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CCRL California Center for Regional Leadership
Connecting California's Regions to the State and Each Other

200 Pine St., Ste. 400
San Francisco, CA 94104
Phone (415) 445-8975
Fax (415) 445-8974


Informed Regional Choices (2000)

View full report (PDF, 206 KB, 47 pages)

Executive summary:

California's regions need better planning and decision tools1 to inform regional decision making. Land-use planning, infrastructure planning and programming, open space planning, economic development, school siting, community indicators and other community accountability projects, health and social services, transportation and transit-oriented development planning all require a better-informed and engaged civic sector and more efficient public sector planning processes. New technology-based tools are now available but are not widely used. We need to close the gap between the growing supply of tools and a lack of effective consumer demand.

The authors surveyed California's regional organizations to better understand how they are currently using decision tools and what would be needed to increase the effective use of these tools. Case studies describe how some organizations are using the following tools: interactive web sites; visualization tools; spatial analysis tools, including Geographic Information Systems (GIS); simulation; groupware and collaboration tools; and multimedia resource centers. They are using these tools to address a variety of different regional challenges, including building leadership capacity; informing, educating, and considering options; engaging the public; and influencing public policy. The survey highlighted the need to understand the purpose for the tool before selecting a tool. In sum, needs and uses should drive the tools rather than tools driving uses.

The report outlines the need to address a number of perceived barriers to the use of decision tools, including limited awareness of and readiness to use specific tools, limited financial capacity and other resources to purchase or use the tools, lack of a learning network to enable regions to learn from one another, lack of necessary infrastructure, and a need to provide feedback to developers of these tools to improve their ease of use, standardization, and affordability. Increasing the use of decision tools requires addressing each of these barriers.

This report makes a case for a statewide, networked resource center that provides access to services to support the efforts of California's diverse regional initiatives and organizations. Such a center could do the following:

  • Increase awareness of available tools and how they are applied through workshops, forums, an interactive web site, and a newsletter
  • Increase capacity to use the tools effectively through training and technical assistance
  • Evaluate tools and communicate with suppliers and vendors on how their tools could be improved
  • Expand the field of planning and decision support tools

Such a statewide resource could be the catalyst that helps regional organizations gain access to the information and tools they need to improve decision making. The timing is right: more tools are becoming available and regional leaders increasingly want to deploy them for their own planning and civic engagement programs, to encourage local and regional public agencies to use these tools, and ultimately, to improve the decision making that so significantly affects their regions' future economy and quality of life.