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Active efforts have been made to create opportunities for public participation in the process of making comprehensive plans at local government level so that the needs and opinions of the people are reflected in the plans. Notably, in addition to indirect participation through questionnaires and other methods, there have been increased opportunities for direct participation-opportunities for people to directly participate in a planning process, present their opinions or proposals to local government, and have them reflected in the plans. Traditionally, however, committees that make such proposals have often been composed of people gathered through open application processes. In contrast, cases began to emerge in recent years where participants are selected randomly such that the composition of a selected group is comparable to that of the population and, compared to the traditional approach, local government can obtain highly representative, unbiased opinions or proposals.
Planungszelle (the German term for “planning cells”) and debate-based opinion polls are the major approaches to such public participation. Planungszelle refers to a method in which people who are randomly selected receive sufficient information from local government, discuss issues by themselves, and reach consensus in a short period of time. In the debate-based opinion poll, people who are randomly selected have opportunities to gain sufficient information and listen to each other’s opinions as well as those of experts through debates and, based on these experiences, offer their opinions in a poll.
Against the backdrop of heightened public awareness of New Public, an increased need for focused policy selection due to long-lasting severe fiscal circumstances together with progress in the assessment of the role of a system that reflects public opinions and anticipations for legislative reforms, efforts associated with direct public participation are considered to become more important, prevalent, and invigorated.