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    Reaching long last durable developments by a complementary balance between rational and pragmatic solutions

    Mikkel Sølbeck
    May 9, '17 6:27 AM EST

    Pragmatic solutions learning by doing is an iterative process to make changes in a critical and realistic perspective. This is the opposite of rationality that is more based on methods to the absolute true in an objective perspective. The communicative planning of pragmatic solutions is much more related to the different interest, understandings and values based on a qualitative method to build a consensus and building in relation to the reality as a social construction.

    How do we as planners actively involve the public and the private sector to sustain advantageous planning processes that include the people? Can communicative planning help to deliver a better planning development? Can we actually combine the pragmatic solutions with the rational method?   

    Planning as a collective process of facilitation

    The communicative planner role is a facilitator and moderator of the planning process to build up trust and network between the different actors and stakeholders. The role is grounded on a participatory level established as a dialog based planning. In contrast, the rational process is more tending to have experts and a method to measure the outcome of planning as a technocratic process with an absolute true.

    The planning society at present is involving numerous interests in the process; therefore it is crucial that the planner built up oral and written competencies conversely also having a social knowledge about the interacting process. The communicative planning is an informal process bottom-up interaction and dialog, where the consensus building of different interest and perspectives is built throughout the process.

    This generates a multi-perspective point of view, which constructs a critical platform due to the non-quantitative process. The context of the process is vital due to the different factors related to the circumstances influencing the outcome of the planning practice. The process can include different roles in terms of facilitation to build up relations through dialog, moderation and debate in a critical perspective, and at last the negotiation as mediation. All in all, these planning roles should create a synergy or a worthy platform for communication and deliberative planning.

    • Facilitation - Dialogue: Facilitating a process of dialog with different stakeholders and parties as collaborative process of friendly platform.
    • Moderation - Debates: Critical perspective process by  deleberative managing conflicts and problems in a debate by solutionbased interaction.
    • Negotiation - Mediation: Conflict learning the values and interests (perception and preferences) and how they can built relations and agreements.

    The occurrence of a new method called consensus building of deliberation has created an approach to reformulate the existing comprehensive planning. The planning process is becoming increasingly more complex due to controversial public issues, where different actors and stakeholders have multiple interests at stake.

    Reaching equal, constructive and dialog based solutions

    The consensus planning method emphases a cooperative tool to reach equal and beneficial agreements. The decision making process is “communicatively rational” to the point of equal consensus reach through deliberation containing all stakeholders. Where all are equally empowered and fully well-versed, and where all the involved have the freedom of speech are met. Furthermore, by those who can speak justifiably and honestly. The involvement of the actors and stakeholders creates a multi-perspective dimension in the planning process and every concern is considerate.

    Understanding rationality as a complex matter 

    The rationality can only be obtained if the people involve have the “right” knowledge through a critical self-reflective practice. Professor Atshuller argued that the expertise and knowledge of the planner require far more knowledge than the individual person can grasp through a lifetime. In his perspective the planner where more or less a researcher who’s function was to measure the public interest in a hierarchy of collective goals, which in his mind where impossible practically.

    In reality the real knowledge is virtually impossible to obtain due to the complexity and amount of involvement from different actors. In practice planners and primarily politicians promoted the comprehensive planning as a political democratic acceptance from the public, which is almost impossible to make, because of the complexity of interest. 

    The planner T. J. Kent argued that the plan had to be in a sense a covering of the whole city dealing with psychical features of the urban environment and identifying the relationship with all relational factors, psychical and nonphysical at a local and regional level that affects the physical growth and development of the city. Furthermore, he reasoned that a plan express value judgments, standards and principles that is not influenced on a scientific base through the original rationality. The plan should not be a firm prediction in his terms instead it should be a prescription of the potential outcome due to the continuous changing society.

    Consensus building in the planning process

    The consensus building can connect the different bureaucrats, voted representatives, and citizens together for cooperative learning and decision making.

    The beneficial effect of the consensus process can enhance and inform the planning development in terms of value by using the professional and personal network in a coordinative and collaborative way. The wide scope of collective knowledge and interest of the involved actors and stakeholders can result in a learning process of a discovery of a range of factors and relationships. The consensus agreement benefits the process with the avoidance of the extra cost of delay, hearing or inaction.

    The consensus building process can involve the wide interest by participatory procedure to share the framework of problems and discuss the policy concept, standards and guidelines by creating more informal relationship. The people involved in the process can in practice join collectively the different goals in terms of a unified set of strategies, which can result that everyone can meet and consensual agree on.

    Complementary balance between rational and pragmatic solutions

    The rational method of planning is not necessarily without complementation of the pragmatic collective solutions. In practice a combination of those two methods can positively supplement each other reaching beneficial developments. It can help the process by having a rational basis of input for the decision making process with a supplement of collective context-based knowledge. This knowledge will give significant advantages to reach a valid outcome. We can as a result of this combine planning practice obtain a higher set of comprehensive planning by adding substantial valid inputs from both rational and pragmatic method of planning.

    Innes, Judith E. "Planning Through Consensus Building: A New View of the Comprehensive." Journal of the American Planning Association (Routledge), 31. December 1996.

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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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