Policy Sciences

, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 275-295

First online:

A theoretical basis for participatory planning

  • Richard Warren SmithAffiliated with

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Arguments are presented for the reconsideration of models which guide planning behavior and structure planning organizations. Hierarchical organizations are contrasted with reticular organizations and the latter are presented as necessary for effective citizen participation. Legitimacy is presented as a fundamental basis of justifying planning action and historical shifts in forms of legitimacy are noted. Participation, as a form of legitimacy, and several aspects of participatory planning are discussed in terms of recent systems thinking. It is argued that participatory planning increases the effectiveness and adaptivity of the planning process and contributes adaptivity and stability to the societal system. Further, it is argued that citizen participation is an essential element in making the planning process a learning system. This leads to a strengthening of the definition and role of communities in the urban system, and to an unexpected requirement of planners who would adopt a participatory planning process.