Citizen Group for Urban Planning Initiated by Residents
Suwon City

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Barriers to Civic Participation in Korean Society In today’s egalitarian and pluralistic society, the greatest power comes from citizens. Urban policies in Korea, however, have been initiated by the administration comprising very few experts. In the process of enforcing urban policies, civic participation has been limited to the offering of people’s suggestions through surveys, public hearings, public announcements or public inspections. This is because of fears over a backlash against civic participation in urban policies resulting in real estate speculation, civil complaints and regional conflicts due to leaks of confidential information. The era of high economic growth has led to a preference for administrators and experts as policymakers over ordinary citizens. Demand for Civic Participation and Administrative Inexperience Times have changed, however. With the economy stuck on the plateau of slow growth, traditional urban growth and development have reached their limit. Rising levels of education and social participation have gradually shifted government-centered governance to one focused on citizens. Today’s fast-paced environment requires innovative governance as a new urban policy platform to design urban visions, strategies and projects angled toward civil values and put them in practice. Administrative inexperience in civic participation, however, is a drag on the realization of civic participation as a policy tool. Lack of Citizens’ Competence and Experience Given that urban policies in Korea have mostly been initiated by just a few administrators and experts, there are too many fears over the agenda suggested and determined by citizens. Nonetheless, Suwon says its residents have high competence as it has accompanied its people in initiating a number of policies as well as training them since Mayor Yeom Tae-young, a former civic activist, took over in 2010. The most prominent citizen-led bodies are the Good Administration Committee, a resident-centered organ for policy suggestions, Participatory Budgeting, in which residents directly decide the spending of parts of a municipal budget, the Citizens Jury process, a way of settling conflicts due to the implementation of policies, and Village Renaissance, part of the city’s resident-centered policy to revitalize their own villages. Suwon is now encouraging civic participation in urban planning by organizing the Citizen Group for Urban Planning, which is based on a range of experiential resources accumulated through experimental policies implemented with residents.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
Launch of Citizen Group for Urban Planning An encounter of Suwon Mayor Yeom Tae-young, a former civic activist, with Junior Deputy Mayor Lee Jae-jun, a former city planner, has been a great opportunity to invigorate Suwon’s policies on civic participation. Lee was the one who first proposed to urge residents to participate in urban planning, and his proposal was in principle agreed by public administrators and experts. After a lot of careful discussion with the city council and civic groups, the Citizen Group for Urban Planning was born. Governance System Operation Civic participation in urban planning is Suwon’s first challenge though the city has launched several civic participation initiatives, including Participatory Budgeting and Resident Participation in Community Design. Accordingly, participation has been induced from many people and organizations including experienced regional NGOs, professors, researchers and city planners (engineers), with public administrators playing a central role. Discussions have been held on how the Citizen Group for Urban Planning should be operated, how residents’ ideas should be reflected in administrative policies, how academic and technical materials should be provided and how differences can be mediated. Group Members Invited and Trained The first planning meeting on the operation of the Citizen Group for Urban Planning was held on December 9, 2011. Operations were planned at the meeting, and at the same time, the group recruited members. Recruitment and public relations were held for inviting members on January 18, 2012, and the city selected people from all walks of life in consideration of region, age, sex and occupation on February 16. In the end, 130 persons were appointed members at a ceremony held on February 29. After operation planning and organization were completed, group officials were trained from April 7. Acceptance of Opinions In the course of organizing the Citizen Group for Urban Planning, Suwon sought a way to gather a wider range of opinions from residents, namely the installation of community boards at 40 community service centers. These boards were installed from April 9 to May 31, 2012, and 1,165 opinions suggested on them were reflected in the operation of the group.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
