Justifications for Planning

Why do we plan? And who plans?

Planning is usually conflated with collective action, collective choice, communication, centralisation and coordination. One of the central justifications for planning is to provide for public goods and to correct for externalities. I aim to show that these conflations and justifications are not only wrong. They provide neither a positive nor a normative framework for understanding plans and planning. Plans need account for decision situations that are fluid, uncertain, ambiguous and where decision-making authorities are fractured and have to be negotiated. The point of planning is to lay bare these complexities (to some extent) and allow us to make better decisions.

The professional practise of planning is not limited to planners employed in the public sector. But planning is an interaction that happens in a multi-organisational enviornment, where actors enter, leave and morph, and have different agendas and power relations. Such nuanced view of planning requires us to go beyond the conventional justificaitons of planning and to rethink the roles of planners.


. Radical Uncertainty: Scenario planning for futures. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 2015.

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. Persons, Polities and Planning. Planning Theory, 2014.

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. Principles of Planning for Economists. Oxford Handbook of Urban Economics and Planning, 2011.

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. Robust Plans and Contingent Plans: Scenario Planning for an Uncertain World. Journal of the American Planning Association, 2011.

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. In What Circumstances Should Plans Be Public?. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 2009.

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