What situations is this tool used in?
Planning Cells – developed by Professor Dr Peter C Dienel of the University of Wuppertal, Germany – bring together a small group of members of the public to develop solutions for a specific planning or policy problem. They tend to be used to develop a way forward for an urgent problem where a number of options are available, and for issues where there is not a large degree of existing polarisation in the attitudes of the affected population.
Who is this tool aimed at?
Any organisation or group with the responsibility for relevant planning or policy decisions could commission a Planning Cell or cells, as long as they are in the position to accept, or at least carefully consider the recommendations produced as a result.
How Is the Tool Used?
Approximately 25 randomly selected members of the public are brought together for a limited period of time (e.g. a week) to essentially work as public consultants and develop solutions for the issue at hand. They are aided by two process escorts who help to schedule and moderate the sessions. There may be a large or a small number of Planning Cells engaged depending on the topic.
Participants in each cell will acquire and exchange information and explore possible solutions together, receiving presentations from experts, stakeholders and interest groups as part of this process. The results of the cell’s work are presented to the commissioning body in the form of a citizen report.
Success relies on a number of factors, including: the ability to choose from a range of feasible options; awareness amongst participants of the potential disadvantages of the options; personal experience of participants with the problem; personal relevance and willingness to give up enough time; and the seriousness of the sponsor in taking account of the results.
Who has used the tool?
A process of public engagement that began with an exploration of the future of Meckenheim railway station (in the town of Meckenheim, Germany), has since led to a range of other forms of citizen participation in the town. This included the town planning bureau instigating a Planning Cell, with various working groups considering subjects such as cleanliness, town developments and town marketing. The outputs were used as a basis for drawing up a building plan for a new housing district.
Meckenheim case study: http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/archi/programmes/cost8/case/transport/germany-meckenheim.pdf
Where to find out more
Overview of planning cells: http://participedia.net/en/methods/planning-cells
Planning cell toolkit: http://www.kbs-frb.be/uploadedFiles/KBS-FRB/Files/EN/PUB_1540_Toolkit_10_PlanningCell.pdf