Chances for Future Generations: Youth Group for Urban Planning A sensible decision was made to invite young people, namely future leaders, to discuss 20-year plans. The Youth Group for Urban Planning debate was supposed to be held just once, but the high understanding and passion for urban planning by youths led to consecutive debates with adults. A hundred youngsters ages 12 to 15 joined the group with more enthusiasm than adults, and proposed novel ideas for suitable growth of a future city. Discussion Sublimated into Participatory Festival The Citizen Group for Urban Planning prepared a venue for discussion with cultural performances and photo exhibitions to make residents’ participation more enjoyable. Suwon organized the Citizens’ Knowledge Concert, which had 130 Citizen Group and 100 Youth Group members and public administrators attend and released the conclusions of debates and discussed them. Civic Participation in Discussion and Policymaking System Provincial NGOs, experts and public administrators decided who would do what and formed a governance system to allow residents to engage in free debate. “Mind Map,” a program of integrating opinions from each section, and the Electronic Voting Machine, a tool for voting for discussed schemes, also received positive reviews from residents.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
Before the Citizen Group was organized, urban planning was initiated mainly by experts and administrators. In such a situation, to systemize civic participation in urban planning required the following; ① strategies and plans for civic participation, ② administrative support system, ③ technical materials and ④ meditation of differences in opinions. Therefore the city focused on how it could harmonize these four subjects. Cooperative Strategy Planning For responsible participation by different stakeholders, cooperative strategies were established from phase zero. A group of a dozen administrators, NGOs and experts was formed on December 9, 2011, and took part in more than 60 conferences to map out specific plans for recruitment for the Citizen Group, agenda and support for participants. Beginning with just 10 debaters, this panel eventually got 42 members as more organizations applied to the panel. Employment of Experts The Citizen Group for Urban Planning will inevitably experience trial and error because of lack of precedent in Korea. To minimize this, the city introduced the master planner (MP) system. By appointing three experts who had studied civic participation, the city put them in challenging roles as MPs to map out general plans for running the Citizen Group and meditate differences of opinions among group members. City Council Participates One of the most important elements in civic participation is representation. A number of residents joined the Citizen Group, but they are not said to have had representation. So to grant them representation and gathering the Suwon City Council’s opinions in the process of urban planning, the city invited council members to the Citizen Group. Six sections of the Citizen Group each have a council member. Opinions from Suwon-based Businesses Collected In a narrow sense, Suwon residents refer to people who reside in Suwon, while the broader meaning could be all people who live and work in Suwon. The most important thing is considering workers at business based in the city. So Suwon has tried to reflect visions for a future city by providing businesses with two opportunities to suggest opinions, though no Suwon-based enterprise was included in the Citizen Group. Cooperation with Suwon Office of Education Urban planning will design 20-year plans for the future Suwon. Nevertheless, no adolescents had a chance to participate in civil administration. Hence, the city invited 100 youngsters to the Youth Group for Urban Planning in cooperation with the Suwon Office of Education. They sought solutions to problems around school areas and suggested their own ideas on city issues.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
Public Administrators and Policy Think Tanks: Suwon Planning Division and Suwon Development Institute (Suwon Research Institute) Public administrators and policy think tanks including Suwon Development Institute (now Suwon Research Institute) took the lead in overall control and planning of the Citizen Group for Urban Planning in collaboration with social groups, city planners, professors and researchers. Local NGOs: Suwon Agenda 21 NGOs shared knowledge obtained from experience in civic education and participation and encouraged residents to join the Citizen Group. Experts: City Planners (Engineers) Experts offered academic and technical materials to assist the process of discussing urban planning. Academic Circle: Korea Planners Association & University Research Labs A master planner of Suwon 2030 Urban Planning and president of the Korea Planners Association joined the project to play a key role in urban planning and conflict control. Also helping were university researchers and students majoring in urban engineering, who held debates with residents and kept records of discussions. Residents: 130 People and 100 Adolescents from All Walks of Life The Citizen Group for Urban Planning consists of experts, residents, company staff, sole proprietors, the socially disadvantaged and university students selected in consideration of sex, age and region. Many applicants applied to join the group over the course of a month and civic social groups recommended some of them. Finally, 130 members were chosen by drawing. The city also included 100 teenagers in the Youth Group for Urban Planning.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
