Establish a partnership with local stakeholders and lay out an action plan.
To carry out a participatory planning project, it is important to identify and involve local stakeholders from the start and establish partnerships. By calling on community leaders, you will help establish relationships with other stakeholders in the area. It is very useful to mobilize the people responsible for making decisions regarding the physical transformation of the community (e.g., municipal elected officials and housing project managers). Other partners could include people interested in the project and those who can mobilize the community. Experience has shown the importance of creating formal partnerships with these stakeholders by creating a working committee which will establish an operating framework for a project. This framework should foster open communication between all groups who play a role in the area.
Create a working committee
Creating a working committee that represents the area and brings together key stakeholders will be decisive for completing the project. The working committee has the following mandate:
- Identify limitations that projects must work within;
- Mobilize resources;
- Mobilize the community;
- Provide technical support;
- Identify and collect existing information.
A work team (3 to 5 people), drawn from this committee, is designated to manage and run the project. This smaller group defines the general aspects of the project, plans and implements the participatory urban planning process and mediates among members if there is a conflict. The other members of the committee form a larger circle of contributors not necessarily involved in all planning aspects.
Managing the process
Specific guidelines are necessary to ensure things move smoothly and the participatory planning initiative is successful. To establish an appropriate operating framework, the following elements are necessary:
- Define the project area;
- Determine goals, targets and monitoring indicators;
- Clearly identify the stakeholders;
- Clarify everyone’s roles and responsibilities;
- Establish a schedule;
- Calculate available financial, human and material resources.
Within the framework adapted to the project, actions are taken to ensure that a collective vision for the future of the neighbourhood or target site emerges.
A planning schedule is a good way to have an overall idea of the process in the beginning. As time goes by, adjustments can be made to activities (choice, number, timing, etc.). Activities should be planned two to three months in advance.
The time needed for the project launch phase is often underestimated. It is essential to allocate the time required to create a strong partnership, one which can evolve and respond to project developments.
To establish project foundations through a solid partnership
Collaboration is essential to the success and sustainability of any participatory process. The process should not rest on the shoulders of just one stakeholder.
- The launch phase is where we determine how each stakeholder will contribute and the ground rules for managing a participatory process.
- Decision makers (such as municipal elected officials and professionals and housing project managers) are responsible for implementing changes to the built environment in the medium and long term. Consequently, it is essential to work in partnership with stakeholders that will later make the changes happen.
- Mobilizing citizens requires a great deal of time and effort. It is important to create links with local organizations and citizen leaders of the community who have direct links with citizens and goals that are compatible with those of the project.
Bring together the appropriate partners
Create a committee of key people, in light of the project context:
- Committed citizens and expert citizens;
- Municipal elected officials and professionals;
- Members of community networks;
- Representatives of schools, universities and public health.
Some activities for identifying and rallying partners:
- Establish a partnership agreement;
- Force field,
- Stakeholder mapping;
- Define the vision for the project area.
Two key elements of successful participatory urban planning project are:
- Allocate the budget, human and material resources needed;
- Respect the work pace of local and community partners and other stakeholders.
 The force field activity is designed to understand the factors that contribute to a problem, a situation or a project and those that counteract it. Source: Chevalier, Buckles and Bourassa, 2013.