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.

Oct 25th, 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 involvement...direct [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 in...how 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...do 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 modeled...you know, transformed the data they created and present it back to them...

02:40...and asked them through these transformations, Do you...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 tea...to teach you how off or how much contestation...

03:50...or how mu...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...

04:14...to your local level to the...to the entire region to the governors...the governors in...in 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...

04:40...giving the power to the people to make the designs...

04:45...one, 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...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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