Redefining Community Engagement in Smart Cities: Design Patterns for a Smart Engagement Ecosystem

Redefining Community Engagement in Smart Cities: Design Patterns for a Smart Engagement Ecosystem

Joel Fredericks (School of Architecture, Design and Planning, The University of Sydney, Australia), Martin Tomitsch (School of Architecture, Design and Planning, The University of Sydney, Australia & CAFA Beijing Visual Art Innovation Institute, Beijing, China) and M. Hank Haeusler (Computational Design, University of New South Wales, Australia & CAFA Beijing Visual Art Innovation Institute, Beijing, China)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4018-3.ch002

Abstract

Community engagement has been widely discussed in both academic and practitioner literature, in particular around the types of tools, techniques, and methods used to undertake engagement. The practice of community engagement is at risk of becoming fragmented if there is a disconnection between the engagement objectives, the mechanisms used for people to interact, and the outcomes that ultimately contribute towards decision-making. Building on their previous work, including an established set of dynamic design patterns for situated, digitally augmented community engagement, authors propose a smart engagement ecosystem as a conceptual model that has the ability to connect people through physical, digital, online, and hybrid engagement approaches. The model postulates that participation between these various approaches are non-linear and reactive; where each approach can be used individually or collectively within the ecosystem. The chapter discusses how this capability can be leveraged within our smart engagement ecosystem model to connect, engage, and interact with local communities.
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1. Introduction

Today, urban dwellers find themselves in a rapidly changing environment, where they are more connected than ever before and yet, more exposed to unpreceded amounts of information. Whilst this has led to people having greater awareness of social, economic, political and environmental factors within their communities, governments are challenged with the task of undertaking collaborative and diverse community engagement for urban planning policies and projects. Engaging people in this process is not only challenging due to busy lifestyles and competing priorities, but also a result of top-down approaches employed predominately by governments and private enterprise, including the types of mechanisms used to engage local communities.

Community engagement can be the process of informing or collaborating with a variety of top-down and bottom-up stakeholders, with the objective to obtain public feedback and opinions on the planning and development of infrastructure within the built environment. Governments across the developed world legislate that formal community engagement be undertaken about proposed infrastructure developments, environmental assessments and legislative changes. However, the overall engagement undertaken can often be reduced to informing people only, therefore limiting community input from a variety of stakeholders (Head, 2007; L. Jacobs, Cook, & Carpini, 2009; Johnston, Lane, Devin, & Beaston, 2018; McLaverty, 2017; Nabatchi & Leighninger, 2015). This is often attributed to political agendas of elected representatives, private enterprise business interests and profits, and bureaucratic powerbrokers (Blowers 2017; Cuthill 2003; Hollands 2015). Innes and Booher (2004) argue that legally required community engagement and top-down decision making rarely achieves genuine engagement outcomes, but rather fragments communities and creates dissatisfaction amongst people, who feel they have not been heard. A greater dialogue is needed between governments and everyday people to encourage greater deliberation between stakeholders in the overall decision making process (Fredericks, 2020; Head, 2007).

Research situated within the built environment has explored the possibility of collaborative and participatory planning. Jane Jacobs (1961) famously wrote ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’, which attacked the principles and aims of modernist city planning and rebuilding. It has since been used across the world as a foundation to guide large scale urban renewal projects that often lack diversity and vigour. Jacobs emphasised the importance to observe city living as a practical approach to engage everyday citizens around urban renewal (Cornelissen & Clarke, 2010). Her rational was to tap into the insights of local communities as opposed to the traditional theories applied by built environment professionals (Wendt, 2009). Interested and affected stakeholders have the right to be involved in the decision-making process. This can be achieved by employing engagement methods that involve a variety of people; enable stakeholders to understand the complex dynamics of the built environment; give people the ability to agree on policies and strategies; and, to play an influential role in the entire engagement and planning process (Healey, 1997).

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