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This post zooms in on a well-established method for community engagement in urban planning. The reason I share it is that not everyone does it. Lest anyone should miss out, here it is.
This insight was captured several years back by David Biggs, Chief Engagement Officer at Vancouver-based software company MetroQuest in a blog article titled Public Engagement 3.0 (April 2015).
I adapt the concept graphically to illustrate the simple process that has proven popular across many planning contexts. It is a standard method that should be part of every participatory planning toolkit. Whether you want to design a simple consultative process or target an elaborate co-production process, the approach is scalable and adaptable to a wide range of contexts, including community-led planning and projects.
Two examples of the approach that stood out in my own research were the three successive engagement phases for the metropolitan plan (PLUi) at Grenoble metropolitan agency (using Carticipe-Debatomap), and the Streets for People project for active mobility infrastructure across several neighbourhoods in Newcastle (using Commonplace). In both cases, an online portal enabled mass participation to identify strategic orientations, followed by in-person workshops that explored practical solutions, after which these were shared more broadly for a second round of online mass consultation for prioritisation and further feedback.
Toward recursive ‘phygital’ engagement
‘Phygital’ engagement is where online and in-person engagement not only follow each other over time but recursively define each other as they are deployed. In my humble opinion as researcher without substantial practical experience in community engagement to speak of, phygital engagement stands among the very best of what you can do with participatory planning. Despite all its credentials, it still remains on the horizon as the next frontier for community engagement in planning, even as planning systems in England and elsewhere now enter their ‘digital turn’.
The next post will share a similar simple diagram that illustrates the phygital approach, including examples from spatial planning consultants in France and Sweden that do it quite compellingly.