Extended Deadline for Abstracts: AESOP YA 2021 Conference "Governing the Unknown: Adaptive Spatial Planning in the age of uncertainty"

Extended Deadline for Abstracts: AESOP YA 2021 Conference "Governing the Unknown: Adaptive Spatial Planning in the age of uncertainty" image

General Theme

AESOP YA CT in collaboration with POLIS University LOC has the pleasure to invite you to the 2021 AESOP Young Academics Conference that will be held in Tirana, Albania, from March 29, 2021 to 2 April 2021. The conference theme for this year is ‘Governing the Unknown: Adaptive Spatial Planning in the age of uncertainty’.

Currently we are going through one of the largest pandemics of the last century on one side while on the other we are trying to deal with climate change. Our society faces dynamic development and changes, and therefore complex uncertainties and unknowns. Under these new conditions of uncertainty, socio-economic systems, people, institutions and our urban and ecological systems need to become more resilient. Having the ability to cope with crises, but also to adapt to change and live with uncertainty, is necessary and pushing us to change our planning paradigms. The famous saying of Donald Rumsfeld (2002) “there are known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns” holds true also for planning. The complexity of our system is growing, and besides dealing with the uncertainty, planning and governance need to deal also with the complexity of unknowns.

The high uncertainty in planning and resilience are related and affect economic, political, social as well as environmental aspects, which all require a degree of adaptation. While uncertainty on one hand requires improving prediction mechanisms and management of big data in order to be reduced, the governance of “unknowns” requires perhaps a shift in paradigm and the way we deal with knowledge in planning altogether. Davoudi (2015)puts an emphasis that planners need to increase knowledge on what their “does do”. Spatial planning, as one of the main mediums for achieving territorial governance and resilience of socio-ecological systems, is a domain in constant evolution and need for reinvention as a response to the challenges ahead. The discipline has always been subject to various pressures and concerns trying to adapt to the dynamics of the world. While in its early days, planning was trying to control the future, now the growing recognition that it needs to work with uncertainty is becoming one of the main drivers of change. Today planning as a disciple has a more complex mission to face and it needs to move away from the initial paradigms that created it. As such, also in the framework of this conference, when talking about the unknown, we refer to this aspect of unknown unknowns in planning. Additionally, an important question and discussion we would like to open, as part of the conference, is the question of what constitutes knowledge in planning and how it can be acquired.


***AESOP YA CT and the LOC are closely monitoring the situation regarding COVID-19. We would like to have an in person conference, however, if conditions do not allow we are prepared to conduct a hybrid conference which combines in person and online services. A decision on this regard will be taken at a later stage, but no later than the first week of January 2021***






With the rapid socio-economic developments and environmental challenges, handling uncertainty and dealing with unknowns become particularly important, especially in the planning processes and among planners. Since the ability to adapt starts from the premise of uncertainty, the acknowledgement of uncertainty and ability to incorporate it in our processes is necessary to make actors receptive. On the other hand, planning is a discipline rooted in knowledge, and most of what we constitute as knowledge in planning is framed under evidence. However, the complexity of the evolution and functioning of our socio-economic systems and ecosystem requires us (as planners) to continuously challenge the way knowledge is generated and acquired. To operationalize adaptive planning, it’s argued that professionals, stakeholders and researchers need to function in a genuinely transdisciplinary mode (fields such as planning, transport, economy, data analytics, technology, environmental issues, sociology etc.), where all contribute to and benefit from decision-making and the continuous generation of new knowledge. Additionally, this track aims to discuss what constitutes knowledge in planning and how to deal with the unknown. With the rapid socio-economic developments, environmental challenges and the unknown impacts of the future as well as of planning decision and actions, it becomes highly important to discuss future prospects of planning theory. While discussion regarding the evolution of planning theory remains a broad topic, in this track, papers related to planning theory and adaptivity, uncertainty, resilience including the following themes are welcomed:

-          Adaptive Planning Theory

-          Resilience Theory and Planning

-          Evolution on Planning Theory and Practice

-          Links between Theory and Practice

-          Role of Planners in Society

-          Governance of the Unknown




Climate change and natural hazards affect territories and natural resources at all geographical scales.  Currently, major coastal cities are planning for sea-level rise while decision-makers are committing to new measures to adapt and mitigate.  On the other hand, forests are facing fatal wildfires, inland droughts and floods have increased and are even becoming life threatening, while ice melting in the Arctic is becoming another major concern. In this situation, planners and communities should be aware of potential impacts from natural hazards and climate change and build up preparedness and resilience at policy, institutional, and individual levels. In this sense, it becomes necessary to increase our capacities in dealing with uncertainty and the unknown.

