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Thread: Catching the vision: why become a planner?

  1. #1
    Jun 2006
    Island-State Republic of Singapore

    Catching the vision: why become a planner?

    A small basic question: Have planners lost the vision for planning? Or is it still there in a variant form - so as to speak?

    I posed that because it seems like many planners have are caught up in bureacractic red tape and onerous processes that they just burn out and leave the profession altogether.

    Of course to answer that requires a sub-question answered: what is the vision for planning? To work for the public good?

  2. #2
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
    Jan 2005
    Hang on Sloopy...land
    I don't think that planners have lost the vision, but as the years go on, a more realistic view of how the system works and what it takes to get something actually accomplished becomes more evident.

    Although I agree that a grand vision is sometimes still looked at, more often the realistic, non-problematic view, is much easier to create.

    And for your sub-question, I think that working for the public good is a component, but much has to do with creating a better environment, place, community, or region.
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  3. #3
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
    Aug 2005
    in a meeting

    the pendulum never stays in the middle unless the clock needs winding

    I think sometimes we place too much pressure on "making a difference" in this profession. We spend a lot of academic time reading Stern, Robert Moses and others (not a bad thing) and we want to emulate them. Due to the current state in government, due in part to many years of corruption by those that came before us and some bad decision making in "urban renewal", we have had to re-define what we do and how we make a difference because there is a lack of respect and trust for government employees.

    It's not accepting mediocrity, it's planting seeds of good planning ideas that people run with and watching them work, it's accepting that sometimes that great idea isn't going to fly for reasons you may not be privy to, and there may have to be changing direction/approach/methods or downscaling the idea into baby steps - we have to accept that the "no small plan", "the great and masterful plan" sometimes has to be a series of little plans that are easily digestible, not too radical all at once and involve just a little bitty taking

    I've seen it in here at times, instead of wide-eyed youthful enthusiasm, some times we are filled with righteousness about biking to work, affordable housing, pedestrian scaled developments and we have become zealous and almost religious in a crusade to fight sprawl. We have to stop doing this to ourselves or, you bet, we will burn out and go open a tea shop somewhere and read Ulysses - we just need to relax and realize we are here to serve and not pontificate

    I look at the last 20 years of doing this as: I am here to help people make decisions they feel comfortable with about their town through active listening and responding in kind - it's very simple

    can you tell I just sent my comp plan to the printer?

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
    Nov 2002
    Yeah, I think we are still in the backlash against big urban-renewal plans that have crashed and burned. The flip side to a more democratic planning process is that you don't have many planners standing on hills espousing their grand visions anymore.

  5. #5
    Jul 2007
    Tullinge Sweden

    Catching - or keeping - the vision?

    Presumably there are many inter-twined reasons why individuals become planners or stay in the planning profession. One of the must have to do with what we conceive planning to be, another with what our individual expectations are, compared to what we find when we get there.

    I am very fortunate to have worked in wildly different circumstances over a period of immense technical change. CAD and GIS in one project, using chalk on slate in the next. For those wondering what difference they can make, or considering chucking the whole thing, try a couple of months in a developing country - it can throw all your ideas and ideals for a real loop - and you almost certainly will make a difference to someone, at least at the personal level.

    I struggle with old-style "professional planners" who don't believe ordinary people have anything worth contributing; who work only for producing the plan as product and could care less whether anyone follows it or not. In such situations, winning converts to the idea of participatory planning as a process, in which some community level activities get underway even before the plan (as a vision and strategy statement) gets completed, is immensely thrilling. To see stuck up arrogance (covering for ignorant insecurity) towards citizens change to the excitement of planning WITH people and FOR people is one of the most rewarding things I know.

    But as Luckless Pedestrian seems to be saying accepting your role as a facilitator of others' dreams rather than as the prophet who knows how to control the future is a pre-requisite.

    Without a vision the people perish. But that doesn't mean the vision has to stay the same!

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