- This paper proposes a model for improving the implementation of small-scale participatory projects.
- The model is based on the findings of a case study of the Mahalle Ma project in Mashhad, Iran.
- The model identifies three key relationships: the people and the facilitator, the people and urban management, and urban management and the facilitator.
Contemporary urban planning knowledge has undergone significant changes, shifting from natural and engineering sciences to interdisciplinary fields with a focus on social and human sciences. Urban development plans now emphasize public and private participation. As the second-largest city in Iran, Mashhad plays a vital role within the country due to its regional centrality, large population, and diversity. It is essential to prioritize social sustainability and encourage public participation in the planning process.
Implementation is a critical component of the urban design process and can be interpreted in two ways: as the essence of the entire process or as an independent step within the process. Through a systematic study of various sources and analysis of urban design processes conducted by researchers, it is possible to categorize the urban design process involved in selecting the design group, defining initial objectives, assessing the existing conditions, clarifying goals, presenting design alternatives, evaluating options, optimizing, developing an implementation plan, implementing, and conducting post-implementation evaluations. Based on research synthesis, factors influencing the implementation of small-scale participatory projects can be categorized into five aspects: development stakeholders (including designers and implementers), management-planning system structures, economic considerations, public participation, and legal considerations.
This paper adopts a qualitative approach and data-based method through semi-structured interviews to identify obstacles, challenges, and factors influencing the implementation of small-scale participatory projects (specifically, neighborhood units) in Mashhad. The study focuses on stakeholders including individuals, urban management, and facilitators involved in the "Mahalle Ma" project. Theoretical sampling was employed until saturation was reached. Data analysis utilized qualitative content analysis with a summative approach and MAXQDA 2018. Open and axial coding techniques were applied to identify the foundational concepts related to the implementation of the targeted projects.
Results and Discussion
The results of this study highlight the importance of effective collaboration and communication between stakeholders, including the people, urban management, and the facilitator team. Building trust, improving public participation, and addressing financial constraints are essential for the successful implementation of small-scale participatory projects.
The relationship between the people and the facilitator: The quality of real participation by the people, as the most important stakeholder group, has a significant impact on achieving the goals of the plan. Negative experiences and a lack of trust in city management can present challenges for the project. To enhance citizens' participation, the facilitator and designer can employ appropriate techniques to involve people in the process, clarify the project definition, and connect it with the needs assessment stage. Effective communication with the social council of the neighborhoods is also crucial, as the lack of it can hinder the quality of citizens' participation.
The relationship between the people and urban management: Urban management has initiated this plan with long-term goals in mind, including fostering a culture of participation. However, the inadequate allocation of funds and a lack of effective inter-organizational synergy have resulted in intangible short-term outcomes for the people. This situation raises concerns about increasing mistrust and decreasing satisfaction with the municipality's performance.
The relationship between urban management and the facilitator: Both urban management and the facilitator play crucial roles in promoting public satisfaction with the project. They should work towards achieving long-term goals by monitoring, improving, and maintaining a continuous planning process. This entails fostering a culture of participation through trust-building and capacity development. However, the frequent changes in design and planning approaches due to shifts in the urban management structure can affect the facilitator's authority to achieve project goals. The facilitator team should also ensure a constant connection between the needs assessment stage, design, and implementation steps.
This study highlights the crucial role of urban management throughout the various stages of an urban development project. In the pre-implementation stage, urban management plays a fundamental role in selecting an expert design and implementation team. They also prioritize goals based on the type of management system in place.
Recognizing the current situation requires the collaboration of the facilitator and the people to establish a shared understanding of the problem. The facilitator acts as a mediator, identifying the real demands of the people and conveying them to management levels to define the project in subsequent stages. Verification of goals and adjustments are made in consultation with citizens, academic experts, and local institutions.
The presentation of design alternatives by the facilitator team ensures alignment with the real needs of the people. Evaluation and optimization of alternatives involve active participation from the people, who contribute to selecting the optimal alternative based on their genuine needs. Urban management also considers economic and technical factors in choosing the optimal option.
During the implementation stage, urban management plays a critical role in ensuring the design team's recommendations are executed properly by selecting the right contractors. The involvement of the social council, representing the people, is essential in monitoring the implementation process in line with the goals and needs assessment.
In the post-implementation stage, continuous monitoring and modification are necessary, with direct input from the people through the facilitator team and urban management. This promotes the long-term continuity and success of the plan, fostering a culture of participation.