Participatory Planning in an Era of Physical Distancing

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Participatory Planning in the Era of Physical Distancing

May 2020


Foreword


Cities around the world have been experimenting with ways to reform urban planning, design and governance processes through participatory planning approaches. Despite all the challenges, it is now more than ever that collaborative city building needs to be acknowledged as a viable utopia. Participatory planning forms the heart and soul of our work at Urban Design Collective. When we went into lockdown, we got thinking about how we would resume our activities on the ground and minimise the compromises that this pandemic situation threw at us. We took the 3 key steps of participatory planning that we engage with in our work extensively and arrived at a new toolbox to go about these steps- Keeping Communities Informed - Hearing out Communities - Collaborative Design And because we want more of you to not give up on the participatory planning, we are sharing our tool box with you. This is an evolving tool box and is not by any means a complete list of options. As we prepare to get back to work, we hope to try out these options ourselves and continue to refine and add more to the list based on our experiences over the coming weeks and months. And while the options have been derived keeping in mind the socio-cultural and socio-economic context of Indian cities, we believe many of the ideas could apply globally as well. It is therefore advisable to assess the local context before deciding on what would work in other cities. Vidhya Mohankumar Founder & Principal - Urban Design Collective

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01 keeping the community informed about plans, processes and decisions

Participatory Planning in the Era of Physical Distancing | May 2020


One way communication to ensure information is disseminated effectively to all the different stakeholder groups regardless of age, income levels, literacy levels and access to digital mediums.

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1 Postcards/ Brochures Postcards/ brochures with information on specific topics can be printed and sent out to a large number of people as a means for direct delivery of information to people’s doorsteps with minimal direct contact.

2 Leaflets with newspapers Leaflets and fliers with relevant information can also be printed in bulk and supplied to local newspaper distributors so that they can be attached to the daily newspapers that reach people’s homes.

Participatory Planning in the Era of Physical Distancing | May 2020


3 Large Format Posters Large format posters with information about an ongoing project can be put up at local landmarks and essential service outlets to spread awareness.

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4 Mobile public announcements Public announcements in smaller as well as rural neighbourhoods in the past have usually been made using loudspeakers attached to autorickshaws. Such mobile speaker units are very effective in spreading awareness throughout neighbourhoods without direct engagement or contact and can be utilised to communicate information within a defined geographic area.

5 Murals Murals on walls and floors can be used as a medium for communication and knowledge dispersal. They can also serve as a tool to encourage discussions and conversations around certain topics.

Participatory Planning in the Era of Physical Distancing | May 2020


6 Social media Social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram can be utilised to disseminate ideas/ information on projects/ initiatives. The use of high quality infographics, illustrations and other relevant visual representations coupled with text posts is ideal to capture the attention given the deluge of content. Consistency in graphic quality is also equally important as is the timing and frequency of posts to create an impact with the target groups.

7 WhatsApp messages WhatsApp can be used as a platform to communicate ideas and broadcast information. If moderated well enough Whatsapp groups can also foster meaningful discussions. This tool is best used if a target group has been identified and most members of the target group have access to a smart phone and are willing recipients of such information over Whatsapp.

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8 News media articles Seeking out newspapers or online portals to publish well-researched articles is a good way for information dissemination if the target audience is the general public. Publishing in regional languages besides English ensures inclusiveness in outreach.

Participatory Planning in the Era of Physical Distancing | May 2020


9 Creating online videos Creating videos with clear narratives for sharing online can be an effective way to give out detailed information about an ongoing project/ initiative. Be sure to tag relevant influencers while uploading in order to ensure that the video reaches a wide audience.

10 Webinars Webinars can be organized to present the proceedings of a project and its vision and intentions. It would be useful if there was a call for action at the end of the webinar with clear instructions for the participants to submit feedback as well.


02 hearing out the community on needs, views and preferences prior to and after making plans/ designs


Two-way communication with our stakeholders centered on needs, views and preferences before and after the design process in order to ensure that we are on the right track. This step therefore is critical for its capacity for co-creation if honest and enthusiastic participation from the stakeholders is sought and received. Again, the variety of techniques presented here are designed to enable equal opportunity for all stakeholders to participate.

