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    An ongoing iterative adaptation in the theoretical and practical perspective of planning

    Mikkel Sølbeck
    Jun 23, '17 5:59 PM EST

    Planning practitioners have not always used the planning theory in practice as they have been drawn to the existing conflicting interests and a more practical learning by doing method in relation to the world. The amount of theoretical approaches is wide and is usually reflected by the professional background of thematic specialization. The society is constantly changing and evolving through time depending on several aspects.

    It is essential to ask if planners have to stridently follow the norms in the society or if we actively should critically adapt and reinvent planning practice based on experiences evolving along planning process?  

    Numerous of understandings and perspectives on best-practice planning

    Allmendinger argues for several basic principles on theories. The theories will always be based on a normative adaption related to the values and applied within a social or historical context. He argues furthermore, that the social and historical context cannot remove the principle from the derivation of the abstract understanding. The theory is also mediated through the space and time which result in different understandings and perspectives on the formulations. If all these principles are included, then there is no distinction between substance and procedure, but instead a complex iterative relationship between ideas and actions through the development and perspective of theories.

    It is fundamental to base the decision-making process on rationality through theories. The rationality in theories is not always applyable in practice, which can create barriers to some extent. It is crucial, that the planning theory is based on practical theories, not only based on theoretical unapplyable philosophic theories without any practical relevance.

    The planning system is a nonlinear process, which is not identifiable. This creates furthermore complexity through the process. The practice had presently been based on a more technocratic approach by controlling the development through regulatory policy framework based on rationality. This has shifted to a more innovative and action characterized process, which involve the citizen’s and alternative approach towards a better planning process by adapting to the norms and interest. The usefulness of theories and practices is depending on the geographical and shift through time; this creates a non-stop adaption process.

    Norms and tendencies evolving and changing the society

    The critical perspective on planning as it evolute through time is crucial, as the development and planning normativity changes. The norms in the society and culture of planning are constantly changing as a dynamic process. As a result we have to regularly readjust planning practice in order to respond to the tendencies in the humanity and society.   

    The argumentation of the relevance of the planning theory has been neglected by many. This could be emphases by a more critical planning approach, which involves a critical perspective of the planning, that is practiced.

    Hereby said planners should not adapt to tendencies in the planning process, without thinking critically about the outcome and practice. The profession of the planner should be understood as a facilitator of the decision-making process, ideally based on rationality through planning. The planning rationality had been challenge through time as the norms and ideologies had change, due to the development of the society.

    This is an ongoing critical adaption to the norms and values in the society through a rational way of thinking, which ultimately should benefit the society globally, nationally, regionally and locally.

    The theory behind the planning practice and daily decisions

    Why do we actually need to use planning theory in practice? To practice planning we ideally need to have a theory. In order to practice the planning domain you need to have a theory, which is under hidden in the actual behaviour, this is maybe unknown to the planner as an unconscious manner of planning, but the theory still remains evidently through the actions.

    It is truly important, that the planner is familiar with the behaviour related to the theory and potential outcome of the planning practice.

    The consideration of the actual use and actions due to the theory in planning is not the only important aspect of practicing, but we should also reflect on the potential planning outcome as a post-perspective. The post-perspective is based on an approach to optimize the outcome and to critically reconsider the actually planning procedure or norm, which is not always practiced functionally and rationally. It is also afterwards, that the planner can develop certain tools and better norms in the planning perspective.

    Better platform to critically realigning the planning practice

    The planner should preferably gain a better platform for planning as developing the vocabulary and a pallet of tools instead of using existing tools. This is a vital consideration, due to the consistent shift of tendencies and new implementations of different norms, which are not always adaptable with existing planning theory.

    We have to use an appropriated approach to set a more critical understanding, on how to adapt to the changes instead of the normative one, which is based on common norms and interest in the public.

    The public norms and interest is not always knowledgeable about the rationality and the outcome of planning. The complication of the different norms can hereby play a crucial role.

    Guiding along the strategic process of planning and facilitation

    The planner should be the knowledgeable guide who is strategically and rationally navigating the planning process and optimizing the potential outcome in relation to the system. This is not always obtainable, due to the democratic and policy framework, which strongly depends on the incentive interest by politicians, public, NGOs and other actors.

    That’s why the strategically navigation cannot always be straightforward, due to the external factors and circumstances. The planning process is an iterative circle, where we qualify, optimize, through feedback mechanisms based on the history and consequences applied to practice related to theory.

    The iterative planning process is an ongoing evolvement, which will not end and the planners should never be unconscious about the action and decision making process, due to the responsibility of development of the land as a life platform for the citizen’s. 

    This is a learning process corresponded with new practical experiences in the “real” planning life practice. This strongly depends on collaboration between theoretician and practitioners, to gain a synergy relationship, to take advantage of the theoretical and practical perspective, to translate it into a functional platform for planning.

     Allmendinger, Phillip . "Planning Theory." Planning - Enviroment - Cities (Palgrave macmillan) 2 Edition (2009).

    Friedmann, John . "Why Do Planning Theory?" Edited by Planning Theory. (SAGE publications) DOI: 10.1177/1473095203002001002 (2003).

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360 ° Livable Urbanism is featuring articles with subjective approaches and theories on how to actively contribute as urban planners in today’s modern society with different thematic inputs to sustain and innovate the way we as highly diverse planners facilitate the process of planning towards sustainable cities in balance with the current policy framework, sectors, interest and other relevant aspects.

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