stakeholders in the design of the tools for guiding planning and development can promote a sense of
ownership around these community tools.
The research resulted in many practical outcomes that are valuable to both the District of Squamish
and other local governments. The modeling considerations (Table 1) can become an excellent resource or
starting point for other municipalities looking to engage in similar modeling exercises, evaluate
development approaches, and/or engage in sustainability planning. Additionally, the existing systems
model can be used to conceptualize (and applied to quantify) the myriad relationships between
development strategies and their implications on community outcomes (Table 2). The resultant
information could become invaluable in informing community planning efforts, including those related to
land-use policy (e.g., District of Squamish, 2018), climate change adaptation (Picketts et al., 2012), and
transportation networks (e.g., Vuchic, 2005; Wagner and Wegener, 2007).
The participatory approach employed in this research was done in two stages: first involving a small
advisory focus group, and then involving a larger community stakeholder group. This approach held both
advantages and potential issues. The major advantage of this methodology was that (as anticipated) it
provided a strong starting point for the larger focus group discussion. Sheppard et al. (2011) describe a
framework for participatory climate planning that recommends a similar process, where initial scenario
ideas are developed by researchers and then refined through community engagement processes. The
potential issue with the approach used here is that it may have constrained participant imaginations in
Newell, R., Picketts, I., & Dale, A. (2020). Community systems models and development scenarios for integrated planning:
Lessons learned from a participatory approach. Community Development. doi: 10.1080/15575330.2020.1772334
terms of devising scenario ideas, as was evidenced by the fact that the refined scenarios did not
significantly differ from the density-based scenarios characterized through the initial scenario ideas. It is
possible that the participants would have been interested in exploring a density range regardless; however,
the similarities between the initial and refined scenarios bring forward questions on whether there is a
balance to be struck between focusing a discussion and enabling co-creativity in participatory modeling
Ling et al. (2007) note that “a small group representing diverse sectors of a community is more
valuable than large group of like minded people” (p. 234), emphasizing the importance of including and
representing multiple perspectives within a planning process. The systems model developed in this study
benefited from the multiple perspectives that provided input into its design, as it incorporated a variety of
different social, economic, and environmental considerations relevant to the community. However, it is
important to recognize that, in a participatory modeling process, the extent a systems model represents a
community is entirely dependent on those who could and could not make it to the engagement sessions.
In this study, the focus group was relatively small (12 people), and certain invitees with specific interests
and knowledge were unable to participate, thus potentially underrepresenting these interests. For example,
invitees with strong ecological interests and knowledge were unavailable, and although habitat
considerations were captured in the model, other ecological concerns significant to Squamish likely were
not made explicit enough (e.g., watershed issues, endangered species, etc.).
To address this challenge, it is best to regard models as tools that can be continually developed as
more users engage with it, rather than being a final product. Newell et al. (2017a) recommend a similar
process for creating visualizations for planning purposes, arguing that since these tools require capturing
a large amount of detail and a wide variety of elements, they should be continually developed as more
stakeholders interact with them. In a similar vein, systems models can be continually refined and
developed as more people have the opportunity to interact with and provide feedback on them. This
approach has been employed in the subsequent stages of research, involving more focus groups for further
developing the model (Newell & Picketts, 2019a,b) and an open house event for engaging the broader
community with the model, scenarios, and visualizations (Newell & Picketts, 2020). These activities
significantly increased participant diversity (e.g., interest, affiliation, age, etc.) in the project, and
ultimately, it is through such iterative participatory modeling processes tools can be created that better
represent a community and its planning needs.
6. Conclusion
Community engagement and participation is a necessary component of effective community planning and
(more broadly) sustainable community development (Ling et al., 2009). Accordingly, the tools and
techniques used to support planning efforts should also incorporate participatory processes in their design
and application. This research explores such an approach in the design of a community systems model,
which is subsequently serving as the basis of ongoing scenario modeling and visualization project.
