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  1. Mara Samardzic

    Karen, in a similar vein I’m trying to determine how online consultations can weigh anonymous input vs. publicly identifiable/personally identifiable input. In the context of, say a neighbourhood redevelopment – would you agree there is more value in considering ALL input received via online discourse or would there be a reluctance to consider that input which was not identified as ‘of local interest’?

    I appreciate transit systems may be considered in a more municipally holistic context. I’m trying to bring this same train of thinking to the neighbourhood level where conversations on infill development can begin and be managed with the host of decision makers early on in the development process.

    In other words, If you’re not ‘from the neighbourhood’ – how then is your input considered if you bring something to the table? Is there an area of public consultation discourse which speaks to this?

    Posted July 3, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Permalink
  2. Mara,

    Interesting question.

    I think what you are talking about is inherent to just about all planning issues, which is the idea of “invisible” stakeholders — not hard to reach ones (like minority groups or the homeless), but people who literally don’t know they have a stake in it yet, like future employers or residents. Sometimes we can reach them by proxy (for example, current new employers or residents, or those considering moving into a city for work or living) but that’s not always helpful.

    And sometimes, like what’s been observed happening in the online comment sections of Vancouver’s newspapers now, it turns out that the people who speak with the most inflammatory and extreme rhetoric are doing so with very little at stake compared to more local interests.

    As to your question of how to consider their input — I can’t say I’ve come across anything in my reading that addresses that issue directly. My default answer on a lot of these issues, alas, come back to the people involved — have they arrived at their opinions or desires after having spent some time imagining the thoughts, feelings, preferences of their future neighbours, employers and customers with the different planning scenarios? Is that something they are willing to engage in? If not, can you illustrate what the risks of moving forward without considering the interests of the ‘non-local’ stakeholders might be?

    It seems to me for an infill development scenario, it begs the question: if a person weighing in is not from the neighbourhood, what’s the anticipated impact to them of the proposed change? Does it offend their sensibilities or go against their image of what a city or place is and/or ‘should’ be? Should that be given equal or more weight than those who might anticipate enjoying the benefits, or perhaps slightly less than those who are more directly impacted negatively? The purpose of consultation in my mind is to incorporate the sentiment into a more robust proposal, but at some point planners can’t please everyone.

    Not sure if that made things any clearer for you, Mara!


    Posted July 4, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink
  3. Mara Samardzic

    Thanks Karen, it does! Its comforting to know that there is an acceptable spectrum that can be attributed to input, and you are right; the planner/decision maker will never make everyone happy.

    In this day and age where conversations are happening across a number of medium, it’s that ability of planners to remain open-minded and transparent (in terms of decisions) that will keep diplomacy happening in the course of planning-related discussions, and will keep the people engaged, trusting in the process. Trusting the process is key.

    I’m very excited to be working as a planner in a time where new technology for these purposes is rampant and ever-changing.

    Thanks again for the reply.

    Posted July 25, 2012 at 7:53 am | Permalink

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