Participatory approaches to developing planning tools: Involving local government and stakeholders in the design and development of a community systems and scenario modelling exercise

Robert Newell
Ian M. Picketts
Jan 2019
Fifteenth International Conference on Environmental, Cultural, Economic & Social Sustainability

Community engagement and participation is a necessary component of effective integrated community planning and sustainable development. Accordingly, tools used to support planning efforts, such as community systems models, should also incorporate participatory processes in their design and application. Conducted in Squamish (BC, Canada), this research project employed a participatory approach in a community systems and scenario modelling exercise. A community focus groups was assembled to discuss local issues and possible futures for Squamish. Ideas that emerged from these discussions informed the design of a community systems model and a series of local development scenarios: low-density residential, mixed housing types, high-density neighbourhood nodes, and enhancement of commercial and agricultural lands. Then, the systems model was applied in a scenario analysis. Results of the analysis illustrated how different development patterns can affect factors such as walkability, access to amenities, education, parks/trails, food/farm systems, public transit, housing affordability, threats to critical habitat, etc. Finally, another focus group was assembled to solicit feedback on the scenario analysis and its usefulness for local planning. The feedback was used to refine the model and scenarios. A participatory approach to modeling yielded many benefits, including effective model scoping, accessing additional information sources and enhancing local investment in the project. In addition, engaging the community in multiple stages of the project was critical for allowing the model to evolve into a tool that more accurately reflected the community, thereby increasing its effectiveness for supporting integrated community planning.