Omnibus: Becoming a Good Sustainability Planning Practitioner

4th October 2010

Session 4: 4.15 - 5.00

Reflections on What We Are Learning


In this session we will reflect on what we are learning and how it relates to getting the Group Assignment underway. Below is a list of the group assignments and some notes that I wrote up after this session last year to summarize key points for you to consider in undertaking your Group Assignment. These notes should be read in conjunction with details in the Assignments and Group Assignment.

Group Assignments (26 people have been assigned to their first choice and 8 to their second; there are 4 groups of six people and two groups of five people)

Metro: Yaheli, Polly, Meredith, Kevin, Kerri, Tamara Agreement

Vancouver: William, Thomas B., Maria, Andrew, Allison, Lindsay N. Agreement

DTES: Sandra, Thomas D., Maysa, LindsayB., Debra, Adam Agreement

UBC: Jason, Yazmin, Daniel, Ryan, Juliet Agreement

S2S: John, Erica, Jessie, Devon, Lauren, Sarah Agreement

Coquitlam-Buntzen: Erik, Ruth, Evan, Tim, Jennifer Agreement


Analysis of a Planning Process

As stated in the assignment, the goal is to analyze an ongoing planning process in terms of the framework developed in the course. Put as a question it can be expressed as: What do we learn from the chosen case about the practice of sustainability planning?

Please keep in mind that you are preparing a report and a presentation that will allow everyone else in the class to learn from your case analysis.

Note that the goal is to analyse. Whenever you decide to go beyond analysis to assess, evaluate or critique then you need two further ingredients:

  1. a set of defined criteria that provide justifiable normative measures that you employ in making the assessment, evaluation or critique; and
  2. an appropriate quantity and quality of data that you can use in drawing defensible conclusions about how well each of the criteria are met.

Within the opportunities and constraints of the present assignment you can certainly find sufficient data to generate an analysis but it will likely be much more difficult to go on to generate defensible assessments, evaluations or critiques except on a highly selective or preliminary basis. It is possible that you will find published studies that have already carried out assessments or evaluations or critiques. If you decide to use these then you will need to consider to what extent you believe they are rigorous and defencible in the conclusions they reach.

I have not obtained a UBC ethics approval for you to be able to interview people and quote them in making assessments, evaluations or critiques. It would be asking too much of you to go this far in this course.

You are, however, able to contact knowledgeable people to obtain basic information that is available to anyone. Your project is in fact a useful test of whether information about the case study planning process is readily available to any member of the public, a critically important issue.

Conceptual and Analytical Framework

To undertake an analysis you need to create a conceptual and analytical framework. The conceptual framework lays out the way you are choosing to look at the subject of study including key concepts and terms. This usually involves referencing the literature that you are drawing on for this. The analytical framework builds on this more specifically to lay out the questions you will address and how you will address them in your analysis; again, referencing relevant literature.

In this assignment you are being asked to use the concepts and ideas examined in this course to create an analytical framework. More specifically to address the general question:

What do we learn from the chosen case about the practice of sustainability planning?

and to do so by considering the topics and issues we have been and will be discussing in the course. Thus to date, these would include the following:

In the coming classes we will be adding to and amplifying these questions. For example next time, we will add consideration of indicators, modeling and standards; and in the classes after that specific planning approaches such as new urbanism and integrated resources management. You will thus need to elaborate your analytical framework as we progress. You should also feel free to add to your framework in ways that interest you.

Each Group will need to think about how best to shape and organize its conceptual and analytical framework in ways appropriate to (a) your particular planning process; and (b) the choices you make about how you want to analyze it.

Within the opportunities and constraints you face, you should include your thoughts on the extent to which the case planning process includes ingredients necessary to move from weaker to stronger forms of sustainability.

Agreements for Carrying Out Group Case Study

I have posted some ideas and references to assist you in drafting a group agreement for carrying out this assignment. Please note that your agreements should be posted on the web site that you establish for your case by October 13th.