When it comes to public projects—whether that be municipal, provincial or federal—accountability to the public must be a pre-eminent priority. After all, public projects do not belong to any particular government, but to the citizens they are meant to serve.
In Ontario, as in many other jurisdictions, this accountability often takes the shape of public consultations. The value of these sessions can be immense, providing opportunities throughout design and approvals to receive and incorporate public feedback, answer questions, and address community priorities. However, not all consultations result in effective engagement. When accountability is not baked into the process, these sessions can become purely procedural, with little to no impact on a design’s evolution. Equally as detrimental, when weighed too heavily towards one group or when processes are not tailored to the communities they seek to engage, they can result in echo chambers that do not represent the wider voices of the community.
So how do we ensure the public engagement process is truly meaningful, effective, and representative? Are there ways we can shape the process to ensure it becomes a true dialog between the community, designers, and government?
Join the Toronto Society of Architects for an evening of discussion and debate as we explore the important role community engagement plays in shaping public projects and what we can do to ensure this process is effective and meaningful.