MinnPost recently included an interview with Lars Christiansen, associate professor of sociology at Augsburg College, in an article examining the importance of civic engagement in city planning. The article cites ongoing controversies such as the proposed soccer stadium in St. Paul as indicative of a problematic lack of both transparency and residential participation in public processes. Earlier this year, Christiansen published an article in the Journal of Education Planning and Research detailing his study of the St. Paul Friendly Streets Initiative and its public process for a bike lane project.
Moving beyond public processes that merely pay lip service to community inclusion takes time, according to Christiansen. The MinnPost article quotes him as saying, “The community organizing approach to public engagement [that I prefer] takes a lot longer. Like any other community organizing, it involves trust building, relationship building, and lengthy listening. It’s really aiming for co-creation.”
In the article, Christiansen stresses that one important aspect of processes that successfully engage the public in city planning projects is timing. The earlier that planners can involve the public and establish communication with them about a project, the more likely it is that their involvement and communication will see a project through to completion. “The holy grail is the notion of inclusion. How do you do it for the whole duration of the project?” Christiansen says in the article.
Read: While we’re talking parking meters and a stadium, what is ‘public process’ anyway? on the MinnPost site.