Financial Resources Compared to urban planning initiated merely by a few experts and administrators, the Citizen Group for Urban Planning project required a budget of 40 million won (approximately 40,000 USD) to devise urban master plans. Operating costs spent on the group from December 9, 2011, through June 30, 2012, include part of labor and planning costs. The 130 residents and 100 adolescents are volunteers working for no pay. Enthusiasm and voluntary participation of civic groups, academics and experts are intangible financial resources. Technical Resources The Citizen Group for Urban Planning is participated by 130 residents and 100 young people. Technical support is required to gather a great number of opinions as fast as possible, draw up agenda and take votes. First, a system integrating online contents of discussion was made to collect opinions from each section. The intent was to send opinions in real time from each section to the control center. The Mind Map program was applied to classify opinions by type. Finally the electronic voting system was introduced to confirm the Citizen Group’s decisions by vote. Giving the people a voice in municipal administration contributed to planting strong trust of the city government in residents. Human Resources Many entities including public administrators, NGOs, policy think tanks (Suwon Development Institute), academia and experts gave a helping hand to the Citizen Group of Urban Planning. They provided useful ideas and supported the group through providing personnel from the planning to operating stages of the group. Suwon Development Institute took the lead in overall planning and operation, and public administrators lent material support in operations. NGOs encouraged residents to join the group and suggested wonderful ideas to gather opinions from residents. Academics and experts backed up the group in a technical manner by proposing plans for its operations and gathering opinions. Forty-two members composed of administrators, experts and NGOs played a pivotal role in the group. Another 20-plus helpers assisted the project to make it run smoothly. Furthermore, 130 residents and 100 young people contributed by growing as civic leaders after the project was completed.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
Resident-initiated Urban Planning The purpose of this project is to map out urban planning initiated and decided by residents. Urban planning is an official course of action under the National Land Planning and Utilization Act. The comprehensive plan is on directing urban long-term development and fundamental spatial structure, which used to be considered the exclusive turf of administrators and experts. In general, they initiated urban planning and residents suggested opinions in a form of passive civic participation. But the Suwon Citizen Group of Urban Planning Project was basically framed by 130 residents and 100 adolescents, and administrators and specialists technically complemented the framework to prepare a draft and briefed residents on it again before gathering their opinions. As such, urban planning was completed. It was difficult to expect the emergence of aggressive systems that allowed residents to join the planning process in the past. Suwon overcame the experiential limitations of Korean-style urban planning that residents participated in and implemented experimental policies to lay the groundwork for urban planning initiated by residents. Making Up for Limits of Representative Democracy The Citizen Group for Urban Planning was made up of 130 residents and 100 adolescents chosen from all walks of life, including experts, residents, businesspeople, business owners, the socially disadvantaged and students through recommendations from civic groups and volunteers. Reflected in urban planning were 278 opinions or 17 percent of the 1,627 submitted in a personal manner other than official agenda. Also, 1,229 opinions (75.5 percent) were examined by officers before being reflected in policies or projects. The group recently saw its membership swell to 300 to discuss “traffic issues and conflict with traditional markets in the opening of a large shopping mall” and “construction of Suwon Convention Center”. Suwon made an effort to compensate for the limits of representative democracy by attracting residents to take part in urban planning through the group. The group shared residents’ opinions by taking advantage of information technology, and directly decided policies through electronic voting. As a result, future visions, three administrative goals, 12 strategies and 36 detailed practical strategies of the city were all set by residents themselves.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
Steering Sessions: Monitoring Directors mainly comprised of civic group leaders preside over meetings. To compensate for problems caused in the process of holding official conferences of the Citizen Group, directors and officials had separate meetings between conferences. Such talks saw the reporting of the results of monitoring discussions by section in the group. Moreover, after the group’s operations were finished, directors gathered to evaluate the group in a discussion. Satisfaction Evaluation for Citizen Group A survey was conducted on resident satisfaction for the Citizen Group. Ninety-six percent said the group was necessary and 90 percent answered that they wanted to keep participating in the group. Respondents were relatively positive over the number of debaters and contents of discussion. They were very satisfied with the comfortable and interesting atmosphere of debates and decision-making through e-voting machines, while expressing dissatisfaction with the limited time of discussion (about 60 minutes) and low frequency (five times).

