Urban Alternatives

How Projects Fail

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Over two decades of experience in planning and public involvement has enabled UA to draw some solid conclusions about how projects — even those that are well-conceived and technically-sound — get stopped.

Mistakes Which Doom Projects

In our experience, there are three (3) common mistakes that public agencies and private proponents make in dealing with the public about their projects. These three strategic errors typically occur together and, are almost always fatal to a project:

  1. Subscribing to the technical fallacy

  2. Using a "Decide-Announce-Defend" planning and decision making process

  3. Underestimating veto power

Many of the following visuals are based on concepts developed by the Institute for Participatory Management and Planning; Monterey, California:

The Technical Fallacy: Projects are rarely stopped because of technical deficiencies. Some form of public opposition is usually the reason. The trap that both public agencies and private proponents often fall into is believing that technical soundness is enough to assure timely project implementation.

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"Decide-Announce-Defend" Scenario: Choosing or appearing to choose the best project alternative before completing the supporting studies and/or consulting with key stakeholders significantly increases the chances that your project will be torpedoed by one or more of those interests.

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Veto Power: Project implementation has much more to do with the type and level of opposition than with the type and level of support. Those who exercise their veto power should not be viewed as "public enemies." Veto power is a right each of us in a democracy has to protect ourself from proposed actions which threaten, or appear to threaten, us and/or our values.

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