Public participation has become an essential part of urban planning practices across the world (see eg. Lane 2006) and is included in planning legislation in many nations and coalitions such as the European Union. For residents’, participation provides a chance to have a say in the matters of one’s everyday living environment. Participation has also been proven to provide more diverse, locally specific and tacit knowledge, otherwise often unreachable for the planner, as well as making the planning more efficient and effective (Corburn, 2003).
Yet, the current participatory planning practices face some fundamental challenges. The traditional participation methods are insufficient in providing large scale, representative, effective or influential participation, neither do they produce high quality and usable knowledge. Digital participation methods can potentially address these challenges which probably are more topical now than ever before due to COVID-19 pandemic: traditional participation methods like face-to-face meetings and public hearings were out of question for few years across the world.
Public Participation GIS (PPGIS) methods are examples of the most widely used digital participatory methods. Unlike traditional participation, PPGIS tools have been shown to promote large-scale, representative, and fair participation (Kahila-Tani et al., 2019). PPGIS tools show large potential in increasing the influence of participation on the outcome of the planning process. The produced digital, place-based, experiential knowledge is easy to integrate into the existing planning data and systems, and the tangible visualizations connected to the specific aspects of the physical environment provide valuable insights for the planners (Kahila-Tani et al., 2015; Kahila-Tani et al., 2019; Brown, 2015). Yet, it remains unclear if this potential actually translates into influential participation in planning processes.
A group of Transformative Cities researchers focus on finding out if PPGIS methods have had any actual influence in urban planning. Doctoral Student Valtteri Nurminen together with Professor Marketta Kyttä and Postdoctoral researcher Tiina Rinne, all three working in the Transformative Cities project, in collaboration with a colleague Saana Rossi, have reviewed Finnish urban planning projects that used PPGIS to learn how digital participatory practices and data have informed and influenced actual planning solutions. Their aim has been to learn how the use of PPGIS tools has influenced the outcomes of urban planning and how has the gathered knowledge informed planning.
Valtteri and co-authors found that PPGIS tool has been highly valued by the planners. The interviewed planners were also able to provide multiple examples where PPGIS knowledge concretely influenced the outcome of the planning process. Even in the cases where the PPGIS knowledge did not concretely show in the outcome, the knowledge influenced the thought process, for example, by validating the initial views of the planner. Factors that were found limiting the influence of PPGIS knowledge were also recognized, the main factor being the unsuitability of the knowledge with the planning process in question, as well as with the boundary conditions and other restrictions. The final results of this study will be published soon, and the authors cannot wait to share the final results. Stay tuned!
Brown, G. (2015). Engaging the wisdom of crowds and public judgment for land use planning using public participation geographic information systems. Australian Planner, 52(3), pp. 199–209
Corburn, J. (2003). Bringing Local Knowledge into Environmental Decision Making: Improving Urban Planning for Communities at Risk. Journal of Planning Education and Research – J PLAN EDUC RES. 22. 420-433. 10.1177/0739456X03022004008.
Kahila-Tani, M., Broberg, A., Kyttä, M. & Tyger, T. (2015): Let the Citizens Map—Public Participation GIS as a Planning Support System in the Helsinki Master Plan Process, Planning Practice & Research, DOI: 10.1080/02697459.2015.1104203
Kahila-Tani, M., Kyttä, M. & Geertman, S. (2019). Does mapping improve public participation? Exploring the pros and cons of using public participation GIS in urban planning practices, Landscape and Urban Planning, Volume 186, 2019, ISSN 0169-2046
Lane, M. B. (2005). Public Participation in Planning: an intellectual history, Australian Geographer, 36:3, 283-299, DOI: 10.1080/00049180500325694