Transformative socio-spatial planning: enabling resourceful communities

The mission of spatial planning is to create a bridge between ‘what is’, the quality of the places we live in, ‘what could be’, what places can we imagine, and: ‘what should be’: how do we want to live in the future? The question what kind of places we want in the future is becoming more relevant in the context of the ‘do-it-yourself democracy’ or the participative society. We can witness the rise of active citizenship, wanting to take matters in their own hands. Thanks to the digitalization and empowerment of society citizens have become experts with access to knowledge at all times.

Transformative socio-spatial planning: enabling resourceful communities
Transformative socio-spatial planning: enabling resourceful communities

Places are arenas of varied stakeholders with different interests. Thus spatial planners have to deal with the subjective desires, opinions and motives of citizens which have gained an increased power in our democracy; the Brexit referendum is probably the most striking example of ‘the power of the people’. The rise of active citizenship can be explained by a renewed interest in community, place and ‘local identity’, the erosion of the welfare state and the privatization of public services, a re-emergence of the social economy, and tensions between ‘bottom-up’ initiatives and the changing role of the state. Active citizenship can be evoked via crises or driven by people’s own needs. It might be rooted in protests against unwanted developments such as wind parks, but also be driven by idealistic motives.

The booklet “Transformative socio-spatial planning” describes what the role of planning should be to enable citizen active citizenship. The history of spatial planning shows a shift in values from a rationalist approach, to collaborative and communicative approaches and complexity planning. The next step is to develop a transformative socio-spatial planning which can enable active citizenship and ‘resourceful’ communities, co-producing better and more sustainable places.

Resourcefulness refers to the capacity of a community to change the way they use their resources in order to become more resilient. Resourcefulness helps communities to address the urgent challenges of our time such as climate change, energy transition and increasing societal and economic inequalities. A key condition for resourcefulness is the co-production between social, economic and governmental actors. Co-production shifts the balance of power, responsibility and resources to individuals and collectives, engaged in shaping their own places. This is not a simple performance: it is a ‘dance’ between collective intentions of citizens and the rules of planning. It requires from policy-makers a value-based perspective, being community-sensitive and imaginative, and the skills to mediate between varied opinions of stakeholders.

The booklet elaborates on two key questions: 1) What is the aim of socio-spatial planning? And: 2) Why should citizens, engage in spatial transformation? It can be downloaded from the site On this site more interesting and relevant publications from planning scholars and PhDs are publicly available.

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