On a recent visit to Canada, our, MD Nicolai Massyn, visited the popular Granville Island in the beautiful City of Vancouver. Granville Island is a destination where tourists and locals enjoy local produce, restaurants and eclectic shops located on the edge of the inner harbour in the heart of the city. The City was embarking on a project to redevelop the destination to be even more visitor friendly. What was truly innovative was the methodology employed to ensure quality inclusive public participation was achieved. A large scale 3m*4m sized image of Granville Island was printed on a plastic colour map placed flat on the floor. Consultants encouraged passers by to use sticky notes to affix their comments and suggestions onto the image where they wanted to see changes take place. Examples of some noteworthy comments includes: an open air theatre for performances, a pedestrian and cycling walkway to be suspended beneath the existing access bridges to the island to facilitate easier access, a child care centre so that small kids can be left while parents experienced the many wonders offered by the Island, a dedicated area for dogs to be run free, an area for exhibition art to be displayed, a public swimming pool complex to be developed etc.
What was interesting was the quality of the suggestions clearly aimed at improving the experience of visiting Granville Island. The methodology employed ensured that all participants had a very clear understanding of the spatial context of their suggestions, without them having to dictate long sentences of where and how their suggestions should be incorporated into the bigger picture. Practical, quick and easy.
Possibly a good idea to be used in the South African context where public participation may be perceived as exclusionary for Illiterate citizens or those without access to internet resources to communicate effectively. Our EIA regulations clearly state that disadvantaged members of communities must be accommodated and the map and sticky note method as discussed may just be the thing to use to facilitate easy compliance to the regulations!