Enhancing citizen participation: Panel designs, perspectives, and policy formation



Even though a citizen participation component is included in nearly every major local government planning and policy initiative, most citizen participation techniques have been judged to be less than adequate tools for informing policy makers about the people's will. Recently, having planners or policy analysts work closely with long-standing citizen panels composed of a randomly selected sample of community members has been proposed as one appropriate response to many of the inadequacies of traditional techniques. In this article, staff from a municipal government policy analysis unit describe and critique a yearlong citizen panel project focused on developing a transportation master plan in a university community. They argue that panels can overcome many of the limitations to effective citizen participation. The authors also suggest that panels can work well, but only if policy analysts assume more pro-active and advocacy roles than those routinely found in local government.