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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program

Regional Planning

Degree Type

Master of Regional Planning (M.R.P.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



In the field of planning, there is widespread consensus that the mechanisms in which most planners use to engage with the public are ineffective and exclusive. Although there has been much work done on the techniques planners can adopt to reach out to underrepresented segments of the community, few municipalities have adopted them. This thesis seeks to advance the conversation on public participation beyond the mechanisms and into a discussion of why only certain communities are implementing these more progressive, efficient, effective, and equitable measures. By depicting how public participation functions as a system of interconnected paths and feedback loops, the author identifies twelve places in the system (i.e. leverage points) that could make participation more inclusive. The author tested the applicability of the leverage points by applying this Systems Theory framework to two inclusive participation initiatives in Amherst, Massachusetts and Vallejo, California. Through interviews and documentary research, the author found the framework to be effective in conceptualizing how communities become more inclusive and how participatory mechanisms can help shift the roles citizens, public managers, and planners have in the planning process.


First Advisor

Flavia Montenegro-Menezes

Second Advisor

John R Mullin

Third Advisor

Jane E Fountain