DIALOGUE WITH THE CITY
DIALOGUE WITH THE CITY
Perth is experiencing some of the highest population and economic
growth rates of any city in Australia and this growth is placing a
significant demand on the land, resources and environment.
Predictions indicate that this growth will continue, and in less
than half a lifetime, the population of the Perth metropolitan area and
the Peel region will be half as big again as it is today. Such growth
will have significant impacts on transport, housing and employment.
Perth ranks highly among the world's most liveable cities. However,
the predicted growth, together with the growing urban sprawl, will
place strains on future sustainability.
Dialogue with the city was launched to give citizens a unique
opportunity to contribute to the creation of a planning vision and
strategy to guide Perth's future growth and development over the next
two decades. It was the largest deliberative forum ever held in the
southern hemisphere and is a case study in deliberative democracy.
The objective of Dialogue with the City was to jointly plan
to make Perth the world's most liveable city by 2030.
21st Century Town Meeting
E - Democracy
Multi media awareness raising and education
Targeted inclusion of groups seldom included
Dialogue with the City was not an event, but a process. It
- an extensive survey to gauge community values;
- a TV 'hypothetical' program about potential futures for Perth;
- an interactive Web site to enable browsers to access information,
input ideas and exchange views
- regular feature stories on the critical issues published in the
- an information campaign using the local press and radio to
educate and encourage debate about key issues;
- a schools art and essay competition to elicit the views of young
and learning sessions with special interest groups including youth,
indigenous people and those from non English speaking backgrounds.
- The process culminated in a very large interactive forum of 1,100
- The deliberation continued over the following year with over 100
participants involved in creating the planning strategy.
The planning strategy that has emerged has been accepted in
principle by the WA Planning Commission and State Cabinet, has been
open for public submissions and will now be re-written yet again to
take account of the feedback received.
The Engagement Process
To carry out this process, the Government, together with the
Department for Planning and Infrastructure and the WA Planning
Commission, partnered with the private sector, which provided
assistance in cash and kind.
The Dialogue with the City industry partners were BHP
Billiton Iron Ore Division (provided financial assistance), Channel 7
Perth (developed the TV broadcast), West Australian Newspapers
(published regular feature articles), Sun Microsystems (provided all
the computers), ADI Limited (developed the software) and Alphawest
(organised the computer cabling).
Without the support of this partnering agreement, the Dialogue
with the City
process would not have been feasible. Additional invaluable support was
offered by Oracle, and USA organisations - AmericaSpeaks, Fregonese and
Associates, and Search for Common Ground.
To provide an understanding of people's values and views about the
future of the city and metropolitan area
A random sample of 8,000 residents of Perth and metropolitan area,
stratified by location, gender and age, provided by the WA Electoral
The survey asked residents to rate the importance of a range of
issues that contribute to a liveable city, and indicate how they think
Perth is doing on these issues at the moment. It also asked which
trends they would like to see happen in Perth, areas that the
Government should spend more and less money, their preferred
development modes, and the attractiveness of different housing
A total of 1,711 people responded to the survey. Respondents closely
reflected the actual proportions of Perth�s population in terms of
gender, age and location. While respondents wanted to keep the unique
lifestyle of Perth, they clearly supported changes to ensure a more
TV Broadcast on Potential Futures
To provide the citizens of Perth with the opportunity to see and
understand the issues and choices to manage the predicted future growth
of metropolitan Perth.
A panel of nine members, representing state and local government,
industry and community perspectives, took part in a 'hypothetical'
discussion. An audience of 120 participants, representing the broad
range of stakeholder groups and perspectives, watched and participated
in the debate.
Four scenarios to manage the future growth of the city were
discussed. Descriptions of the scenarios were illustrated with visual
examples from Perth and overseas.
The program was broadcast on Channel 7 in prime time, at 5.30pm
Sunday, immediately before the news. In feedback to Channel 7, the
viewing audience expressed appreciation for the even-handed,
interesting and informative nature of the program.
On-line Discussion - the Web
- To enable participants to register their interest.
- To provide comprehensive information, including research, data
and key issues on the future of the city;
- To enable readers to input their views;
- To enable participants to upload and download relevant articles;
- To enable participation in a chat room to discuss mutually
All those who access the Web.
Chat room content
On-line discussion groups were primarily concerned about improving
and promoting public transport, and addressing the issue of the cost of
To encourage as many citizens as possible to engage in dialogue by
assisting them to understand the complex and challenging issues facing
the city, and to input their views.
Metropolitan and regional residents.
Over a two month period, there were regular feature pages in the
West Australian about the issues facing Perth, as well as some coverage
in the local newspapers.
Experts on planning and civic governance were interviewed on a
variety of radio stations, with some talk back radio opportunities.
Listening and Learning Sessions with Special Interest Groups
To engage those frequently left out of community participation
processes, to ensure their views were clearly heard and understood.
- Approximately 50 youth
- Approximately 35 Indigenous people
- Approximately 25 people from non-English speaking backgrounds
A broad range of organisations addressing the interests of each of
these groups provided lists of potential participants
To ensure participants felt welcome and able to contribute, and to
encourage cohesiveness and continuing contribution, tables of
participants with their facilitator and scribe were kept intact for
both the listening session, and the forum itself.