It can be tempting for scenario modeling researchers to develop models and scenarios based entirely
on their knowledge (and other academic work). However, when these models have implications for
community planning, it is important to involve stakeholders to ensure modeling procedures and processes
align with sustainable development principles and best planning practices. By using a participatory
Newell, R., Picketts, I., & Dale, A. (2020). Community systems models and development scenarios for integrated planning:
Lessons learned from a participatory approach. Community Development. doi: 10.1080/15575330.2020.1772334
approach, modeling exercises can be designed to be highly relevant and useful to the community’s needs,
concerns, and values. This being said, participatory modeling can still lead to gaps or deficiencies in cases
when certain community members are unable to attend engagement sessions and their interests are not
adequately represented by those who are in attendance. However, by providing capacity for iteratively
refining and further developing the models, they can continually evolve into tools that more accurately
reflect the community and are increasingly effective for supporting integrated community planning and
sustainable development.
We gratefully acknowledge the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships Program and the Social Sciences and
Humanities Research Council of Canada for its support of this research project. We would also like to
acknowledge the District of Squamish and community stakeholders, who participated in this research
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... A major challenge with systems and integrated modelling is creating a representative and useful model, while also maintaining a reasonable scope of work [17,18]. While there are multiple urban systems modelling tools that can be used to guide local planning and decision-making, such models are often limited in scope as they focus on particular factors such as transportation, land-use, energy, and/or GHG emissions (e.g., [2,3,6]). ...
... The study is part of a larger project, which involves three phases: (1) designing a community scenarios and model based on local government and stakeholder input, (2) using the model to calculate/estimate potential social, economic, and environmental outcomes of the scenarios, and refining it based on community feedback, and (3) creating tools for communicating the model and scenarios to diverse community members and the broader public. The first research phase is detailed in Newell et al. [18], and this paper summarizes this first phase, while focusing on the second phase. Publications on the third research phase are forthcoming; however, more information on all three project phases can be found in publicly available community reports [17,[21][22][23], as well as the project webpage: ...
... However, a summary of these activities is provided here to give context for the modelling work and its community-based participatory approach. More details on the first research phase are presented in Newell & Picketts [17] and Newell et al. [18]. ...
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Integrated models can support community planning efforts because they have the ability to elucidate social, economic, and environmental relationships and outcomes associated with different local development plans and strategies. However, deciding what to include in an integrated model presents a significant challenge, as including all aspects of a community and local environment is unfeasible, whereas including too few aspects leads to a non-representative model. This research aimed to address this challenge by employing an iterative, participatory process in an integrated modelling effort. Conducted in Squamish (BC, Canada), the research involved developing a community systems model and scenarios (i.e., different community development patterns), modelling the scenarios, evaluating the model through a community focus group, and refining the model and scenarios based on the feedback. Much of the work developing the initial systems model and scenarios was done a previous research phase, and it involved assembling local government and community stakeholder focus groups to discuss issues and possible futures for Squamish. Analysis of the focus group data informed the design of a community systems model and local development scenarios, which were subsequently applied in an integrated modelling exercise. Modelling primarily used ArcGIS and R, and explored a variety of factors including access to amenities, education, walkability, parks/trails, food and farm systems, public transit, housing affordability, threats to critical habitat, etc. Another local government and community stakeholder focus group was then held to solicit feedback on the model and scenarios, and these were refined based on the feedback. The research found the participatory approach to beneficial for creating community planning tools that are relevant to local contexts and needs, and the model developed in this work has great potential for supporting community planning because it effectively identifies co-benefits and trade-offs of different development strategies. It is important to develop these tools through iterative processes, where they are refined through multiple stages of feedback by a variety of actors, to better capture the local concerns and realities of a place.
