Organizational strategy, technology and public participation in municipal planning
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Research focused on public participation in municipal planning typically seeks to evaluate and improve methods for integrating community input into planning decision processes. Research in the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) to enhance citizen engagement includes, for example, visual or geographical forms of engagement as well as approaches for adapting social technologies to public discursive methods. The continued development of social technologies coupled with increasingly large streams of citizen-generated data intensify both the potential and the perils of ICTs in public participation. Direct, real-time citizen communications lies in stark contrast to the increasing noise and information density in citizen communications and municipal data collection, for example. Such trends create dichotomies and emerging complexities that require new perspectives and models for examining the potential and barriers for citizen engagement in municipal planning decision processes. This research advances academic discourse surrounding public participation in municipal government by examining the organizational role and perspectives of municipal leaders. Key-informant interviews were conducted with 23 municipal leaders in Ontario, Canada. The findings informed the development of an inter-disciplinary component model that positions public participation as a strategic imperative. The component model was applied as a framework to generate insights from a second phase of research, namely a survey of municipal leaders across Canada. The survey findings identify broad deficiencies in municipal participatory capacity, as indicated by significant gaps between, for example, municipal leadership vision for an active, informed public in contrast to municipal structures, processes, analyses, and technologies in support of the vision. Finally, visualization methods were used to identify gaps and opportunities in municipal participatory capacity, and to compare the results across different types and sizes of Canadian municipalities. The organizational component model and visualization tools for public participation capacity developed in this thesis illustrate the interplay between structural organizational factors, managerial behaviors, and ICTs related to municipal public participation. These contributions suggest new approaches for municipal planners faced with the challenges of enhancing public participation capacity within their increasingly complex and information-rich contexts.
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James Huebner (2018). Organizational strategy, technology and public participation in municipal planning. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/13163