The views of youth, indigenous people and those from non-English
speaking backgrounds were recorded, discussed at the Dialogue
forum, and highlighted in the preliminary and final reports from the
The Schools Competition
To gauge what kind of city our young people would want by involving
them in a schools competition based on the theme: 'Perth 2030, the kind
of city I want to live in'. The process was designed to give young
people a voice
- Primary school children - painting competition
- High school youth - short essay competition
Over 200 drawings were submitted by pre-school and primary school
children, and 30 essays by high school students. A panel from Curtin
University's Faculty of Built Environment and Design judged the
The winning entries were copied and given to each participant at the
Dialogue forum. All drawing and essay entries were pinned up in the
foyer for participants to see. An analysis of the drawings and essays
was done By Curtin University schools of Planning and Design.
The Dialogue with the City Forum
To engage the community, industry, local and state government in a
deliberative, inclusive, and influential planning forum to address how
the future growth of the Perth metropolitan area could best be managed.
The stated aim was to make Perth the world's most liveable city by 2030.
Saturday 13 September, 2003
Fremantle Passenger Terminal
Over 1,100 participants, consisting of approximately 1/3 random
sample, 1/3 invited stakeholders and 1/3 self nominations from
advertisements in newspapers, radio and on web.
The forum's key hopes for the future, prioritised aspects to keep
and those to change, and preferred planning scenario were projected
back into the room virtually in 'real time' and were distributed to all
participants at the conclusion of the forum in a Preliminary Report.
Each table determined growth patterns, open space and transport
linkages on maps. Each participant received a copy of the map they had
developed with their table, as well as the integrated map for the room,
together with a more in-depth analysis of the inputs in a Final Report
soon after the forum
The concept for the Dialogue with the city forum was based
on several methodologies from best practice initiatives overseas and in
- Consensus forum developed in WA which focuses on:
- by encompassing a random sample of residents, a broad range of
stakeholder groups including local government, other state government
agencies, industry and industry bodies, environmental groups and a
comprehensive range of social interest groups, as well as those who
respond to advertisements and self nominate; and ensuring disadvantaged
groups are included;
- Deliberation - by ensuring the
discussion is informed, with 'open book' information, dissemination of
comprehensive briefing materials prior to the forum, and renowned
speakers at the forum; and by providing opportunities to understand
others' viewpoints and values, participate in small group interactive
dialogue, and together, search for common ground;
- by clarifying from the outset that the findings of the forum will be
integral to the Government's decision-making process and by including
participants through to implementation.
- '21st Century Town Meeting'
is a large scale public participation process developed by
AmericaSpeaks and applied across the USA, including with nearly 5,000
residents after September 11 to plan for the future of the Ground Zero
site in New York. This process uses small group, facilitated
deliberation together with networked computer technology, to enable the
room's key themes to be broadcast to the entire room virtually in 'real
time'. Table inputs are relayed to a theme team who synthesise the
results and display them to the room on large screens. Key issues are
prioritised, with each participant nominating their individual
preferences. The Perth version of this method required not only a
facilitator but also a trained scribe to input both ideas and maps
- Regional Mapping Game
planning tool was originally devised by Fregonese Calthorpe Associates
and applied across the USA to encourage citizen understanding and input
to regional plans. The Perth Dialogue game, based on realistic GIS
data, enabled participants to take the role of planners in creating
their preferred future shape of the city. Participants needed to choose
between four potential scenarios to manage the predicted growth of
metropolitan Perth. Trade-offs could be made between different
densities. To complete the map required participants to find practical
solutions to planning dilemmas. The Perth game enabled the table maps
developed to be input to the computer, digitised and later synthesised.
To achieve a meaningful result, it was deemed important for
participants to be representative of the total population.
Participation of 1,100 at the forum was achieved in three ways, each
yielding approximately 1/3 of the participants:
- A random sample of residents in metropolitan Perth, provided by
the WA Electoral Commission, were invited to attend the forum.
- Advertisements and articles in newspapers, radio and TV shows and
a Web page encouraged participants to register.
Steering Committee helped to determine the key stakeholder groups who
were invited to nominate delegates. In addition, those people often
under-represented in consultations - youth, indigenous people and those
from non-English speaking backgrounds, were targeted and invited to
attend special 'listening sessions' as well as the Dialogue forum.
Requests were made for volunteers to facilitate and scribe at the
forum. There were approximately 250 from both the private and public
sectors in supporting roles at the forum. All volunteers were trained
at a full day's training session. Some, such as the theme team, took
part in several training sessions.
The Day of the Forum
To encourage participants to listen to different views, they were
purposely seated at a table with dissimilar others, that is, a mixture
of random sample participants with stakeholders and those who self
nominated. At each table, the scribe entered into the computer the
table's commonly-held views, any strongly held minority views, and in
many instances, each person's views. The networked computers
transmitted the data to a 'theme team' who analysed the data in real
time and broadcast the common themes back to the entire room.