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1 Poster walls/ Notice Boards Erecting poster walls/ notice boards near local hubs can help to display design options and seek opinions on people’s preferences. Users can mark their preferences with stickers/ sticky notes with space to reflect on the interventions without crowding around the boards too.

2 Public art installations While we believe art enriches urban spaces, we also believe it can be a powerful tool to provoke, engage, and collaborate. More than ever, we feel now that welldesigned art installations placed at key local landmarks will be a great way to create awareness and solicit opinions on a particular subject .

Participatory Planning in the Era of Physical Distancing | May 2020


3 Survey forms/ polling boxes at local hubs and public spaces Short offline surveys can be printed and distributed through local hubs/ essential service outlets such as shops, healthcare services, ATMs, Banks etc. These surveys can be then filled out and submitted in the same place for collection. This is advantageous as people need not be drawn out of their homes specifically for this purpose but can file their opinions while they are on their trips for essential services. It would be ideal if these surveys can be multilingual to reach wider groups of people or better still if they are pictorial or visual surveys. Likewise, in case a closed ballot is desired, poll boxes can be placed in various locations in the neighbourhood. Residents can pick up a voting slip from an essential service outlet and cast their votes for their preferred interventions in their neighbourhood/ city.

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4 Engaging children through art and writing Children can be involved in a participatory manner by encouraging them to share their ideas through drawings or essays. This allows children to be involved while being in their own homes. This can be facilitated by giving accurate information on the call for ideas and how these can be submitted both online and offline through notices at local hubs, radio sound bytes and online portals.

5 Testing ideas through tactical urbanism interventions and using video recordings to gather user response Tactical urbanism is a great approach to test out an idea before implementation especially for public space projects. User reactions and behaviour change towards tactical urbanism interventions can be recorded through CCTV cameras in order to gauge if the proposed intervention is appropriate and desirable for the concerned user groups.

Participatory Planning in the Era of Physical Distancing | May 2020


6 Balcony/ window engagement In multi-story buildings which have balconies and windows facing the street or an open space, residents can be encouraged to use these elements to create dialogue. Engagement in this manner can occur through a facilitator using mobile speaker units to seek opinions and the users can use a variety of different tools to communicate their responses such as, green and red colour fabrics to show their preference for a particular intervention.

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7 Online surveys Creating surveys on online portals like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey to collect preferences and opinions from a target audience without direct engagement. The links to these surveys can then be shared on social media platforms or by placing QR code stickers in visually prominent places in neighbourhoods.

8 Local phone directories Phone numbers of the residents in a neighbourhood or a defined stakeholder group can be collated, with their consent, into a local telephone directory. This is useful to conduct telephonic surveys and interviews to draw out their opinions at a mutually convenient day/ time.

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9 Closed door surveys and interviews through empowered local champions Trusted local champions can be identified as representatives of resident groups at a neighbourhood level and these champions can be trained to conduct contactless interviews or surveys behind closed doors with the residents.

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10 Hashtag campaigns on social media Unique hashtags pertaining to specific projects can be created and target audiences can be urged to share posts on issues/ solutions for a project on social media platforms using these hashtags. Posts can be solicited in the form of written opinions, artworks, photographs, drawings and so on.

11 Incentive based participation Participation in surveys/ interviews that may require more than 30 minutes of a person’s time can be encouraged by providing incentives. For example, a fully completed survey by a respondent could warrant 60 minutes of free internet or discounts at a local grocery shop.

Participatory Planning in the Era of Physical Distancing | May 2020


12 Engagement through 3 dimensional physical models

Community halls or foyers of public office buildings could be used to display 3 dimensional physical models of the proposed development. Physical models help to visualize developments better for lay persons who may not be able to interpret traditional architectural representations. Residents can then file their comments/ suggestions/votes and drop them off into a box placed near the model. 20

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03 collaborative design Seeking active participation or partnership in the preparation of plans, exchange of data/ knowledge and formulation of visions.

