Towards participatory planning in the IMPLAN Ahome, Mexico: practices and discourses of participation



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Local public planning in Mexico, mainly represented by the Municipal Planning Institutes (IMPLANs in the Spanish acronym) has been unable to confront all the challenges of the cities in the new millennium. These institutes adopted a predominantly strategic planning model heavily influenced by the traditional rational planning, highly focusing on technicalities and physical interventions. IMPLANs now struggle to adopt new progressive tendencies in planning that highlight the social, political, and ethical aspects of the profession. Deep citizen participation is a key element in achieving a more democratic, just, and inclusive planning. In this thesis I draw on the Instituto Municipal de Planeación de Ahome (IMPLAN Ahome) as my case study, to understand the characteristics of the strategic planning model applied to the Ahome context, explain how participation is being integrated in their practices and their discourses, and uncover the predominant ideas driving these practices, all with the intention to answer if it is possible to achieve truly meaningful and inclusive participatory planning through the IMPLAN Ahome. I analyze the citizen participation approach of this institute in a holistic way, looking at six categories: the institution’s general view about participation; the methods used; the outreach and communication strategies; the intended and usual subjects; the approach to conflict; and the values surrounding participation. In addition, I address the perception of IMPLAN planners about their role in participatory planning and examine the main barriers and limitations to more meaningful participatory processes. For this, I apply a discourse analysis to three official planning documents elaborated by IMPLAN Ahome and to semi structured interviews with its planning personnel. IMPLAN’s Ahome approximation to participation is closer to consensus planning, however, I identify a regression since now citizen participation has been mostly reduced to solicitating feedback. Nevertheless, there is a latent possibility for change through the deep reflection of the planners about their role.


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