... Sustainable community development requires reconciliation of social, economic, and environmental imperatives (Dale 2001;Newman and Jennings 2008;Rydin 2010); therefore, it is best performed through integrated approaches that recognize how plans, polices, and strategies link to broader goals for humans and the environment (Ling et al. 2009;Shaw et al. 2014;Dale et al. 2018). Significant advancements in computation and modelling have led to sophisticated tools that can be used to understand the complex, interrelated considerations involved in land use and community development (Almeida et al. 2009;Chase et al. 2010;Keirstead and Sivakumar 2012), and accordingly, these tools can support integrated planning efforts (Newell et al. , 2020. Models can be used to elucidate a variety of different outcomes associated with community plans and strategies, such as transportation effectiveness, land use efficiency, energy consumption, water consumption and conservation, and (or) greenhouse gas emissions (e.g., Salvini and Miller 2005;Wagner and Wegener 2007;Eluru et al. 2008;Frank et al. 2009;Sperling and Berke 2017). ...
... This paper focuses on the third research phase, and it discusses the development of the model explorer and visualizations, as well as their assessment through focus group and open house activities. The other research phases are documented in publications (Newell and Picketts 2020b;Newell et al. 2020), project reports (Newell and Picketts 2018, 2019a, 2019b, 2020a, and on the project webpage: ...
... However, a summary of the modelling activities is included below to provide context for the current study on developing and examining tools for communicating model outcomes. For more information on the previous research phases, refer to Newell et al. (2020) and Newell and Picketts (2018, 2019a, 2019b, 2020a, 2020b. ...
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Models that capture relationships between a variety of social, economic, and environmental factors are useful tools for community planning; however, they are often complex and difficult for diverse audiences to understand. This creates challenges for participatory planning and community engagement. Conducted in the community of Squamish (British Columbia, Canada), this study develops and examines tools for communicating outcomes of a community scenario modelling exercise to diverse stakeholders. These tools are (i) a “model explorer” and (ii) realistic, immersive visualizations. The model explorer is an online, HTML5-based tool that can be used to learn about the model, view community scenario maps, and explore potential outcomes of the scenarios. The visualizations are virtual environments that are navigated from the first-person perspective, and they were developed using a combination of ArcGIS, Trimble SketchUp, Adobe Photoshop, and the Unity3D game engine. A local government and community stakeholder focus group and public open house event were held to solicit feedback on the scenarios and tools. Findings of the research suggest that the two types of tools can be used in a complementary fashion, and tool integration can better harness their respective strengths in a manner that comprehensively communicates the implications of different development pathways to diverse community members.
... Sustainability is a challenge experienced by communities across the global, and similar to the researchers' thinking on e-Dialogues and bandwidth, it was deemed important that CoLabS should also be accessible in that it is an opensource application with the ability to use and add features without financial barriers. Secondly, Newell et al. (2020a) and Newell and Picketts (2020) posit that tools for sustainable community planning and engagement should be designed in collaboration with community users and based on their needs. This calls for tools with a high degree of flexibility that can be easily changed according to stakeholder/user needs, something that can not be accommodated by platforms which are not open-source in their code, structure, and design. ...
... The aim of this research effort is not to challenge the merit of using these platforms for sustainability work; rather, it explores a collaboratory approach that aligns with sustainable principles both in its development and use. Participatory processes are essentially elements of sustainable community development (Ling et al., 2009), and accordingly, the tools and techniques used to support efforts toward sustainability should also be participatory in their design and application (Newell et al., 2020a). Unlike other applications, CoLabS aligns with this thinking in how it is specifically designed as a flexible platform with capacity for further development and integration of a number of tools in response to stakeholder needs, place-based contexts, and/or the sustainability issues at hand. ...
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Currently, the need for transdisciplinary approaches and collaboration, to reduce the gap between science and practice, is continuously rising along with the need for sustainable development. An increase in knowledge transfer, meetings and overall communication among researchers and practitioners is a logical consequence of the previous. However, the resulting higher transaction costs, mainly related to transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions (and additional financial costs) involved in face-to-face meetings, are in direct conflict with the urgent need to reduce our carbon footprint. This research explored the development of an online platform, "CoLabS", specifically designed as a virtual meeting and learning space to support collaboration within and between communities to accelerate sustainable community development efforts. While the move towards online collaboration in virtual environments has steadily increased in the past decade, it has now become essential due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on the feedback provided by focus groups, the collaboratory platform's design and usability as well as the technical aspects and its functionality are discussed in this paper.
