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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The People Know Best: Developing Civic Participation in Urban Planning


Urban planning impacts a broad public, but does not engage the public broadly. Drawing on planning and feminist theory, philosophy and case study, this paper discusses promoting participatory practices in planning for equity, better policy, and the public good. The public interest is promoted through building relationships and social networks as well as education and community organizing of all, but especially marginalized and oppressed groups. Collaboration empowers individuals and broadens the information and decision-making possibilities for all parties. Participation based strategies develop engagement and equalize power differentials. Gathering together disparate interests enables effective discourse, deliberation, and education. Public engagement and feedback builds direct governance, creates new forms of power, and helps level the hegemonic playing field. Both institutional, top-down and grassroots, bottom-up activism engage citizens as active stakeholders in their community directly promoting democracy. Barriers in funding, evaluation, politics, political economy, developing pedagogical techniques, and power differentials are discussed.

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