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
1) Administrative Repulsion Only public hearings and briefing sessions are institutionally guarantees of civic participation in urban planning. Accordingly, the aggressive civic participation system is certain to be recognized as administrative burden to be expressed in the form of repulsion. Suwon kept educating public officials to relieve this problem, and after the first meeting of the Citizen Group, such repulsion shifted to confidence in civic participation. 2) Lack of Expertise in Citizen Group Urban planning to map out 20-year plans requires specialized knowledge including population study. The residents who joined the Citizen Group, however, lacked expertise. To resolve this issue, the city provided academic and technical materials angled toward the level of residents, ran an orientation and assigned specialists and experts. Participating residents were offered the necessary materials interpreted in easy-to-understand terms at least a week prior to an official conference, which proceeded in the order of orientation-discussion-vote. Explanation for a day’s topic was given in advance before discussion. In addition, a city planner and two public officials from each section were deployed to help residents understand the discussion. 3) Stiff & Unfriendly Atmosphere Urban planning can be a dry and difficult topic, and this could impede smooth discussion. Also meetings held on Saturdays were considered an obstacle to active participation. To remove such negative factors, the city tried to create a pleasant atmosphere like a public festival in which every resident is willing to participate. Each discussion included cultural performances. The Photogenic Prize was awarded to those who displayed funny scenes during discussion. Photos of participating residents were exhibited at the venue to attract resident interest. Directors and officials including public administrators kindly induced group members to join debates freely. In such a comfortable and interesting atmosphere, residents could suggest ideas and discuss them as much as they liked.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
Resident-initiated Urban Planning The Citizen Group for Urban Planning worked out urban planning through five-stage conferences from April 28 to June 30, 2012. The first conference on April 28 set Suwon’s 2030 visions and three goals. Afterwards, basic objectives and strategies were determined at the second conference on May 12 and detailed practical strategies at the third conference on May 26. The fourth conference on June 9 set indexes and major programs, and the final conference on June 30 drew up urban planning. Reflected in urban planning were 257 ideas, or 55.6 percent of 462 suggested in the whole process, and 200 (43.3 percent) contributed to the city’s policies. To make up for the problems caused in the process of the group’s official conferences, directors and officials had separate meetings in between the conferences on April 16, May 3, 17 and 31 and June 14. Apart from 130 Citizen Group members, Suwon appointed 100 young people as the Youth Group for Urban Planning on May 16, 2012 in cooperation with Suwon Office of Education. The Youth Group participated in three conferences on May 26, June 9 and June 30 in collaboration with the Citizen Group. The opinions and ideas suggested during discussion and voting contributed to the setting of Suwon’s vision “Human City Suwon,” three goals, 12 strategies and 36 detailed practical strategies. Discussion Attended by Residents One of the greatest outcomes from the operation of the Citizen Group for Urban Planning was administrative confidence in civic participation. The city devised a basic framework to integrate numerous ideas and opinions from 230 participants, including 130 residents and 100 young people, and then reflect them in its policies through organic combination with regional NGOs, universities and institutes. This led to experiential administration and improved confidence. IT enabled the city to keep records of opinions in a more systematic way. The discussion held in October 2014 on construction of Suwon Convention Center attracted 300 participants, and the system conducted real-time analysis of contents reported by public officials deployed to each table. As a result, top priorities and time-specific policies were decided by residents through electronic voting in record time. Potential for Direct Democracy Organization of the Citizen Group for Urban Planning was promoted under the motto “collective intelligence changes the city.” Residents participated in the group as they believed they should directly propose their ideas, make a decision and take responsibility together. The group was a form of experimental direct democracy to overcome the limits of representative democracy through administrative and civic support, public interest and participation using IT. Administrative confidence in civic participation and advancement in IT will ensure continuous progress with the demand for civic participation.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