... In this respect, the research project ZURES 1 aimed at innovations by linking social vulnerability to heat stress for the two German cities Bonn and Ludwigsburg (Birkmann et al. 2020a(Birkmann et al. , 2020b. The consideration of social vulnerability and its possible changes in the future was embedded in a participatory scenario Robinson et al. 2011;Sheppard et al. 2011;De Groot-Reichwein et al. 2018;Lipiec et al. 2018;Newell, Picketts, and Dale 2020;Wilk et al. 2018;Iwaniec et al. 2020aIwaniec et al. , 2020bMaragno, Fontana, and Musco 2020;Birkmann et al. 2021 development-taking into account institutions and actor constellations-and based on a medium-and long-term socio-economic trend analysis. This paper is organized as follows: Section 2 outlines the participatory scenario approach that integrates climate and socio-economic vulnerability scenarios to articulate future human heat stress at the neighborhood level. ...
The juxtaposition of climate change and development changes is vital for understanding the future impacts of heat stress in urban areas. However, an approach that considers the relationship between climatic factors and socio-economic vulnerability in a forward-looking and stakeholder-involved manner is challenging. This article demonstrates the application of a future-oriented vulnerability scenarios approach to address human heat stress in Bonn, Germany, in 2035. The study highlights the interplays between climate trajectories and heat exposure associated with urban development scenario corridors. Moreover, this method allows for changing combinations of intersections and conditionalities of projected individual socio-economic vulnerability indicators in response to social and climate governance. However, this study found that a conventional structure within city departments might limit this integrative approach in practice. Thus, the theoretical background and the concept of alternative futures and uncertainties should be the focus of communication with practitioners to maximize the utilization of the results.
... Annotations in Mendeley were then color-coded by theme, meaning that the color of the annotations and comments was selected based on the planning and policy area with which they were associated. The annotations were then exported and used to inform a "relationship mapping" process using techniques similar to those developed by Newell et al. (2018Newell et al. ( , 2020b to identify and visualize connections among themes, strategies, and outcomes. Such a mapping process involved examining the color and content of the annotations to identify relationships between planning or policy areas (i.e., annotation color) and strategies (i.e., annotation content) and relationships between strategies and outcomes (i.e., annotation content and codes). ...
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Planning and policy are best done through integrated approaches that holistically address multiple sustainability issues. Climate change and biodiversity loss are two of the most significant issues facing our planet. Accordingly, advancements in integrated sustainability planning and policy require a means for examining how certain strategies and actions may align or conflict with these sustainability imperatives. Here, we enhance the knowledge of integrated approaches for addressing sustainability challenges by developing and applying a framework for examining different planning and policy areas in the context of climate action and biodiversity conservation. As a case study, we used wildlife crossing planning and landscape connectivity policy in Canada, which is currently piecemeal, fragmented, and could benefit from an integrated approach. The study was conducted in two stages. First, we developed an analytical framework for examining issues in the context of climate action and biodiversity conservation co-benefits and trade-offs. Then, we applied the framework to wildlife crossing and landscape connectivity issues to elucidate opportunities and challenges for integrated planning and policy. We used a literature review to develop an integrated climate-biodiversity framework (ICBF). ICBF was subsequently applied to wildlife crossing and landscape connectivity planning and policies in Canada. ICBF maps relationships between climate action and biodiversity conservation co-benefits and trade-offs and is organized into six themes: green space, transportation, green infrastructure, food and agriculture, energy, and land management. Applying ICBF to participant interview data produced insights into opportunities and challenges for integrated approaches to wildlife crossing and landscape connectivity by elucidating potential co-benefits and trade-offs such as alignments between stormwater management and aquatic crossings (i.e., co-benefits) and potential issues related to energy development and habitat fragmentation (i.e., trade-offs). ICBF has application beyond wildlife crossings, and its continual use and refinement will result in a better understanding of how to effectively implement integrated approaches and transition toward sustainable development paths.
