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Renovate the Public Hearing is a collaborative initiative created by SFU's Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue to act as a convener and catalyst in the public hearing space. Our project is piloting changes to British Columbia's land use public hearing requirements to enhance social justice and community building and strengthen our democratic culture.

Renovate the Public Hearing illustration of people at a public hearing

Renovate: (verb):  to make over again; to restore to freshness or vigor; to renew.

Why Renovate the Public Hearing?

As municipalities explore better ways to gather feedback from communities and leaders are asked to make an increasing number of land use decisions, it has been demonstrated that BC's current public hearing process is not designed to support an inclusive practice for strong decision-making. Instead, public hearings are often viewed as performative exercises that exacerbate societal divisions and leave people angry or apathetic toward local government.


All of this indicates a critical opportunity for change, and many voices are now asking to revisit the purpose and process of BC's public hearings.

"When I think of the ten worst days in my personal and professional life in the last 15 years, seven of them were public hearing days."

Our Goal

Our goal is to improve municipal efficiencies and increase trust in democracy by identifying evidence-based recommendations for revising British Columbia's Local Government Act public hearing requirements, creating stronger public engagement practices, supports for reconciliation, and more effective local government pre-development approval processes.

Our Objectives

In pursuit of this goal, we are working to:

  1. Analyze existing legal frameworks, including relevant case law, and explore options for legal reform

  2. Increase understanding of how public hearings evolved and their effects

  3. Research and analyze the financial, environmental (climate) and public health impacts of the public hearing process

  4. Improve democratic decision-making by building stronger trauma-informed and culturally respectful relationships

  5. Pilot and evaluate alternative options for public input that meet the needs of local governments and communities

  6. Recommend evidence-based reforms to support more meaningful public input in land use decision-making


What's Next?

Building Partnerships

We continue to build partnerships across British Columbia, Canada and internationally to inform pilots and their evaluations, and are collaborating with several cities, towns and municipalities. Our partnerships and projects include work with youth engagement, cultural organizations, housing solutions and more.



Generative Dialogues

Our first major workshop identified common values and criteria for evaluation; our Innovators Forum convened impacted parties to discuss reform; and our National Dialogue brought together perspectives from across the country. We continue to hold focus groups and conduct interviews to better understand the benefits and costs of public hearings for cities, builders and communities.


Research Reviews

To inform change, we need a deep understanding of how the status quo came to be and current critiques and alternatives. Thus, we are doing a deep dive into: ​colonial history and critiques of public hearings, global examples of alternative public engagement practice, and best practices for evaluating public participation.

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