Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Dr. Linda Day


Traditional avenues of influencing planning decisions are not intuitive for diverse, historically underrepresented community residents in many neighborhoods and many immigrant residents come from societies where engaging in public discourse is discouraged or dangerous. The focus of this study, the Planning Outreach and Engagement Liaison (POEL) program, was designed to address these discrepancies, yet whether the program was successful is unknown. Using participatory democracy as the theoretical framework, the purpose of this case study was to explore whether the POEL program brought diverse residents together to participate in the neighborhood planning process. Data were collected through semi structured interviews with planners, community coordinators, public outreach and engagement liaisons, and members of non-governmental organizations (n = 10) and official government records and documents. All data were deductively coded and then analyzed using a thematic analysis procedure. Six themes emerged from the study including (a) measures of program success, (b) outreach and communication, (c) collaboration, (d) intimidation and fear, (e) time limitation, and (f) building relationships. POELs identified and understood that barriers such as lack of time, lack of child care, persistent fear of government intentions, and religious and cultural norms inhabit the process, but found that using outreach and communication promotes interest in and participation in neighborhood planning. When neighborhood residents are empowered and given information about the process, they make informed choices. The study promotes positive social change by showing that mitigating some of the barriers to participation supports greater inclusion of underrepresented persons in the neighborhood planning process.