... According to O'Neill (2020), this broadens participation, from "to inform," to "consult," to "collaborate," to "co-lead," hence recognizing the community as "context experts. " Newell, Picketts, and Dale (2020) has termed this a systems approach to participatory community development. This supports the system theory in recognizing community capabilities, as opposed to the conflict theory that is anchored on the imposition of governance systems in accordance with the top-down approach. ...
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This paper analyzes the dynamics at play in community poultry projects in Zimbabwe. We compare the performance levels of “family poultry” under three community-based development schemes: the contract-based scheme and the two community-led poultry development approaches, one supported by an NGO and the other under self-funding. Factors that influence farmers’ choice of the poultry scheme are also determined. Data was collected using observations and self-administered questionnaires from 61 smallholder poultry farmers in the Goromonzi District. Results indicate that landholding and distance to the nearest urban center influence the farmers’ choice of poultry scheme and that no single scheme is superior to the other. While the contract-based scheme records the highest sales and bird per cycle, it undermines the community’s capabilities to act independently. Contractors control price, marketing, and genetic-type decisions. In contrast, the other approaches have lower material returns, but they build the community’s broad-based capabilities for self-improvement.
Technical Report
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In 2021, the University of Fraser Valley (UFV) and the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD), in collaboration with Royal Roads University (RRU), began a communitybased participatory research effort1,2 to explore food systems vulnerabilities, resiliency, and approaches to integrated planning in the Fraser Valley. The FVRD identified a need for long-term planning to develop resilient and sustainable food systems. Accordingly, the premise of this research project is to identify and map food system vulnerabilities and impacts, alongside local and regional efforts, that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic (from January 2020 to present). This project employs integrated planning and systems perspectives to (1) reflect upon the challenges and vulnerabilities that the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed about local and regional food and farming systems, and (2) explore ways of increasing local/regional resilience to future shocks (e.g. climate change impacts, economic recessions, mass migration).
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Purpose of Review Rapid urban expansion of the world’s cities is placing unprecedented demands on the energy, water, food, and other (X) systems (e.g., mobility) that each offer multiple life-supporting services. Coordination that considers inter-sectoral connections among these urban systems and services remains nascent in practice, yet are critical to the future well-being, resource/operational efficiency, and resilience of urban areas. This paper therefore proposes an applied “urban nexus science” framework to identify integrated and synergistic pathways toward achieving urban sustainability. Recent Findings The design, planning, and operation of urban W-E-F systems can benefit from integrated analyses to accelerate infrastructure, land use, and hazard mitigation planning and decision-making. New knowledge quantifying the key effects of W-E-F systems designed in isolation versus an increasingly integrated systems, especially when exposed to hazards, health risks, or extreme events, are a critical need. Summary Interactive system modeling and participatory technologies are needed to support stakeholder engagement and two-way (and multi-directional) information flow, for exploring outcomes of alternative solutions for integrating W-E-F sectors. To support such important efforts, research is needed to fill critical gaps in data, identify tradeoffs, and develop synergistic solutions that measure sustainability co-benefits based on different levels of urban integration among W-E-F systems and services.
Technical Report
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This report details the development and evaluation of tools for communicating the outcomes of the Spaces, Places and Possibilities community scenario modelling exercise, namely an interactive model explorer and scenario visualizations. The report begins with a summary of the community-based approach used for modelling potential social, economic, and environmental outcomes of different development pathways, or scenarios, for the community of Squamish. It then describes two tools for communicating the outcomes and implications of the model and community scenarios: (1) a "model explorer" that provides an online interactive interface for engaging with the model, and (2) realistic, immersive 3D visualizations that are experienced from the first-person perspective. The final sections discuss feedback given on these tools by Squamish community members through a focus group and an open house event. The open house was held after the focus group, and the report also discusses how the focus group feedback informed refinements of the model explorer and visualization tools prior to the open house event.