In the morning, the deliberation focused on hopes for the future,
what participants wanted to keep and change, and what they might and
might not value if different scenarios of Perth were to occur and each
table prioritised their preferred scenario. To encourage informed
deliberation, the TV video of potential futures was broadcast, a
computerised fly-through of the scenarios was shown, information packs
and maps were available on all tables, and two renowned overseas
speakers gave presentations.
The afternoon was spent playing a hands-on planning game.
Participants needed to negotiate with others at their table and make
trade-offs to complete the task of allocating the housing, industry,
open space and transport links needed by 2030.
Each table chose one of four development scenarios. (72% chose the
Network City model). Each scenario was represented by a package
containing different density 'chips' (or game pieces of differing
colours and sizes), based on Geographic Information Systems data (a
digital mapping and analysis system). The chips represented the housing
densities, industry and commercial areas required by 2030. Participants
needed to place these on the map. They could also trade chips with
other scenarios. The table needed to agree on its plan, then stick the
chips onto the map, and enter the data into the computer using mapping
The qualitative analysis of participant feedback forms pointed to
their high satisfaction with the forum. Many were initially cynical
about the political agenda and anxious about achieving productive
dialogue or consensus with such a large, disparate group. Accordingly,
they expressed surprise at the extent of common ground forged, hope
that politicians could be trusted to listen and respond to the people,
and delight with the goodwill of fellow participants to engage in
Quantitatively, forty two percent (42%) said they changed their
views as a result of the dialogue, while many more admitted to
broadening their views. Over ninety nine percent (99.5%) of
participants thought the deliberations went okay or great. Importantly,
ninety seven percent (97%) indicated they would like to participate in
such an event again.
Over 100 participants from the Dialogue with the city forum
from the community, industry, state and local government, participated
for a year in developing a planning strategy for Perth and Peel. This
process involved a series of interconnected teams, working together in
an iterative way to develop a plan that all stakeholders could live
From the outset, it was clear that state and local government would
need to work together in a different way if the outcomes of the forum
were to be implemented.
Local Government Forum
All Local Government participants in the Dialogue with the City
forum were invited to attend a workshop to devise ways for effective
partnering between the State and Local Government to action the
outcomes of the Dialogue forum.
The Local Government forum developed a broad range of strategies to
move the process forward. A partnering agreement has since been drafted
and is still undergoing negotiation.
An Implementation Team of 13 participants from the Dialogue with the
City process, representing the community, industry, state and local
government, had responsibility to oversee the process and the plan,
having the final say on its content.
Local Government, Community and Industry Liaison Teams
Three Liaison Teams, each consisting of 12 - 15 participants from
the Dialogue process, had the task of ensuring their constituent groups
were informed and could input to each stage of the plan
Six Working Groups
Working Groups, each with 14 - 18 participants from the Dialogue
process, from the community, industry, state and local government, each
had the task of developing one of the critical issues to be addressed,
recommending strategies and actions.
At several stages, the plan was taken to the participants of the
Dialogue with the city forum and to the broader community for their
input. The final result - 'Network City: A Community Planning Strategy
for Perth and Peel - was accepted in principle by the WA Planning
Commission and State Cabinet. The period for public submissions is
drawing to a close and a revised plan will be developed with the
assistance of the Implementation Team.
The Communities Program, involving $1.5 million in grants has been
launched to assist local governments to engage their local communities
in meaningful dialogue to develop strategies, plans and projects that
will contribute to the emerging objectives of Network City. The first
round of grants has been announced and the second round will commence
Dialogue with the City was an extraordinarily ambitious
program. It was only successful because of the generosity of the
partners, the goodwill of colleagues including those from AmericaSpeaks
and Fregonese and Associates, and the hard work of the government and
volunteer Dialogue team. It was a grand example of those who
believed it could be done getting on and making it happen, and those
who didn't, getting out of the way.
Regardless of the efforts to be inclusive, provide opportunity for
dialogue, and influence government policy, each of these elements could
still be improved:
- More work needs to be done to include those who shy away from
participating in community engagement.
there was informed deliberation as well as practical activities to
engage participants in the complexities of planning, more innovation is
needed to achieve greater in-depth dialogue.
- While it was
made clear by the Minister that the Dialogue process would result in
"action on the ground", and there were many efforts to involve the
broad community, nonetheless, more innovative processes are needed to
broaden community 'ownership' of the outcomes to prevent implementation
from becoming stalled.
There are considerable advantages in large-scale community
deliberation for government, the community and the institution of
democracy. Government acquires the legitimacy to carry out plans that
otherwise they may not have been able to achieve. The community has the
opportunity to engage in important decision-making processes that will
impact on their lives. They are also reminded of the importance of
being a citizen.
The 21st Century Town Meeting was designed by AmericaSpeaks, a not-for-profit, USA pioneer in large-scale civic engagement. Carolyn Lukensmeyer and her team gave WA invaluable advice prior to our first 21st Century Dialogue and enabled of one of AmericaSpeak's associates, Mr Joe Goldman, to come to Perth to assist with the running of the first event.