Accepting or Refusing to Participate? A qualitative research in urban planning environment of Iran

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Ph. D. in Urban Planning, School of Architecture and Urban Studies, Iran University of Science and Technology (IUST), Tehran, Iran

2 Professor, School of Architecture and Urban Studies, Iran University of Science and Technology (IUST), Tehran, Iran

3 Associate Professor, School of Architecture and Urban Studies, Iran University of Science and Technology (IUST), Tehran, Iran

4 Professor, Department of Urban Planning and Design, School of Architecture and Urban Studies University of Art, Tehran, Iran

5 Professor, Department of Health in Disasters & Emergencies, University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation Sciences (USWR), Tehran, Iran


Public Participation is a local, diverse, complicated and dynamic concept. So, the existing theories in the field of public participation in urban planning which has been developed in the global North countries are not in the line with the characteristics of the planning environments of developing countries, moreover they have not enough efficiency in these countries. Whereas, in theory, most of the research noticing to public participation in the urban planning environment in Iran have adopted the positivist approach to evaluate the existing theories and have aimed to determine the Importance of known variables and their impact on public participation. In the other part of these researches have been tried to evaluate the consequences of participatory processes. These researches attempt to deal with this complicated and abstract phenomenon through shrinking it to numbers and figures within the framework of existing theories, without considering the characteristics of planning environment. Accordingly, there is a contradiction in understanding that is riddled with misunderstandings and ambiguity about the concept of participation and its effectiveness in the urban planning environment in Iran. From an empirical point of view, due to the essence of this concept and the variety of its understanding and practice in different structures, the contemporary experiments that are based on the theories, models and experiences of other countries, over-reliance on the techniques of participation and merely emphasized on the objective conditions of the formal structure of the planning environment, not only have not decreased the gap between theory and practice, but also have resulted in practice in trapping participation into a vicious and faulty cycle. Therefor this research tries to recognize the informal structures of urban planning environment which affect public participation, through discovering the experience of people and planners in public participation and the meaning of it in the urban planning environment of Iran. This research can be categorized within the interpretive paradigms. Epistemologically, it emphasizes on the interaction between the researcher and the participants and the closest possible objective distance. This research uses ‘manifest inductive qualitative content’ analysis methodology. Data gathering has been done using in-depth unstructured interviews. Choosing participants (interviewees) has been targeted towards developing the concepts and continued until theoretical saturation. 22 individual in-depth interviews and 2 group interviews have been conducted with planners and people who had experience in participation. Being aware of the interactive characteristic of the concept of participation, some field surveys have been conducted during the procedure of the study in order to develop the concepts further. The findings of the study demonstrate that the most important concept in the understanding and practicing of participation for the people and the planners, simultaneously, is “refusal from participation”, which is a different concept than the concept of refusal argued in former theories in the field of social sciences. Finally, by achieving an in-depth understanding of the components of the participatory planning environment, this research, that has considered the current conditions of the planning environment of the country, underscores the areas requiring intervention to fill the gap between theory and practice in participation.


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