Technical Report
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This report discusses the refinement of the systems model and community development scenarios used in the scenario modelling process for the Spaces, Places and Possibilities research project. The report begins with a brief summary of the processes used for developing the systems model and scenarios and modelling the scenarios (more detailed discussions on these processes can be found in previous reports). It then discusses feedback from a community focus group on the model, and how the model and scenarios were refined accordingly. The next section describes the refined model and scenarios, and it gives a sample of output produced from modelling the refined scenarios. The report concludes with a section on next steps for the research, specifically discussing the development of an interactive model explorer and scenario visualizations.
Technical Report
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This report discusses the community development scenario modelling process done in the Spaces, Places and Possibilities research project. The report begins with a brief summary of the systems model and community scenario development process (a more detailed discussion on this can be found in the previous project report). It then discusses the scenario modelling process and outcomes from this exercise, and describes outcomes from a focus group that was assembled to gain feedback on the modelling work. The report concludes with a section on next steps for the research, specifically discussing how focus group feedback will be used to refine the model and inform plans for visualization development.
Technical Report
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This report discusses the process employed in the Spaces, Places and Possibilities research project for developing a systems model and defining a series of community development scenarios. It begins by identifying the major themes that emerged from the discussion and describing how these themes present considerations for scenario development. It then relates a model developed based on themes that emerged from focus group discussions; the model illustrates relationships between the different land-uses, strategies and community outcomes. Finally, the report describes the new/refined community development scenarios.
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Engaging in climate action through integrated sustainability strategies can yield benefits for communities in more effective ways than through compartmentalized approaches. Such strategies can result in co-benefits, that is, community benefits that occur from acting on climate change that extend beyond mitigation and adaptation. For example, creating more walkable cities can be a strategy for reducing greenhouse gases, but can also lead to healthier communities. Climate strategies with co-benefits can result in “win-win” situations and thus improve practices for integrated community planning. However, this planning approach also presents challenges because it requires understanding complex relationships between community development practices and identifying synergies. In addition, some co-benefit strategies may also have associated challenges and trade-offs. This research examines climate action co-benefits and trade-offs in order to develop a comprehensive picture of the relationships and potential effects of implementing certain plans and strategies. The research consisted of collecting data on climate action efforts occurring in eleven BC (Canada) communities and coding it to identify climate strategies, co-benefits, challenges, and trade-offs. Relationships between codes were then identified through a coding matrix, and these were used to build a series of models that illustrate co-benefits, challenges, and trade-offs associated with local climate action. Each model centered on a particular area of climate action, including energy innovation, urban densification, mixed-use and downtown revitalization, building stock, ecological capital, trails and transportation, and waste and water. The models provide a holistic impression of the advantages and disadvantages associated with different plans and strategies, which in turn can guide both quantitative analyses and qualitative explorations that contribute toward integrated community planning and decision-making.
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Effective coastal planning is inclusive and incorporates the variety of user needs, values and interests associated with coastal environments. Realistic, immersive geographic visualizations, i.e., geovisualizations, can serve as potentially powerful tools for facilitating such planning because they can provide diverse groups with vivid understandings of how they would feel about certain management outcomes or impacts if transpired in real places. However, the majority of studies in this area have focused on terrestrial environments, and research on applications of such tools in the coastal and marine contexts is in its infancy. The current study aims to advance such research by examining the potential a land-to-sea geovisualization has to serve as a tool for inclusive coastal planning efforts. The research uses Sidney Spit Park (BC, Canada) as a study site, and a realistic, dynamic geovisualization of the park was developed (using Unity3D) that allows users to interact with and navigate it through the first-person perspective. Management scenarios were developed based on discussions with Parks Canada, and these scenarios included fencing around vegetation areas, positioning of mooring buoys, and management of dog activity within the park. Scenarios were built into the geovisualization in a manner that allows users to toggle different options. Focus groups were then assembled, involving residents of the Capital Regional District (BC, Canada), and participants explored and provided feedback on the scenarios. Findings from the study demonstrate the geovisualization's usefulness for assessing certain qualities of scenarios, such as aesthetics and functionality of fencing options and potential viewshed impacts associated with different mooring boat locations. In addition, the study found that incorporating navigability into the geovisualization proved to be valuable for understanding scenarios that hold implications for the marine environment due to user ability to cross the land-sea interface and experience underwater places. Furthermore, this research demonstrated that building scenarios within a realistic geovisualization required modeling place-based characteristics (including soundscape) as well as spatial properties. This approach can allow users the ability to more comprehensively assess scenarios and consider potential options.
