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  Achieving Representation in Planning
   

Random Selection: Achieving Representation in Planning
Alison Burton Memorial Lecture, Royal Australian Planning Institute, Canberra, ACT,
31 August

- Carson, L (1999)


25 pages 90 Kb
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Participation has become a buzz word in local, state and federal government-the panacea for a variety of ills caused by an absence of democratic practices. Participation has come to describe anything from community education or surveys where there is little chance of influencing outcomes, to involvement of randomly-selected groups with a direct impact on high-level decision making. Two themes will be explored-deliberation and representativeness. In doing so, some of the more innovative enabling mechanisms in the consultative landscape will be surveyed. These can be found in the more remote terrain of active, radical participation. These innovative mechanisms include citizen juries, planning cells, consensus conferences, deliberative polling and people's panels-mechanisms that share a number of attributes. One attribute that they have in common is the random selection of participants. Random selection separates these consultative mechanisms from more orthodox consultation approaches such as public meetings or advisory committees. These approaches are often hampered by their unrepresentative nature. Orthodox approaches also have a tendency to attract a disproportionate number of 'the incensed and the articulate'. The potential for using random selection procedures to counteract such problems will be examined, particularly in relation to community involvement in planning.

There are two main themes I would like to address in relation to decision making in planning-deliberation and representativeness. I want to rely primarily on two references for this explication of themes-one by Ricardo Blaug and one by Lyn Carson and Brian Martin. Neither book specifically addresses the issue of land-use planning or social planning but the relevance to planning and to problem solving is clear. Blaug's book Democracy, Real and Ideal is concerned with deliberation; our book, Random Selection in Politics, is concerned with both deliberation and representativeness but the emphasis is definitely on the latter.

In working through these two main themes I want to survey the consultative landscape-to visit sites of innovation (both local and overseas) and I want to acknowledge the problems and possibilities of all the sites I visit. I want to speculate on current practices, including the ACT's Local Area Planning Advisory Committees (LAPACs) and I want to offer a vision of the way I would wish this landscape to be.

I do not think for a moment that deliberation and representativeness are the only criteria for effective decision making. If I was to offer criteria for effective decision making it would look like this:


Criteria for Effective Participation

  1. Participation is timely. Participation should not be so late in the life of an issue that it is tokenistic. The timing should occur when citizens have the best chance of influencing outcomes.

  2. Participants reflect a cross section of population. Participants should be selected in a way that is not open to manipulation. Random selection offers the best chance of achieving this outcome (Carson & Martin 1999).

  3. Outcomes are focused on community, not self interest. Participants are not asked what they want personally but rather what they consider is appropriate in their role as citizen (Barber 1992).

  4. Process is interactive and deliberative. Questions or problems should not be reduced to a simplistic either/or response. Participation involves consideration of the big picture in discussion with fellow citizens and professional and non-professional experts.

  5. Decision making procedures are effective, preferably consensual. Complete agreement need not be the outcome but the process should enable participants to strive towards consensus.

  6. Likelihood of recommendations being adopted is high. Faith in the process is important by both the power holders and participants. Contracts can be signed to ensure that recommendations will be acted on and, if not, the decision-making body should offer a public explanation for its inaction.

  7. Process is in the hands of an independent, skilled, flexible facilitator. It is important that all participants control the agenda and content because this will give the process more credibility. A skilled facilitator with no vested interest is essential in order to achieve this.

  8. Process is open, fair and subject to evaluation. In advance, evaluation questions should be formulated-for example, how will success be measured? What are the indicators of success, beyond the adoption of recommendations?

  9. Process is cost effective. This might be difficult to establish. For example, how does one measure community wellbeing or savings in costly litigation that could arise in the absence of consultation and participation? What price does one attach to achieving clearer planning goals?

My two themes cover many of these criteria-for example, deliberation (points 4, 5, 7) and representativeness (points 2 & 3).


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Random Selection: Achieving Representation in Planning
Alison Burton Memorial Lecture, Royal Australian Planning Institute, Canberra, ACT,
31 August

- Carson, L (1999)


25 pages 90 Kb
[ Download PDF ]

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