In my line of work, I’m constantly trying to understand the most effective and efficient ways of engaging the general public. I view myself (both professionally and in my personal life) as a channel, or medium, providing a voice for those who need it. This has never been more true as now, as I approach my American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) exam. The AICP Code of Ethics reminds me (as I believe so strongly already) that my responsibility, as a planner, is to serve the public interest.
Planners for local governments, of course, have an explicitly clear responsibility to serve the public interest; however, private consulting planners, while no doubt in strong support of continual and inclusive engagement, are often limited by the interests of their clients, or scopes of their projects.
For this short, personal research project, I explored the benefits of community engagement and public participation, and questioned how these benefits could be conveyed to clients in such a way as to demonstrate value and effectively encourage a client to pursue a comprehensive engagement process.
Myself and my firm, Mahan Rykiel Associates of Baltimore, MD, have been successful in advocating for a public process in many of our projects—from an Economic Development Strategic Plan in Lancaster, PA, to master planning efforts in Baltimore neighborhoods and Parks (as I demonstrate our process for some of these projects in the linked presentation below). Yet, at the same time, we continually explore ways to improve our methods, particularly following a handful of projects where public engagement has been less than expected, desired, or ideal.
It’s a challenge that I (and, I’m sure, many others) continue to face; I welcome any suggestions for working with clients to enhance public participation! Do share! Have you any success stories?