As such, discussions on how planning could address adapting and mitigating risks and vulnerability of socio-ecological systems are necessary. Increasing the ability to withstand natural hazards, adapt to change and re-establish new socio-economic balances, improve the metabolism of urban/territorial ecosystem are highly important. In this track, we welcome contributions on new methodologies, instruments, and articles, which broaden the discourse and explore topics on adaptation and mitigation, including but not limited to: 

-          Community resilience;

-          land-use policies in the face of uncertainty;

-          energy efficiency in urban contexts;

-          energy transitions towards the use of renewable resources;

-          ecosystem services in planning;

-          water systems;

-          circular economy

-          territorial metabolism

-          disaster risk reduction and resilience




The way we plan, design and build our settlements and territorial systems has changed rapidly over the last decades. The advances in technology and the ability to have multiple and vast data available from different sources is a great opportunity for planning and planners but at the same time, data management is an enormous challenge. Still, technology can also be seen as a tool to overcome some of the challenges of uncertainty. In this age of information, massive volumes of data about cities, environment and citizens, can be found and extracted everywhere. Since these big data bear great potential for providing accurate and enhanced insights on issue at hand and at the same time improve the decision-making process, its understanding and effective application becomes a key factor for unravelling uncertainties and successfully adapting and developing towards smart and resilient cities. Additionally, the further unexplored potentials of our technological advancement and big data can open interesting discussions regarding the “unknowns” and how to deal with them. As we posed from the general theme discussion, one of the challenges of this conference is also to discuss and explore the questions related to knowledge and what constitutes knowledge in planning. How we can use technology to overcome some of the known unknowns and how to deal with the “unknown unknowns” are also important questions that can be addressed as part of this track.

This track welcomes discussions regarding better utilization of big data and technology in the planning field, current applications of these means/approaches, revealing the problems and challenges that need to be taken in consideration (overcome poor data quality, data analytics, information security etc.). Additionally, the track welcomes papers that focus on the use of technology to overcome climate change challenges as well as the following themes:

-          Technology in planning and for planning

-          Artificial intelligence in planning

-          Big Data in planning

-          Technology as a solution for climate change challenges

-          Technology and Resilience

-          Technology to foster new knowledge.




Decision makers and planning professionals design and implement strategies aiming to improve quality of life. While many planning programs treat social development and economic development as a separate set of practices, there is considerable overlap between the two fields. At the same time, perspective from other areas of planning practices (transportation, land use, real estate etc.) is required, in order to achieve the goals/better results in improving the quality of life and enhancing development.

This session emphasizes issues of particular concern to social and economic topics such as migration, housing, local and regional development, increasing disparities and social resilience. These topics are scrutinized under the prospect of uncertainty and “unknown”. Papers that examine various aspects of planning through the lens of equity, diversity, socio-economic sustainability and focus on the distinctive circumstances and concerns of planners are welcomed. What are the uncertainties that are associated with the above issues and how can they be overcome? What are the known unknowns of planning actions in terms of socio-economic resilience? What methods can be used to generate new knowledge in planning? What kind of knowledge do we need to tackle socio-economic resilience? Some of the topics that papers could focus on are:

-          Local and Regional Development

-          Disparities at different territorial scales

-          Inner- Peripheries

-          Equity in planning

-          Preserving Diversity

-          Cultural and Historical Heritage

-          Housing



This track aims at exploring how territorial politics and governance could adapt in a context of increasing uncertainties and complexity of unknowns. Discussions/debates regarding participatory planning, place-based governance, network governance and territorial governance are important issues to be tackled in planning where actors/stakeholders and their interests are highly diverse. These issues are crucial in dealing with the aspects of reducing uncertainty and most notably generating new knowledge, approaches and shaping paradigms of knowledge-making. Discussions on governance platforms that are resilient are at the core of this track. Issues that can be addressed in this track include:

-          multi-level territorial governance,

-          territorial rescaling,

-          political processes behind territorial mismatches,

-          Participatory planning and co-management tools to deal with the myriad interactions and stakeholders, etc.

