Public Participation in Community Planning and Development : An Analysis of Imagine Kalamazoo 2025
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Public participation is one of the most fundamental aspects of effective local government decision-making - yet the question of what actually constitutes successful engagement has long been debated. This paper is an analysis of the Imagine Kalamazoo 2025 engagement initiative undertaken by the City of Kalamazoo, Michigan in the development of their most recent Master Plan. It evaluates public participation in the context of land use and development planning specifically, and considers the ways in which engagement is achieved by or inaccessible to various populations. This analysis suggests that Imagine Kalamazoo 2025's focus on community-centered engagement is in keeping with broader shifts in the landscape of local government public participation, in which scholars and practicing planners alike are increasingly recognizing the failures of top-down, prescriptive decision-making. It also illustrates that, if used effectively and innovatively, public participation tools and technologies can serve to build relationships, informing the work of non-governmental organizations and engaging marginalized communities.