This article explores a range of practical study design considerations that need to be addressed if bottom-up input is to be effectively engaged in the regional development planning process. The recently completed Central Queensland Regional Economic Development Strategy Inception Study (CQ RED STUDY) is used to illustrate how several commonly used information gathering and marshalling instruments can be combined to engage and maintain broad- based community participation throughout the duration of a study covering several sub- regions exhibiting significant geographic and economic differences.
The challenge for a study team embarking on a major regional development strategy study is to ensure that the entire spectrum of community interests, not just recognised key players, are drawn into the planning process as voluntary contributors. It is important that community involvement is perceived to be balanced spatially as well as balanced between interest groups who may put forward conflicting views on specific issues. In addition genuine community involvement is desirable as distinct from the contrived, peripheral or pseudo involvement that characterised many (but not all) of the participatory planning studies of the 1960s and 1970s. However, the constraints imposed by study budgets and time-frames can detract from the quality of community involvement given that the more comprehensive and deeper the consultation, the more expensive and time- consuming it becomes.