Examples from Germany's so-called Baugroupen, shows very clear, that a large group of people together can plan a housing area. The Baugroupen, which are created in consultation with an architect, is a participatory way to plan an area. Bauroupen are normally around 10 households, discussing their issues, conserns and needs.
Methods to share information to a group of people when they are not involved in the future living, and before a plan is finished is extremly rare. But this happened in Vänersborg, Sweden, spring 2009 when nearby households to an area under planning were involved in the planning process. This was also done with specifically participatory methods, to understand the case from everyone's perspective, to whittle down the expected conflict..
Case; The forest next to the suburb of Mariedal in Vänersborg, Sweden, has a pine tree plantage now high enough to clearcut. Same forest has a housebuilding plan accepted early as 1929, were the area should house 40 more villas. Some of the residents knew this, some didn't. But these plans where now at the architects drawing table- because it's time efficient to build houses in the same time as the forest is cleared. A case ready for a conflict, so SLU (the Swedish Agricultural University) set a dialouge with residents in the area to mediate between the Planning Committee and the one's living and using the forest (knowing later; as a playground for kids at the nearby school and kindergarten, as a walkingarea for dogs etc). 200 letters were send out to the neighbourhood close to the forest, welcoming everyone to listen to new plans but moreover, to have a say about it.
A closeby area with new villas, residents saying: isn't that large enough?
Leave our forest alone!
Leave our forest alone!
So what happened after? Now august 2011, they do not even know what to do there. Residents in the nearby area wonder if they have their forest or new neighbours. They lack information and the project is placed on ice.
Important note: meetings in this way should only be organized if they are needed. Participatory meetings are for learning and action.. A follow-up after things like this is necessary if starting a process like this.
From Participatory methods toolkit; A practitioner’s manual;
The general steps in developing and implementing public participatory methods constitute the following:
1. Recruit a project team.
2. Define the purpose and goals of the strategy.
3. Determine the scope and focus of a public involvement process.
4. Understand the legislative, legal, jurisdictional and social context for the issue and any decision(s) to be made.
5. Determine who should be involved and why.
6. Understand the time frame and process for decisions.
7. Design the plan (choosing one or multiple methods).
8. Assemble the funding.
9. Set adequate timelines and other resources required to make the process work.
10. Recruit participants.
11. Promote the event.
12. Implement the plan.
13. Evaluate the process and results.
14. Produce and disseminate final report.
Vänersborg's participatory methods were stuck at number 13. So much work for nothing.