UBC Graduate Research

Evaluating Capacity Building and Empowerment in Public Participation in Planning: A Case Study of a Participatory Action Research Project on Housing in Richmond, BC Harding, Theresa J.


Planners and researchers who involve the public in decision-making processes need a clear idea as to what the public gains through participating. The body of research into the public’s experience in public participatory processes is very limited. There is much to learn still, and yet, the public is increasingly invited to give freely of their time, effort, and knowledge to planning and research projects affecting their region, city, community, neighbourhood, or household. At the same time, a growing number of community members view participation as a democratic right, and expect their participation to be direct, meaningful, and of consequence. Participatory planning and research is also being recognized as an effective method of revitalizing citizenship and democracy. However, not enough is known about what motivates the public to participate, what supports participation, what undermines it, and which structures and processes are most likely to support participation? This report presents an evaluation of volunteer community members’ experience in a Participatory Action Research (PAR) project on housing. The goal of this evaluation project is to identify the value of participatory processes for capacity building themes and empowerment indicators for planners and researchers as a guide in facilitating participatory processes.

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