Public transport is an area in which a number of key stakeholders overlap – including state and federal governments, particular government bodies, private entities, and the wider public. When there’s a range of interested parties, it can make it difficult to have a clear and decisive process in place for planning and executing a project.
The paper firstly discusses the “fuzzy front-end of design.” This refers to the ambiguity that comes with the early stages of idea development in a project
‘Investigating tools for multi-stakeholder decision making to improve the spatial performance in transport interchanges,’ a research paper by Encircle members Tim Tompson and Hank Haeusler, aims to examine some of the tools that can be applied to problem solving in multi-stakeholder projects.
The paper firstly discusses the “fuzzy front-end of design.” This refers to the ambiguity that comes with the early stages of idea development in a project – arising in a transport context from factors like government commitment and pressure, technology and budget constraints, and the competing desires of different types of commuter.
But how can we move from this fuzzy front-end, or ‘mystery’ method of problem solving to a heuristic – or experience based – one?
The paper highlights three possible methods:
- rich pictures: these involve getting stakeholders to map the problem or project ahead in the form of an image. They sketch their perspective and place themselves in the picture to illustrate where they are coming from in the wider scheme. This allows for indication of differing subjective views, and when rich pictures are shared it can help build understanding between stakeholders as to individual perspectives each holds.
- ethnographic interviews: these are interviews with stakeholders to determine what is important to them individually and how they make decisions in relation to the problem.
- participatory design and evaluation: this involves bringing stakeholders together to jointly develop project ideas through vehicles like facilitated workshops.
From these methods, ‘boundary objects’ are produced. These are intended to be standards agreed upon and shared by different stakeholders – a common ground or shared platform of understanding from which the stakeholders can begin to define and develop a project with clear boundaries. It is intended all of these methods are used at once to gain a strong overall understanding of the scope of the project.
A case study is then used to determine the effectiveness of these methods in reducing the fuzziness that surrounds the initial idea development stage of a project. The paper reports that once the methods were used, stakeholders were able to identify the scope and features of their project – with help from the produced boundary objects.