Envisioning the future village: the role of digital technology in supporting more inclusive visions in the neighbourhood planning process

  • Kelly Duggan

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis presents the development of a digitally aided Collaborative Envisioning Framework, to support disenfranchised young people in contributing to a ‘shared vision’ of their community’s future. Drawing from the research areas of planning, design, collaboration and envisioning, this study sought to address the existing democratic deficit in local decision making activities, by utilising the new potentials of digital technologies. The research aim was to support communities, particularly disengaged young people, in becoming involved with decision-making activities, namely generating a shared vision for a neighbourhood plan. Since the radical policy changes to the National Planning Policy Framework and Localism Act 2011, members of the public have been handed increased responsibility and accountability in contributing to the local decisions affecting them. However, the tools and resources have been criticized for not engaging and including all sectors of the public, particularly young people (who arguably have the most to gain, or lose, as a result of decisions made). Using community and neighbourhood planning as a microcosm of a larger problem, this study looked towards the potentials of digital tools as a way to address this democratic deficit. To discover whether they offered anything more than existing tools, by helping young people to contribute to the generation of a ‘shared vision’ (a requisite of a neighbourhood planning application). It also addressed the assumption that the public had an understanding of what creating a ‘shared vision’ entailed, and had the skills and knowledge required to create one. It firstly identified envisioning as a design activity, which needs creativity, imagination, empathy, collaboration, communication and deliberation, and then identified ‘designable factors’ such as processes, tools (digital and non-digital), environments, and services which are able to support these, focusing on which were most suitable for the young audience. The research also explored behavior and motivation theories which guided the design of an envisioning framework. To achieve this aim, a constructive design research methodology was adopted consisting of a designed artefact - ‘The Collaborative Envisioning Framework’ which was utlised throughout numerous workshops. The interactions between the workshop participants and the envisioning framework generated multiple sets of qualitative data, which were analysed and interpreted to form the next iteration of the framework. The research demonstrates that existing tools and resources aimed at supporting inclusivity and meaningful visions for neighbourhood plans are not, in their current form, adequate to firstly, engage the diverse groups of people they should be including, and secondly, to support a generative, creative activity of envisioning, and suggests that the use of digital tools (namely Ageing Booth App, Morfo App, and Minecraft) offer something new. The original contributions to knowledge are: an advancement of constructive design research methodology; contributions to the discourse surrounding the purpose and value of visons within community planning; and a practical ‘Collaborative Envisioning Framework’ which can be followed by public sector and private organisations who seek to support communities in producing ‘visons’ for their community.
Date of AwardDec 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton

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