Applying different participatory city planning methods concurrently as qualitative research methods in this case study had eventually two objectives: 1) to examine how the methods suit for immigrants’ participation and 2) to aid creating a city plan for Suvela that immigrants would like to have. Reaching these goals would answer to the final research questions I had.
The first objective meant that I should compare the chosen methods with each other on the basis of my experiences. When I started the fieldwork, I did not intend to examine the participatory city planning methods at all, because the emphasis was on the urban places and the city plan as shown in the evolution of research design. I got the idea of evaluating the chosen methods only, when I was analyzing the research data received from the first three parts of my case study. After having proceeded all the fieldwork in the data gathering phase of the city planning process, I finally came up with the idea of comparing the participatory city planning methods I had used. The preliminary criteria which I intended to use for their comparison arised also during the research process a little later according to the grounded theory.
The second objective meant that I should find out the characteristics of the urban places immigrants would like to have in Suvela and in general. When I started the fieldwork, I did not have any structure for the information pulp I would be getting through the chosen participatory city planning methods – this structure evolved along the way too.
CRITERIA FOR SELECTION AND COMPARISON
There were five criteria that I used – both consciously and unconsciously – for selecting the participatory city planning / qualitative research methods for my case study.
Firstly, because I was doing research independently without any research assistants or colleagues, the methods had to be so simple that I could carry them out on my own, in other words the same prerequisite of optimizing the workforce as in the city planning praxis at the communal sector today. Secondly, since I also know, how little time there is to use for each city planning project in practice, the methods had to be as little time consuming as possible. Thirdly, I had very little money to use for testing the methods as a poor doctorate student who’s studying with the help of a small grant, the methods were not allowed to cost a lot – the same situation again as in real life at the communal sector in these days. Fourthly, as my research aims also at some guidelines for planning urban places in multicultural housing areas, the methods had to serve certain planning purposes as well. And finally, the methods should differ from each other in which way and how much they require participation from the immigrants to see, if this has any influence on the grade of participation.
However, as my case study developed further and turned to action research, which means a stronger personal, social, technical and financial involvement, the criteria of workforce-, time- and cost-effectiveness started to crack down. Arranging a multicultural event was the climax in this development, because it required input of many other people, a whole lot more of my time and external funds.
When I then started to analyze the research data that I had gained with the chosen methods, I noticed that their usage followed a certain chronological structure, which I defined in the following way:
- finding the participants
- applying the method
- analyzing the data
- using the results
At the same time I had discovered this structure, I began spontaneously to compare the methods with each other on the same premises that I had done their selection. I therefore decided to evaluate the different participatory city planning methods in each of these phases and rank them with simple signs of 0, +, ++, – and – – in relation to each other on grounds of the previously mentioned criteria for selection, which were
- time and
- money for all the phases, and
- usability for the phase of using the method as well as
- quality and amount of participation.
I will present how these intensions turned out in the planning workshops.
STRUCTURE OF CHARACTERISTICS
When I started to gather information from immigrant women for my designing task, the imagary city plan, I slowly became aware of a certain structure that I was – both consciously and unconsciously – following in my research. I discovered that this structure was based on my experiences as a practising city planner. This common practice is further based on the guidelines that the Ministry of the Environment has given about the plan statement (kaavaselostus), which again is based on the Finnish Land Use and Building Decree (§ 25).
These guidelines include a certain structure for the table of contents in the plan statement. Because the guidelines are somewhat messy and cause unnecessary repetition here and there, I have cut off some parts and made some minor modifications to this structure in my own work as a city planner. Nevertheless, I have presented the city plans with the same table of contents in the plan statements at the service of four different employers and so have my colleagues too.
The table of contents that the Ministry of the Environment recommends us to use, includes certain themes concerning the content of the plan in the following order of appearance:
- The planning area
- Objectives for planning
- Structure of the plan
- Dimensions of the plan
- Areal allocations
- Impact of the plan.
This order of appearance corresponds to the different steps of the planning process from generalities to details. It is the same order that I have been following in my own case study when choosing which participatory city planning method and which subresearch questions to apply in each step of my own imaginary city planning process.
I will present in detail, how different participatory city planning methods I have chosen, can be used for creating a city plan in the section of urban places.