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Physical distancing makes it difficult for us to engage with large groups simultaneously for a co-design exercise so much of the onus falls on effective two-way communication across stages of the project. Nevertheless, this may still be possible with smaller groups of people with the help of technology.

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1 Conducting focus group discussions and co-design workshops through a remote facilitator In cases where there may be travel restrictions for the entire design team to be at one location to conduct focus group discussions or co-design workshops, this can be managed through one or two facilitators placed at the project site or amongst the stakeholder group who then connects with the design team through online conferencing tools. This will require prior planning to ensure that the proceedings are smooth but can yield good results. The remote facilitator(s) must also ensure that the group assembled for the session observes physical distancing norms.

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2 Working remotely with local champions Local champions can be trained and empowered to facilitate co-design exercises and they can do this by engaging with the community in small groups and relaying ideas back to design teams. This also becomes a great way to train and engage tech savvy youth who can also become remote facilitators for organizing online community meetings and FGDs.

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3 Identifying and working with NGOs that work at grassroots level Local NGOs that work at grassroots level with communities can be identified as possible collaborators for facilitating engagements with the community remotely. They can bring valuable knowledge on what types of engagements are possible and can therefore help with the design of suitable engagement methods.

4 Connecting with Resident Welfare Associations through WhatsApp groups Design team members and Resident Welfare Association (RWA) members can team up via WhatsApp groups where constant exchange of ideas and suggestions can take place. These RWAs can act as an extension of the neighbourhood residents wherein they collect the preferences and opinions of the residents and communicate them to the designers.

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5 Online community meetings In the event that a wide cross section of stakeholders or key influencers have access to the internet, an engagement with community members using online conferencing tools such as Teams/ Hangouts could work out. Meetings held in this manner can be used to design and discuss interventions, review ideas and record suggestions but will need to be moderated effectively to get good results.

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6 Free online collaborative tools like Miro/ Mural Interactive online collaborative boards such as Miro/ Mural can be used to work, review and ideate simultaneously with different stakeholders in real time, if they are tech savvy enough to do so. As an alternate option, a facilitator could solicit views from the stakeholders and one person can visualize the ideas real time using these tools. Stakeholders can then express their views about the visualizations real time.

7 Creating apps on instance-able platforms Mobile apps can be devised for use in smartphones. These applications can be designed in an instance-able manner for collecting responses and opinions on different projects and interventions in different neighbourhoods while also serving as a channel for information dissemination.

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Keeping the community informed 1

Postcards/ Brochures

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Leaflets with newspapers

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Large format posters

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Mobile public announcements

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Murals

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Social media

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WhatsApp messages

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News media articles

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Creating online videos

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Webinars

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Hearing out the community 1

Poster walls/ Notice Boards

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Public art installations

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Survey forms/ polling boxes at local hubs & public spaces

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Engaging children through art and writing

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Testing ideas through tactical urbanism interventions

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Balcony/ Window Engagement

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Online surveys

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Local phone directories

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Closed door surveys/ interviews through empowered local champions

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Hashtag campaigns on Social media

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Incentive based participation

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Collaborative design 1 1

Conducting focus group discussions and co-design workshops through a remote facilitator

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Participatory Planning in the Era of Physical Distancing is published by the Urban Design Collective. Urban Design Collective (UDC) is a collaborative platform for architects, urban designers and planners to create livable cities through participatory planning. www.urbandesigncollective.org info@urbandesigncollective.org

Participatory Planning in the Era of Physical Distancing | May 2020


Concept and ideation: Vidhya Mohankumar, Nawin Saravanan, Srivardhan Rajalingam, Vidhya Venkatesan, Abinaya Rajavelu Illustrations: Nawin Saravanan, Vidhya Venkatesan Layout design: Noora Yasmin

The illustrations in this document have been made using resources from Freepik.com This doument cannot be republished or reproduced without the permission of the publisher.

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