Our final project feature looks at a group looking to address an important gap in representation in public consultations.
Group members Gemma Bridge and Bernard Fanning met through LinkedIn and the collaboration workshops hosted through FTVG.
“I wanted to undertake a collaborative project with others in industry to be able to further explore the idea of how to better engage the community in planning processes”, said Gemma, an independent public and oral health researcher.
“I felt that it was an exciting prospect to deliver a product or solution outside of my day job” added Bernard, head of digital strategy and innovation at The Nichols Group, “I was inspired by the recent Gender on the Agenda campaign and thought I’d like to test myself to see if I could make a difference in a similar way.”
Both recognised that public participation in transport consultations is often limited; particularly from certain groups such as those from ethnic minorities, women, and people with disabilities. Representative voices from young people (aged 16-25) are also lacking.
However, the project started out originally from a mutual interest in Augmented Reality (AR) as a consultation tool.
“I’d previously been working on research around AR and presenting solutions to people”, outlined Gemma, “But I realised it was better to understand what people wanted rather than come up with a solution.”
Bernard added, “When Gemma proposed the concept of using AR in a consultation setting, something chimed with me; partly because of my day job and partly because I believe technology will become more integrated to our lives. We reflected upon this and decided to focus on understanding who may benefit from different types of engagement and why they don’t engage at the moment.”
The group are driven by a desire to encourage broader participation in the consultation process to ensure as many different views as possible to come to the table. They believe it is important that young people participate in transport consultations because they will be using new infrastructure more than most in the future.
However, the reality is often that current consultations have limited demographic coverage, so Gemma wanted to understand what was driving this lack of engagement among younger people;
“I would like to better understand what young people want so that they can be brought into the picture for consultations”, she said, “We got the ball rolling with a literature review to understand the landscape and then developed an online survey based on gaps emerging from previous studies.”
The team are preparing for a series of online discussions in November 2022 to provide a space to talk about the barriers to engaging in public consultations.
“We want to gather some comprehensive data and intelligence that planning authorities can use to engage as many people as possible between the ages of 18-25”, said Bernard “This will ensure young peoples voices are better included in the future.”
The group also plan to use the demographic information from their surveys to understand specific issues affecting different age groups and backgrounds and use this to tailor an advisory toolkit for use in the public sector.
The group hope to create some positive insights for local authorities and government on how young people would and wouldn’t like to engage in consultations. They also want to be able to highlight some of the key challenges and barriers young people perceive when it comes to consultations.
“The reasons for a lack of youth engagement are currently uncertain; people link it to limited attention spans, perceived lack of interest, or inaccessible documentation”, outlined Gemma, “But without the voices of young people, current consultations are inherently limited and biased.”
Bernard believes that with a better understanding of younger people’s attitudes to engagements, the group hope to contribute towards more inclusive decision-making.
“Better youth engagement would make cities and places more inclusive for people as we develop, and new modes and technologies are brought into cities and towns”, he said.
The group hope to grow a network within the sector and collaborate across the industry to realise these outcomes, as well as deliver a product that can have a lasting legacy for future transport and planning professionals.