NN: When it comes to shocks and stressors, it's not only the built environment that is helping us to recover. With participatory planning, we create our built environment through a decentralised decision-making process – one that also creates social capital. This is the most prominent benefit in my view, as it creates a balance by integrating social capital and built environment capital. In terms of drawbacks, participatory planning is a long and complex process, so it requires more resources. There are also some potential structural issues. For example, the louder voices in a community are usually the most heard. There might be a need to balance these voices by seeking and identifying which voices are missing and how can they be heard.
AW: When a project is done, there's often a cost-benefit analysis process that's undertaken, and it's very difficult to incorporate intangible costs or benefits that come to communities. Decision-making driven by cost-benefit analysis is more quantitative than qualitative in nature and doesn't fully account for localised impact. How do we account for the intrinsic benefits to the community that a project has? When you're trying to do that, resilience is a tricky thing. It's difficult to assess the resilience value of any particular decision until after your resilience has been tested. Pre-emptively anticipating the benefits and costs saved over time may be challenging. This is why, through our resilience lens, we're still working through how to quantify and assess this. We are starting to see some quantification of savings over time for each dollar spent on resilience-building initiatives. However, its sometimes difficult to make the business case for this type of long-term investment when immediate needs seem more pressing.
Who is usually initiating a participatory planning process?
AW: In Australia it is typically led by government. There are formalised processes embedded in state and local government planning. These stipulate the mechanisms and time for the community to provide input on particular projects. The private development sector is progressing in this space. Through our research and the Resilient Communities projects, we have seen a willingness and energy from developers to be more proactive in working with residents. The shift that needs to occur, and is starting to occur, is one towards a more inclusive participation that's not just focused on marketing and sales. It's been important for government to provide a foundation for the requirements related to participation. There have also been changes to local government laws in the last year, requiring councils to develop new engagement policies that are more inclusive and deliberative. There's a real emphasis on community voices being heard in the planning process more fully, which is a very exciting prospect.