The current system of development planning has failed to keep up with the community’s aspirations for increased public participation. As the economy matures and people’s aspirations change, these questions arise: should we continue down the path of infrastructure-led development? How to set up the priorities on infrastructure development to cope with current state of social and economic level? How to reflect our citizens’ values in development planning? How to enhance the quality of development with less attrition in society?

In recent cases we have witnessed pioneering initiatives by professionals and community groups to install more elaborate forms of public engagement in the policy-making process. In these attempts professionals have played multiple roles to advance the process in their respective capacities in civil society, government and the private sector. Whilst these explorations into new modes of public participation demonstrated varying degrees of success, they have also exposed the weaknesses of the current system – weak capacity for partnership, professional arrogance, poor institutional mechanisms and the risk of public disillusion.

A more effective system of public participation will lead to better outcome in consensus building, and in delivering quality development more suited to the needs of sustainable communities. There lies the promise of a win-win situation – serving both professional interest and public interest at large.