Every local government in Victoria has a planning scheme to govern the use, development and protection of its land, underpinned to enable future needs. Whilst planning schemes are legal documents that are set by the council, The Minister for Planning, other councils, or citizens within the municipality may request a change to the Planning Scheme.
Our client has a vision of Melbourne to be a bold, inspirational and sustainable city for people - sadly with a low proportion of citizens participating in future planning schemes, they are challenged in planning for growth that aligns with their mission.
Our client initially came to us with a technical problem and wanted to explore solutions in automation and machine learning to provide their citizens with a more intuitive experience online. Before they invested heavily, we guided the organisation through a design discovery process to understand and clearly define the opportunity for their citizens and for their business.
It sounded like this:
“How might we demystify the planning scheme for citizens and empower them to engage during the amendment phase.”
We designed, organised and carried out three weeks of qualitative interviews and design workshops to generate and prioritise ideas to address this challenge.
What we found is that actually there was a perception gap between the local government and its citizens. The Council was seen as an untrusted figure in the community and citizens didn’t feel their views on planning and development in the municipality were valued due to a lack of communication and visibility. As a result, members of the community felt disempowered to understand or participate in the future planning of their city.
We reframed our research and design towards discovering how the City might bridge the gap, become a trusted figure in citizens’ lives, allowing the City of Melbourne to align their understanding of their challenges with where they should focus their efforts and what they still needed to learn about their citizens.