-          policy integration

-          institutional design

-          Europeanization of Planning 



While the previous five tracks deal with issues pertinent to planning and governance in terms of uncertainty and unknown, this track restricts these issues in a confined geographical and socio-spatial scope of South-east Europe. This part has distinct features of planning systems, territorial governance as well as challenges related to development and climate change. South-east Europe will be hit the most by the rise of sea levels and climate change impacts. Additionally, the political situation in the Western Balkans, with most countries aspiring to join the EU and on a difficult path of transition from dictatorial regimes towards democracies, is resulting in mixed systems and further challenges of territorial governance.

As such, the absence of capacities, financial means and political attention in dealing with resilience increases the uncertainties of the future. Meanwhile, the lack of adequate data, knowledge and technology (when compared to the rest of Europe) poses an important question regarding the governance of unknown and generating of new knowledge.

Thus, this track invites all authors whose research focuses on the South-east Europe and Western Balkans to contribute with papers looking at, among others:

-          Spatial Planning and Territorial Governance

-          Resilience Policies and Approaches

-          Participatory planning

-          European Integration

-          Climate Change

The articles can be of comparative or country-specific focus.



This conference track is dedicated to papers focusing on research on the impacts of COVID-19 in spatial planning and territorial governance. The pandemics are a planning problem, too: it has impacts on planning (governance, processes, instruments), for planning (paradigms and approaches) and impacts in space. Planning plays a great role in the way our society uses space and the governance of space. Thus, we would like to invite, young academics who are conducting research on COVID-19 (or pandemics in general) and spatial planning to open a discussion regarding different dimensions of the interrelation between the two. Papers could focus on the below topics:

-          Impacts of COVID-19 on spatial planning systems

-          Impacts of COVID-19 on the way we use space

-          Impacts of COVID-19 on planning approaches

-          Impacts of COVID-19 on planning policies and design

-          Role of planning after the pandemic

The articles can be of comparative or country-specific focus.


Authors are invited to submit an abstract of maximum 300 words. Abstracts can be submitted to Abstracts must be submitted by 15 November 2020.

Authors are required to include in their abstracts submission: Authors full name(s), Affiliation(s), and the targeted track(s).

Authors will be notified about the abstract acceptance/rejection by 14 December 2020.

Please note:

  • Abstracts co-authored by a PhD student and his/her supervisor are not eligible.
  • The accepted authors are requested to confirm their participation within 10 days. After that date, their seat(s) will be offered to a person in the waiting list.


Authors of accepted abstracts are invited to submit a paper of maximum 6000 words (including references, tables and figures).

Papers should be submitted by 1st February 2021 to There is no specific template for submitting full papers, authors are free to choose their own formatting.



Projectors and computers will be provided in all presentation rooms. The computers will be able to display the common file formats (.pdf, .ppt/.pptx).

Each presentation should be about 12-15 minutes, with an additional 7-10 minutes of feedback and questions.


The conference is free of charge to participants who are Members of the AESOP YA Network (registration for the network is free on the website).


Before submitting your paper, please register as a Young Academics Member at (this can take a few days).


For attendees who are not presenting in the conference, the registration fee is 40 €. Registration form are to be published. Note that for papers with multiple authors, all authors participating in the conference need to submit a separate registration form.


As in the previous years, the track chairs and co-chairs will jointly decide to award a best paper prize among all entries to the conference that are marked by the authors to be considered.


The awarded paper, along with other runner-up papers, has the chance to be published in one of the prestigious journals in planning, European Planning Studies. Terms and criteria to apply for the Best Paper Prize are to be announced.


The Best Paper Prize is mostly selected from the top 10 papers. These papers will be invited to be published in the open access journal of the AESOP YA PlaNext-Next Generation Planning. Besides these, for all conference participants, there will be a possibility to publish with Annual Review of Territorial Governance in the Western Balkans and with Forum A+P. All of the publishing includes a peer review process as per the criteria of the individual journals.





POLIS UNIVERSITY: POLIS University, Rr. Bylis 12, Autostrada Tiranë-Durrës, Km 5 Kashar, Tirana, Albania




14th of September 2020: Launch of Call for Abstracts

15TH of November 2020: Abstract Submission; NEW DEADLINE: 01 December 2020!

15th of December 2020: Abstract Acceptance/ Rejection notification

1st of February 2021: Full paper submission