Benchmarking by Other Cities Success of the Citizen Group for Urban Planning in Suwon has been benchmarked by many cities in Korea and transferred to other regions. For instance, Seoul, the nation’s capital, invited in 2012 100 city residents and 16 adolescents to discuss the city’s visions and key issues for the 2030 Seoul Plan. The same year, Jecheon, a city in Chungcheongbuk-do, organized its own Citizen Group for Urban Planning of 80 members to map out its 2025 Long-term Development Plan. In 2013, Bucheon, a Seoul suburb in Gyeonggi-do, established 2030 Urban Planning with 100 residents from all walks of life including experts, grassroots organizations, businesspeople and owners, the disabled and migrants named Proposal Group. Incheon has invited 100 residents who will discuss and decide its vision through 2030 Incheon Urban Planning. So far, more than 30 cities and regions have benchmarked Suwon’s successful project. Global Attention Suwon’s civic participation projects, including the Citizen Group, have drawn international attention. Thanks to projects such as Civic Participation in Urban and Village Projects. Participatory Budgeting and Suwon-style Village Renaissance achieved recognition for its work in human sustainable settlement and won the 2013 UN-HABITAT Scroll of Honor Award. Suwon was also officially invited by UN-ECLAC (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean) to present its civic participation projects in June 2014. Sustainability of Citizen Group Experience of organizing the Citizen Group for Urban Planning has led to administrative confidence in civic participation programs. The city hosted the EcoMobility World Festival in cooperation with residents who had to use non-motorized vehicles for a month in 2013 at Haenggung-dong, which houses Suwon Hwaseong Fortress, designated a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. The city has expanded its civic participation projects by organizing the Villagers Group, where village people map out where they live. In recent years, the role of the Citizen Group has extended from devising basic plans to conflict settlement, policymaking, detailed planning and design. The discussion of the Citizen Group on August 9, 2014, attracted 110 participants who debated traffic issues and win-win approaches upon the opening of a large shopping mall. Consequently, debaters concurred in settling traffic problems and road maintenance before the opening of the mall, and proposed a range of ideas for win-win approaches to surrounding traditional markets. On October 24, 2014, the 300 Citizen Group held talks on construction of Suwon Convention Center. Twelve residents, a group leader and a clerk per table held constructive discussions for three hours by analyzing discussion contents in real time through wireless network. The Citizen Group has achieved success only because all of its members -- residents, civic groups, administrators, academics and experts -- have worked together in sharing the same visions. The city is planning to enact ordinances to support the Citizen Group in an institutional manner and hold regular sessions. Also a special support team will be set up to help spread the group’s operations system to other villages and regions.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
Communicating Administration to Residents With the meetings of the Citizen Group for Urban Planning were repeated, the operations team composed of public administrators was overloaded with work. The administration must also create a system for keeping valuable opinions, maintain records of discussion and help the group participate in discussions in a pleasant manner. The operations team’s enthusiastic support for the group through provision of understandable materials for residents and assistance in discussion raised the participation rate and public trust. Sharing of Visions for Civic Participation To organize the Citizen Group for Urban Planning, all stakeholders including civic groups, public administrators, city planners, MPs, professors and Suwon Development Institute held several debates from the planning stage. Forty-two experts from all sorts of backgrounds including NGOs and university research labs (Korea University and Hyupsung University) helped in the operations of the Citizen Group. They helped to host discussions and put opinions of residents in order in a technical manner. Mature Discussion by Residents Finally, the most important factor is mature participation by residents and youths. One hundred thirty residents and 100 youths did not mind participating in every discussion held even on Saturdays, and suggested a wide range of public opinions for the city’s future. Significance of Leadership Suwon had a lot of civic participation projects such as Participatory Budgeting and Resident Participation in Community Design before the Citizen Group for Urban Planning was launched. This is because the city’s top brass including Mayor Yeom and Junior Deputy Major Lee shared the philosophy of a people-centered “human city.” The Citizen Group has posed new challenges and garnered experience based on such people-centered administrative philosophy, serving as a foundation for the successful hosting of EcoMobility World Festival Suwon 2013, an international event in which residents do without cars for a month.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Suwon City
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Min Bum Oh
Title:   Team Manager  
Telephone/ Fax:   +82-31-228-2380/+82-31-228-3925
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   241 Hyowon-ro(Ingye-dong), Paldal-gu
Postal Code:   441-701
City:   Suwon-si
State/Province:   Gyeonggi-do

          Go Back

Print friendly Page