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Effective coastal planning incorporates the variety of user needs, values, and interests associated with coastal environments. This requires understanding how people relate to coastal environments as “places,” imbued with values and meanings, and accordingly, tools that can capture place and connect with people's “sense of place” have the potential for supporting effective coastal management strategies. Realistic, immersive geographical visualizations, i.e., geovisualizations, theoretically hold potential to serve such a role in coastal planning; however, significant research gaps exist around this application context. Firstly, place theory and geovisualizations are rarely explicitly linked in the same studies, leaving questions around how to model “coastal place,” as well as coastal space. Secondly, geovisualization work has focused on terrestrial environments, and research on how to realistically model coastal places is currently in its infancy. The current study addresses the research gaps by developing a coastal geovisualization under place-based considerations, and then examining its capacity as a tool for connecting with people's sense of place. The research uses Sidney Spit in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve (BC, Canada) as a study site, and a geovisualization was developed using a combination of ArcGIS, Adobe Photoshop, Trimble SketchUp, and Unity3D. Focus groups were assembled involving Parks Canada staff and Greater Victoria Area residents, and the geovisualization was assessed in terms of its representation of a real-world coastal place and ability for connecting with sense of place. Findings from the study indicate that the presence of certain elements in coastal geovisualizations can contribute to realism and sense of place, such as people, dogs, birds, marine life, vegetation, and boats; however, simultaneously, deficiencies in numbers and varieties of these elements can detract from realism and sense of place. In addition, incorporation of soundscape and viewshed elements both demonstrated as significant to the tool's ability to connect with sense of place, with the latter potentially being more significant among those with higher familiarity with the real-world place. Beach textures were also found to be important for the geovisualization's ability to connect with sense of place; however, this ability can be compromised when running versions of the tool with lower graphical resolution.
With over half of the world's population now living in urban areas, the ability to model and understand the structure and dynamics of cities is becoming increasingly valuable. Combining new data with tools and concepts from statistical physics and urban economics, this book presents a modern and interdisciplinary perspective on cities and urban systems. Both empirical observations and theoretical approaches are critically reviewed, with particular emphasis placed on derivations of classical models and results, along with analysis of their limits and validity. Key aspects of cities are thoroughly analyzed, including mobility patterns, the impact of multimodality, the coupling between different transportation modes, the evolution of infrastructure networks, spatial and social organisation, and interactions between cities. Drawing upon knowledge and methods from areas of mathematics, physics, economics and geography, the resulting quantitative description of cities will be of interest to all those studying and researching how to model these complex systems.
Hastings District Council (HDC) had a vision to make walking and cycling the first mode people think of for any journeys less than 6km. Traffic Design Group (TDG) was involved with HDC in three key stages of the Model Communities Initiative. It was determined that a wide-area microsimulation traffic model with pedestrian and cyclist sub-models would be the most appropriate tool for achieving the objectives of the study. The microsimulation model was calibrated to surveyed turn count movements, queue length surveys and most notably to calibration criteria presented in the UK Design Manual for Roads and Bridges. The distribution function for the cycle sub-model is based on a combination of a cycle probability density function described by the Federal Highways Administration and the a priori distribution of the vehicle demand matrix. The integration of microsimulation with other innovative sub-models including pedestrian models and in particular with cycling distribution and assignment models presents unprecedented opportunity to determine both the impact and staging of proposed network improvements.