UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

The public planning agency and public participation : an organizational approach Sorensen, Carl Vernon


Public planning agencies in democratic political systems are faced by a demand from the public for the opportunity to have an influence on decision-making processes. Evidence suggests that this demand for public participation will not decline. The typical planning agency response to this demand results from common perceptions of the arguments in favour of participation. The literature suggests that this response has been a reluctant and marginal inclusion of public participation in decision-making processes, in reaction to forces external to the agency. The usual arguments for public participation in planning are based in democratic political theory, and are arguments which have to do with the benefits of participation for the public or the political system. These arguments are themselves not conclusive, for there are different schools of democratic theory which ascribe different levels of significance to participation. Public participation approached from the basis of this political theory does not lead to a concept of it being of significant benefit to the planning agency's organizational needs, except insofar as engaging in participation may make the agency conform to political requirements. An alternative approach, based on organizational theory, considers public participation from the viewpoint of how it may serve organizational needs of the public planning agency. The current Open Systems view of organizations provides such a means for undertaking an organizational approach to public participation. It considers an organization's communication with its external environment to be a critical element in its functioning. An examination of the principles and concepts of the Open Systems view of organizations demonstrates that they are applicable to public participation and the public planning agency. The Open Systems view can be integrated with a model of a public planning agency developed according to current planning theory, and with political systems theory as the latter pertains to a planning agency's interrelationships with its environment. When this integration is done within the context of the manner in which the representative democratic system functions, the result suggests that public participation assists in meeting certain "organizational" needs of the public planning agency. This "organizational approach" to public participation provides a rationale for a planning agency's positive attitude towards public participation, since it is an approach which considers the benefits to the planning agency as an organization.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.