Recognizing Uncertainty and Linked Decisions in Public Participation: A New Framework for Collaborative Urban Planning


Arnab Chakraborty, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, 611 E. Lorado Taft Drive, M230 Temple Buell Hall, Champaign, IL 61821, USA.



To promote collaboration, urban planners need to devise processes that consider stakeholders' interests not as an afterthought but as an integral component of decision analysis. In this paper, I introduce and illustrate a framework that attempts to do so using a long-running road extension planning process in Urbana, Illinois, USA. Drawing upon archival research, stakeholder reactions, and my experiences as an observer, the case study demonstrates how assumptions in problem framing and analysis and a focus on hardened positions can lead to disagreements. Using a stylized scenario exercise, I then present an alternative framework that can explicitly recognize the uncertainties and linked decisions involved in the analysis and allow the stakeholders to expound their concerns. A test of the principles shows that by bringing out the basic objectives of stakeholders and considering a wider range of choices and uncertainties, the framework can help identify underlying areas of agreement. I conclude that recognizing limitations of analytical methods and systematically bringing stakeholder values to a planning process can help improve its efficacy. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.