The aim of this paper is to reflect on lessons emerging from the recent Australian and international renewal of interest in engaging citizens and communities in urban planning and development processes.
Three related developments are driving the resurgence of government interest in citizen and community engagement strategies. First, elected representatives and policy makers are acutely aware that rising political cynicism and distrust in government threaten to turn the deepening ‘democratic deficit’ into a full blown crisis of political legitimacy. Second, there is evidence of growing community expectations that government will combine transparent accountability and effective leadership in addressing the challenges of an increasingly complex and volatile world. Third, there is increasing understanding of the importance of involving a wide range of stakeholders and of drawing on a diverse range of knowledge, experience and expertise if these challenges are to be successfully addressed. All three of these trends reflect the broader paradox of globalisation: the faster the speed and spread of global flows – the greater the desire and need for local knowledge, local governance and local connectedness.