Urban Planning Participation: Linking Practice and Theory
Doctoral thesis, 1998

Continuing efforts to apply, at the local level, the Agenda 21 mandate of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, in 1992, provide good illustrations of problems typical in contemporary public planning and decision-making in many European countries. The claims for participatory decision-making and the coordination of decision and action among diverse actors and stakeholders constitute challenges to established public planning systems. From a point of departure in planning practice, this thesis approaches planning theory in a search for a theoretical framework to meet these problems and challenges. A tentative framework is set up and used for the analysis of empirical findings as well as a discussion on new professional tasks and roles in urban planning. The main methods are reflections on practice, studies of literature, and case studies. The emerging discourse on a communicative approach in planning theory is described and discussed. For application in planning practice, however the question of methodology as well as the role of planners re-quires greater attention. Alternative approaches in operational research can be used to structure problems, identify decision domains and involve stakeholders in learning and consensus-building processes. However, difficulties arise when the number of issues and participants increases. Both the intentional use of innovative practice and the conscious design and use of new social settings generate opportunities; however these are seriously affected by obstacles related to different types of uncertainty and power-relations within the public planning sys-tem itself. The process of developing forms and styles for participatory decision-making, involving actors and citizens outside the public planning system, requires a parallel process directed at coordination and cross-sector learning within the public planning system. The tasks and roles of planners will change. The intentional design and use of innovative social settings guided by sensitive and creative process leaders is a feasible approach; there is a need for a specific professional competence, to facilitate and guide such learning processes. There is also an urgent need for both development work and empirical research to explore possible planning methodologies, useful forms of organisation and leadership for social change processes that involve diverse actors and stakeholders in a shared-power world.

sustainable urban development


local Agenda 21

shared-power situations

urban design and planning

reflective practice and research

strategic choice approach

uncertainty and conflicts in urban planning

communicative planning theory

participatory decision-making

tasks and roles of planners

planning methodology


Björn Malbert

Department of Urban Design and Planning

Subject Categories

Building Technologies



Doktorsavhandlingar vid Chalmers tekniska högskola. Ny serie: 1390

SACTH : stadsbyggnad, arkitektur, Chalmers tekniska högskola: 1998:1(A)

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