Management at district level is a linking point for citizens and urban management. The ultimate goal of a district development approach, which focuses on people and meeting their basic needs due to their living environment, can be achieved only through respecting the status of collective participation in a systematic framework. Undoubtedly, today, lack of participation of the public in urban planning decisions has a vague and inefficient role, which is of course the result of successive years of the centralized and governmental planning; hence, solving such problem requires passing a difficult and uneven path. Otherwise, only limited success can be expected, since effective strategies and tools to achieve public participation in decision-making and operational planning procedures are still missing. Due to these factors, the present study was conducted to study the role of public participation in the development of districts in the neighborhood of Davoudie, region 3, Tehran. The authors have attempted to answer the main questions of the research: How effective is the establishment of neighborhood management agency (councils) in increasing participation the people? Is there a significant relationship between satisfaction of the municipality measures and public participation?
As Daniel. H. Strobe expressed in the book "Development in organizing municipality," the philosophical views on public participation can be classified into four theories:
1- Coupled theory: In this view, since the local residents and people are not able to play a constructive role in implementing the projects, their participation occurs only to reduce their opposition to the project through their formal involvement.
2- Advisory theory: According to this view (in contrary with the coupled view), it is believed that the values introduced by the planners and policy makers regarding public interest are basically those values that belong to the middle class (the Western view), so they cannot meet the economic needs of the lower class. Therefore, interacting with people and citizens is a prerequisite in planning to get aware of their thoughts and values.
3- Social – educational therapy theory or social education model: Education is transferred to the citizens through mutual interaction with them. It would contribute to train responsible citizens who can lead their own destiny optimally using freedom and democracy granted to them.
The study was conducted in 2014 and its spatial area was limited to Davoudie district. It is a cognitive study using a descriptive- analytic method and survey to assess the role of public participation in the development of a district. Initial data were gathered from library resources related to the research variables (council’s measures, public satisfaction of the municipality measures, and public participation). The whole data related to the research topic were obtained in form of a questionnaire through its distribution among the statistical population including the population of Davoudie district (n= 26443). Using Cochrane’s formula, the sample volume (95%) was found in a sample of 379 households. The research variables included the councils’ measures and public satisfaction of the municipality’s actions) as the independent variable and public participation as the dependent variable.
Results and Discussion
The results showed that the citizen participation index (in case of transferring responsibilities of each district to its residents, how enthusiastic are your neighbors to welcome it?) with the highest average of 3.28 points and items (how much of your participation and ideas are used in managing the district?) with an average of 1.17 with the lowest rate. In addition, measuring the satisfaction index of the Davoudie compared to the municipality actions showed that the lowest and the highest scores one could get for this variable are 14 and 70, respectively. The results of this Pearson test represented that the p-value between two variables, the establishment of neighborhood management (councils) and increase of the public participation with the correlation coefficient between two variables, 0.025, and given that the significance level of 0.630 is greater than 0.05, the hypothesis is not confirmed. It was also found that the p-value between two variables, people’s satisfaction of the municipality and public participation, with a correlation coefficient between the two variables is 0.023. Since the significance level, 0.654, is greater than 0.05, the hypothesis is not confirmed.
With an emphasis on the role of partnership in regional development and after conducting a scientific study and survey in the district of Davoudie, the present study achieved the following results:
1- Poor participation of citizens, at the first analytical glance, is due to improper ways of planning in urban planning and management of Tehran Municipality justifying the domination of Blueprint Planning
2- Lack of granting value to citizens in different levels of planning and decision making procedures
3- Resistance of interested and influential individuals and organizations against replacing the bottom up planning with the top-down one
4- Lack of awareness of citizens of their rights and duties of citizens in the status of the real owners of the city
5- Resistance of stakeholders and the influential against citizens’ participation in monitoring and running the urban projects
Studies regarding the municipal measures in level of the Davoudie district indicate that in terms of installing municipal boards, tabulating the streets and the passages, expanding educational and cultural facilities, lining the streets , and paying attention to the appearance of the buildings in terms of architectural and physical space has acted so well that most respondents have expressed their satisfaction of the measures taken by the municipality in the areas of infrastructure- development. However, in terms of developing local green spaces, modifying engineering plans of the neighborhood streets as well as developing sports facilities and spaces, most respondents were moderately satisfied with the actions of the municipality.
In terms of service- welfare measures of the municipality, most residents were satisfied of the health conditions of the neighborhood and garbage collection system, yet their satisfaction with the state of transportation was low. Some various affairs of which mayors are in charge are issues related to socio- cultural affairs. Most respondents of Davoudie neighborhood expressed their satisfaction of social and cultural activities- such as holding local and regional conferences related to the issues of citizenship and informing them about the duties of citizenship – was in an average level. Yet, their consent to providing social security and transferring public education through billboards and preparing cultural training packages using brochures, posters, and the like- was in low and very low levels.