Participation Sourcebook

On day one of the 2010 GeoDesign Summit, Juan Carlos Vargas discusses the value of public participation in the land use planning process.

Jan 6th, 2010

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00:01What I'm going to present are actually some of the results from my doctoral dissertation...

00:05...which was lead by Carl Steinitz at Harvard University.

00:10We're living in a time where there's a lot of changes, particularly during the organization of participatory systems.

00:15I don't think the full ex...we don't need to educate the public. The public's already smart.

00:18What they don't have is the tool and the [unintelligible] involvement.

00:22And this is being institutionalized out to the world, World Bank, Interamerican Development Bank, our own counties.

00:28It's being reflected in the numbers, in the literature. But how is that conducted?

00:33We all are familiarized with the way that participatory systems are conducted. We all have been part of one.

00:39The problem is how is that developing is that developing in the developing world?

00:45People go, participate; we give them some sort of dummy tools...

00:48...that they think that they are actually being designing, planning things.

00:51They create sketches, and then what we have is a system where some technician actually...

00:56...formalized that knowledge into a plan that then, most likely, they won't see anymore.

01:01And then somebody that doesn't have anything to do with the public made the decision.

01:04And the problem is that the more people participate, the less consensus there is...

01:11...and the problem is the less of that, it gets reflected in the actual plan.

01:15And the problem is that we have two different forces. People in the high level decision-making decisions...

01:20...from the top down, and then people from the society trying to make decisions bottom up.

01:25And the third problem is this. Ten years of change. We're living in a world that's changing really rapidly.

01:33So the question is how can we best enable design processes, including technology as part of that, to make that better?

01:41I explore a case of Costa Rica where I'm from in the Osa region, nice area roughly 40 by 40, 40 kilometers by 40 kilometers...

01:51...really contested from the environmental perspective.

01:55And what I did is actually tried to use the technology that is available for graphic designers...

02:00...a Cintiq interactive display screen. You will see one later on, in one of the workshops later on.

02:05Worked out at that time with some of the ArcSketch emerging tools, basic database.

02:11And actually selected a number of participants, and I asked them to their own designs and not designs from me.

02:19Or from any designer for that matter.

02:22And we...I created four designs...or they created four designs and tried to test consensus.

02:29And they created these design at this large landscape scale and through a number of models.

02:34Actually, I know, transformed the data they created and present it back to them...

02:40...and asked them through these transformations, Do you still agree what actually the transformations?

02:45You know, as we technicians normally tend to transform it. They say yes.

02:49And then what they did is that I showed them the level of aggregation from the different locations...

02:55...particularly related to conservation, development, and agriculture development.

03:00And to...for them to see the geographic consensus that their collective designs were actually creating.

03:06And they thought that that was a very powerful tool.

03:09And when we showed actually statistical quantity of information to the governors and to the people in the government...

03:14...they say it's not that different. And I run the same exercise with them.

03:18So these, for instance, are examples from locals, you...the ones that you saw before...

03:21...examples from levels aggregation from the government. And they are different in many different ways.

03:26The quantities...the quantities are not that different normally, and the literature shows that.

03:30What is different is their spatial arrangement.

03:32And the people are getting it wrong most of the times are the designers and planners.

03:38The interesting thing working with geographic information is that you can work this consensus...

03:43...and make the evaluation models, the feedback loops to teach you how off or how much contestation...

03:50...or how much this particular piece of the geography contested.

03:53So we could create maps like this, which shows for instance the different...

03:57...the specific cells, the different pieces of the geography that are in conflict and who's in conflict.

04:02And we can trace that back if it was the fisherman...

04:04...the chief planner, the real estate developer, or the commercial person that was there.

04:09And I showed that to them, and I said, Well, when I aggregate this from you to your consti...stakeholder group... your local level to the entire region to the governors...the governors San Jose, in the capital...

04:21...and the people in that area, and do you agree?

04:23And this is basically the process of aggregation that I did in the GIS, all through models.

04:27And this was the result.

04:29And the key was that people do not tend to disagree until you actually reach national levels.

04:35Which means that these sort of rapid prototype tools for geographic design... the power to the people to make the designs..., are not that different in quantitative levels, which at the end is what matters for policy makers.

04:51[unintelligible] coefficient, the statistical distributions of demographics, poverty levels, or those sort of things.

04:57What is different is in the locations. So let...let them help us with the locations.

05:01And the other thing is that there's a problem in the authority.

05:05Authority doesn't want to give the power of design to the people.

05:07So that's where you can see in the top of these diagrams, which are in our particular case were development...

05:12...conservation, and agroforestry, that that's where the most of the disagreement is. Which is, those are locations...

05:18Those problems there are the ones that I...I do not agree. I don't think this appraisal is right. Thanks.

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