Above: Kick-off workshop with 700 participants for the San Joaquin Valley Regional Blueprint
RACESTUDIO was founded on the principle that communities must understand and champion plans and design concepts. Our role as professionals goes beyond that of traditional facilitators or designers--our approach is based on understanding critical policy issues and opportunities facing communities. We help design, manage, facilitate, inform, and document the planning process.
Public Participation Philosophy: Inclusive, Interactive, and Informed Approach
Our philosophy is based on a three ingredient approach to public participation. The process needs to be informative. This reduces the amount of tension that can surround emotional issues. The process needs to be interactive. Participants plan together sharing perspectives and ideas. Most importantly, the process has to be inclusive. Public participation process planning should include an meaningful and affective outreach, communications and media efforts.
Approach to Workshops
Each workshop is designed to have participants focus on relevant policy questions, planning options and design concepts. We use a variety of tools to engage participants that also make the process self-documenting.
Features and Principles
RACESTUDIO emphasizes making policy and design issues relevant. We feel that citizens' insights capture the community's personality. Gaming is often used to draw out of communities their preferences for the types of places that should be featured in a plan. Workshop participants establish their own rules for the gaming exercises and, in turn, these rules become the principles that shape the community.
Options and Issues
We feel it is important for the community to gain an understanding of the opportunities and constraints that a plan must work within. To do this, we often will use scenario testing exercises. This involves teams of participants discussing issues a plan should address and then testing principles or scenarios for preferences. Breakout teams then report the pros and cons of scenarios back to the larger group.
Public workshops are managed so that everyone participates. A variety of techniques are used. Breakout groups let every participant discuss issues and ideas in smaller groups before they present their findings to other the workshop participants; mapping and written exercises let individuals visually express their ideas; and story telling, as part of visioning workshops, allows participants to communicate their view of the future.
An objective of every public process is to increase the civic awareness by participants of their community's design attributes. We use cognitive mapping, environmental walks and visual recording to encourage participants to study and gain appreciation for their community. Participants will draw maps of their own understanding of how the community works; use tour guide workbooks to record an environmental walk; and use photographs to document features and issues a plan should address.
Cesar Chavez Plaza community workshop, Sacramento, CA
General Plan Workshop, San Pablo, CA
APA Training Charrette, Goosehollow Neighborhood LRT Station, Portland, OR
Carmel Traditions Project Community Workshop, Carmel by the Sea, CA
Cultural District Master Plan Environmental Walk, Johnson City, TN
Civic Center Master Plan Workshop, Visalia, CA