YA Activities during 2018 AESOP Congress

YA Activities during 2018 AESOP Congress image
  • July 3, 2018

The AESOP Young Academics network is hosting three academic events during the 2018 AESOP Annual Congress in Gothenburg. 

  • Our General Assembly is going to be on Wednesday, 11 July, 18:15 to 19:45, in room M022. The Coordination Team will report about all activities of the last and the upcoming year. We will also award the YA Best Paper Prize. 
  • The organisers of the 2017 YA Conference ar going to host a roundtable under the title Is planning a lone figher? The role of planning as part of an emerging interdisciplinary field of urban development. The roundtable will be on Friday, 13 July, 14:30 to 16:00, in room 226.
  • The editorial board of our booklet series is going to host a roundtable under title Learning trough conversing. Results and next steps of the AESOP YA Conversations in Planning - Booklet Series. The roundtable will be on Wednesday, 11 July, 11:45 to 13:15, in room 221. 

742 - Is planning a lone fighter? The role of planning as part of an emerging interdisciplinary field of urban development (supported by AESOP Young Academics)

Abstract Body

“The economists are the enemies!” was a tongue-in-cheek remark of one of the leading planning scholars during the 2015 AESOP General Assembly in Prague. However, did planning make progress against the old dichotomy between market and government, between itself, private enterprises, and civil society, or how much reservation towards private actors remains?

Planning as a discipline was conceptualised in times of strong government. In most European market economies, planning was considered a justified state-led intervention to foster the public good. It was needed due to market deficiencies to protect people’s health, the environment and the rights of socially disadvantaged groups (Klosterman 1985: 6–10). Planning education has always focussed on instruments available to public authorities for the purpose of resolving current and future challenges (Gilliard & Thierstein 2016: 42). Planners became first technical and administrative staff and later public leaders of steering the development of the built environment (Rooij & Frank 2016: 473).

Planning education at universities organised within AESOP is largely based upon the dominant role of the public as provider of ‘good’ spatial development. Despite national differences in education, a curricular analysis shows that planning education of ‘AESOP universities’ share a stable core of knowledge and skills around planning instruments and policies and a similar scope of topics from other disciplines (Gilliard 2018, forthcoming). The European planning community recognises that planning is an interdisciplinary field (Kunzmann & Koll-Schretzenmayr 2015: 17). Whereas in some countries, planning has been introduced as independent study programmes, it is regarded as a specialisation of more established disciplines in others – most prominently as parts of architecture and geography schools (Frank et al. 2014: 84). However, “aside from the independent planning degree programs, a plethora of new non-consecutive master’s programs” (Frank & Kurth 2010: 30) have been established in recent years such as urban studies, urban economics or urban management.

Universities react to changing conditions of urban development. Among other reasons, established statutory instruments have become less effective in steering urban development due to a shift of power and resources from public towards private stakeholders (Albrechts 2004: 754), e.g. in terms of funding. Since the 1990s, planning has been confronted with market-oriented urban policies and increasingly struggled to cope with (global) economic forces (Sager 2011). Planning has proven to work interdisciplinary for decades, but struggles to cope with latest spatial, social and economic challenges in an integrated manner. Governments across Europe have shaped an institutional environment in which private actors take over an increasing number of public tasks and services. Only recently has planning again become a more important activity of public authorities. However, often not as a state-driven activity against private interest, but rather as a competitor for private investments (Madanipour 2006).

The public sector still plans, but others have started to plan as well. Today, less than half of all planning graduates work in public administration (Leschinski-Stechow & Seitz 2015: 14). The multitude of actors in urban development renders statutory planning only one player on a field of many. Development is co-created. Strategies, plans and policies of different actors co-evolve. However, interviews with employers in the private sector indicate that many planning graduates are ill-prepared for practice under these conditions (Kunzmann 2017).

If planning education still keeps its established focus (Gilliard 2018, forthcoming), questions emerge: Can planning education keep up its ambition to prepare planners as experts for the development as a whole in a setting of a reinvigorated role of the public service? Do we need to reform planning education and shift its focus from public needs to competencies for a new economically driven environment? Alternatively, do other disciplines need to complement planning within a wider framework of programmes for urban development?

We propose that planning will have different roles in an environment of co-creation between public administration, private economic actors and civil society. Planning education that focuses on public authorities and statutory instruments will remain relevant. Other forms of (planning) education focussing on competencies for developers, infrastructure providers, environmental agencies, civil society initiatives, to name just a few, will complement current degrees and have partly already emerged. However, the different perspectives will not necessarily converge. Shared responsibilities and the act of co-creation will require training in working across boundaries and in continuously reflecting and adjusting.

