Omnibus: Becoming a Good Sustainability Planning Practitioner

4th October 2010

Session 2: 2.25 - 3.10

Introduction to Planning Models - Processes and Procedural Methods


In the second session we will focus on the ways in which people are involved in planning processes, contrasting how models suggest planners and stakeholders should be involved and how they are involved in practice and the procedural methods employed. We will build on the ideas presented in the Boothroyd, Trousdale and Compass readings for today, as well as some additions indicated below.

The relative emphasis on "process" versus "substance" in planning continues to be highly controversial as you will likely already be exploring in the planning theory course. In broad terms public planning in North America has gone from an earlier history of being largely about technical and substantive issues, often addressed in isolation by planners and others with expertise, to increasingly from the 1960s onwards being about both values and science (knowledge), and the involvement of planners with a wide diversity of stakeholders with relevant expertises and interests. At various points in time and on particular issues, planning models have swung betwixt and between differing emphases on process and substance. As evidenced in my Perspectives statement and elaborated in my other writings, my own emphasis, while contingent on the circumstances, is generally both strong on process and substance (e.g. see my chapter on Sustainability Governance referenced last week). You will find differing shadings of emphasis among the SCARP faculty even though the School subscribes to a vision of "sustainability through the democratization of planning". You need to begin developing your own contingent views on the critical issues relating to when and how to give greater emphasis to the substance than the process of planning.

As already indicated process skills are now recognised as being fundamental competencies of the planning practitioner. Much of a planners time is spent in working with groups, sometimes small in number, other times large and in the hundreds, and involving diverse participants in terms of their interests and expertises. The planner may be just one participant but often is a facilitator, if not explicitly then in practice, and occasionally is a mediator. While all planners need basic public involvement and facilitation skills, some specialize in citizen engagement, facilitation and mediation and develop careers focused on this. Among the organizations that have been established to serve the needs of these practitioners, the following are significant International Association of Public Participation (IAP2), International Association of Facilitators (IAF) and the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR). Take a look at their web sites and note that they organize themselves in ways similar to the other planning related professional organizations that we have examined and provide members with resources. Note what they say about their core values and ethics (i.e. IAP2, IAF, ACR).

IAP2 has built on Sherry Arnstein's seminal article entitled A Ladder of Citizen Participation (1969) to provide a Spectrum and a Tool Box for public participation. If you have not yet read Arnstein's article, you should do so now; the ideas in it are still widely used in planning, although often inappropriately. Explore the IAP2 Spectrum and Tool Box tables to get an idea of the range and diversity of methods and techniques that can be employed along with their pros and cons at various places within a planning model.

Think about the questions on the agenda as you do the preparatory reading.



Arnstein, S. R. 1969. A Ladder of Citizen Participation. Journal of American Institute of Planners. 35. 4 pp. 216-224.

IAP2 Core Values for Public Participation

IAF Mission, Values and Vision

ACR Ethical Standards of Professional Responsibility

IAP2 Spectrum of Public Participation.

IAP2 Public Participation Toolbox


  1. We will begin by listening to Engaging Citizens in Governance, AmericaSpeaks (DVD 8 minutes)
  2. What are the pros and cons of relatively greater emphasis on process vs substance in planning?
  3. How do you decide where to locate yourself on the ladder or spectrum in making choices about the participatory tools to use in a planning process?
  4. What is the role of facilitation in public participatory processes? When does mediation become necessary?