At this point in the process, there is an understanding of the community's values, the issues have been identified, the data has been gathered, the baseline has been visualized, and a communication strategy has been developed. So what's next? How do you get from here to having a range of compelling alternative scenarios that come from public input? Public workshops provide a means of doing that.
Public workshops provide an environment where citizens can imagine together what their community's future could be like. Workshop attendees explore their own ideas about the issues at hand, engage in meaningful discussions with others, and may participate in activities to express both individual and collective ideas.
Workshop activities facilitate focused problem solving, not philosophizing. Attendees are presented with a practical problem or issue and work together to examine possible solutions. Interactive activities allow participants to recognize competing goals, discuss them with each other, and understand and reconcile differences to find common ground. Having a long time-horizon, such as 30 years, for the identified issues and workshop tasks helps participants set aside more immediate battles.
There are a range of options that can be used to engage community members in the creating and choosing process. Public workshops and in-person meetings are among the more effective ways to involve the community in the process. This section focuses on two tools in particular used at public workshops—keypad polling and a mapping activity.
Key pad polling is a fun, interactive way to democratize planning. Input from community members can be gathered by asking questions participants can answer with individual key pads.
Keypads enable people to answer workshop questions in real-time and the collective results are displayed on a screen. This allows participants to get a sense of what the group's opinion is, and how their individual opinion compares to that collective voice. This is very different from a public process where a few individuals are very vocal on an issue and feel that they represent the majority. Keypad polling allows contributors to see where their opinions are in relation to others.
A mapping activity is an important element of a public workshop. It's a hands-on exercise that enables those collective conversations and concerns to become apparent in a graphical way. During the mapping activity, groups of approximately 6 to 10 attendees sit at tables around a base map. Ask the groups to create a picture of their ideal future, but also give them a specific task that addresses the identified issues. For example, how do we accommodate 12,000 new households and 6,000 new jobs? The mapping exercise should be structured and have clear objectives. Remind participants that their input shapes the alternative scenarios which explore the potential impacts of today's landuse and transportation decisions.
Each group will place "chips" on the map that represent different types of housing, commercial and mixed-use forms of development. These chips identify the group's preferred growth patterns and locations for housing and employment. Supply the participants with other tools and materials they may need to visually express their future vision of the community on the map. Participants can use colored tape to identify desired transportation routes and modes, and markers to identify valued critical lands and recreational areas. Give each group a chip and tool menu that describes the different chip options and defines the supplied tools and materials.
It's helpful for a representative from each group to share their map with other workshop participants after the mapping activity. Representatives briefly describe their group's map; they can share what they liked or disliked about their map, what issues they struggled with, and what solutions they saw. By sharing their maps, participants are able to see not only common ground within their smaller groups, but also across all of the groups. Common themes emerge as the sharing takes place.
What is Chip?
Each paper "chip" identifies a specific land-use (i.e., one-acre house lots, an office park, a town center) and associated dwelling units and jobs. Workshop attendees are provided with "chip menus" that visually showcase and describe all of the different paper chip options. Click below to see two sample chip menus—a rural and urban example.