The professional body of planners has become institutionalised by manifold interest organisations, for instance the Town and Country Planning Association, the Academy of Urbanism, or the Urban Design Group in the UK. In academia, AESOP will need to decide whether its ambition that the “ultimate goal is to ensure sustainable development of society and environment” (AESOP Core Curriculum) can still be achieved as a group of universities more narrowly focussed on educating planners for public authorities. While full membership is currently determined by the more narrowly focussed understanding of planning, the scope of participants and debates during AESOP events is more inclusive. How can AESOP find a good balance between a focus on traditional planning education and the integration of the emerging interest in cities and space by other disciplines? Who is a planner and who plans is increasingly blurred in this setting. Does interdisciplinary planning education then still need separated interdisciplinary planning schools? Should AESOP become an umbrella integrating emerging educational approaches for various actors or represent the particular interest of universities focused on public planning? What are the consequence of either of these decisions?

751 - Learning through conversing. Results and next steps of the AESOP YA Conversations in Planning - Booklet Series.


Abstract Body

The production of knowledge through the interactions between young and senior planners (interviews, debates and reflections) allows a specific contamination, meshing experiences and autobiographies (e.g. see Haselsberger, B. Ed., 2017. Encounters in Planning Thought: 16 Autobiographical Essays from Key Thinkers in Spatial Planning. Taylor & Francis). The process of dialoguing with senior planners is an opportunity for the young ones as they can benefit of direct exchange. Specifically, it adds value when young academics attempt to trace the thinking process of senior academics who developed theories many decades ago, and in a different economic, social and political context. This dialectic is beneficial for deepening the complexity of arguments and challenges that planning faces. Moreover, it is widely acknowledged that the planning discipline is evolving through an interdisciplinary contamination. As a matter of fact, it is necessary to deepen theoretical connections amongst disciplines in order to have a more complete picture of the current direction that the planning one is taking.

In this framework, the aim of this roundtable is summarizing the experiences related with the project of the AESOP YA Conversation in Planning - Booklet Series, focusing on results, lessons learned, exploring potential future contents and tracing next steps.

Along the years, the AESOP Young Academic network has been developing a collaborative bottom-up project that has been shaped as an opportunity for learning through the direct experience of co-authoring and co-editing series of booklets centered on contemporary issues for planning. The idea of Conversations in Planning - Booklet series emerged in 2012. The project initiated in the light of strengthening the bond between AESOP and YA, and in specific, to provide an opportunity to the YA community, who is the future AESOP, in terms of knowledge transfer.

Both senior AESOP members and YA authors, who have worked on the project throughout the years, stated how this has been a great learning opportunity. The experience of being an author/editor for the booklet is a way to learn and improve peer-to-peer academic writing/editing. It is a learning-by-doing activity, in order to acquire one of the fundamental skills that a YA has to develop. The approach to work is aimed at generating a cooperative effort between editors and authors in order to rise the quality of the final outcome. As a matter of fact, this project is based on the value of cooperation, and this is reflected in the way editors and authors try to do their job. However, the level of interaction between editors and authors varied depending on booklets, as some authors preferred to do the job more independently. Since the final content of the booklet is approved by the senior scholars, this has been acceptable.

Up to 2018, the project has been structured with three series for a specific epistemological reason. Series A has discussed the influence of other philosophical theories in planning as a discipline. Series B has discussed senior planners' academic contribution towards the planning theory and hence evolution of planning as a discipline. Series C has emphasized on the particularity of planning practice, connecting theory and practice (being planning a practice-oriented discipline), with a focus on institutional design. Being an adaptive project, this structure may evolve in a different configuration.

The Series editors previously organised a roundtable at the 2015 AESOP congress. The idea of proposing the 2018 Learning through conversing roundtable rises in order to reflect upon the results - 4 booklets have been published so far and 6 more are in their last stage of editing - as well as to discuss potential contents for future issues.

The roundtable is going to be organised as it follows. After a brief introduction from the editorial board and the YA coordination team, a debate will be animated. Invited speakers - who are mostly co-authors - will be invited to share their experience. The participants - mostly expected from the AESOP Young Academic network - will be invited to share their comments, ideas for further editions and so far. Achievements, pitfalls and proposals will be discussed. The main idea is to allow a space of dialogue for keeping nurturing this bottom-up cooperative project.

We also propose to clearly identify a protocol related with the phase of selection, editing, publishing, assessing, in order to set up a beneficial bottom-up learning process for the entire AESOP young academic community. We argue how this resilient, voluntary and cooperative effort may contribute to building the overall attitude of hope that inspires this the 2018 AESOP Annual conference.

Authors of the proposal and organisers: Conversations in Planning Editorial Board in a joint effort with the YA Coordination Team