Facilitating Online Participatory Planning During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Dan Milz, Atul Pokharel, Curt D. Gervich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Problem, research strategy, and findings: The COVID-19 pandemic temporarily shifted participatory planning processes from face-to-face to online meetings. Prior to the pandemic, public participation included online components, but only in support of face-to-face public meetings. Thus, there was very little guidance for practitioners on how to design and host online public meetings. We interviewed 32 professional planners and facilitators with experience hosting public meetings during the summer of 2020 and asked them to discuss their experience moving their practices online. We expected to see drastic changes in how these professionals approached their work, but our expectations were only partially met. Instead of revolutionizing participatory planning, online meetings only required modest adjustments to the practices used in face-to-face meetings. Our findings are limited because they represent a narrow window in time. More substantial changes to participatory planning practices may have taken place because of the pandemic and may not be reflected in our interview data. Takeaway for practice: Face-to-face and online meetings may not be as different as popular opinion suggests, and many of the practices that planners have used to host face-to-face public planning meetings could be applied to online meetings. Moreover, the successful transition to online meetings during the pandemic also suggests that remote public meetings are a viable and legitimate option for participatory planning processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)289-302
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the American Planning Association
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2024


  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • internet and communication technologies
  • online meetings
  • online participatory technologies
  • participatory planning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Urban Studies


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