Participants and Information Outcomes in Planning Organizations



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This research presents empirical evidence and interpretation about the effects of planning participants and contextual factors on information selection in public organizations. The study addresses important research questions and gaps in the literature about applicability of planning theory to practice, about effects of planning participants and participant diversity on information selection, and about community and organizational factors that influence information selection in the planning process. The research informs emergency planning, practice, and guidance, as well as planning theory and practice in general.

The research sample consists of survey data from 183 local emergency planning committees (LEPCs) about their conduct of hazardous materials commodity flow studies (HMCFS), along with data from other secondary sources. HMCFS projects collect information about hazardous materials (HazMat) transport that can be used in a wide range of local emergency planning and community planning applications.

This study takes the perspective that socio-cultural frameworks, such as organizational norms and values, influence information behaviors of planning participants. Controlling for organizational and community factors, the participation of community planners in HMCFS projects has a significant positive effect on selection of communicative information sources. Participation of HazMat responders in HMCFS projects does not have a significant negative effect on selection of communicative information sources. The diversity of HMCFS participants has a significant positive effect on information selection diversity. Other organizational and community factors, such as vicarious experience, 'know-how' and direct experience, financial resources, and knowledge/perception of hazards and risks are also important influences on information selection behavior.

Results of this study are applicable to planning entities that are likely to use planning information: proactive LEPCs, planning agencies, and planning consortiums. The results are also applicable to community planners in local planning agencies and emergency responders in local emergency response agencies, and public planning organizations in general. In addition to providing evidence about the applicability of communicative rationality in planning practice, this research suggests that institutional/contextual, bounded, instrumental, and political rationalities may also in influence conduct of planning projects. Four corresponding prescriptive recommendations are made for planning theory and practice.