Our cities are transforming, and so is the role of planners in the midst of this transformation.
Last month, I hosted a conversation at the Canadian Association of Planning Students annual conference about transformations, to give them an opportunity to dig into what they know and see. Here’s what we found.
We are transforming into organizers. We think of planning as a linear, mechanistic activity but cities don’t work that way. What’s coming is a new social habitat, so we played with this idea using a World Cafe, using these new operating principles:
- Create places for you and others to experiment
- Know and trust that the transformation never ends – it’s a never-ending quest
- Cities will forever learn and adapt, and they will only learn and grow as much as we – the component parts – learn and grow
- Choose to swim, rather than float
So here’s what the students noticed.
There’s great stuff underway in our cities and we are transforming into cities that are about people. We are paying more attention to public spaces, to diversity, to our cultures. We celebrate with food and festivals. There is a shift underway, where we share more. Technology and social media are changing how we look at our cities and planners. Everything is more visible.
And we face significant challenges.
When we resist change, we are at our most vulnerable. We are lured by convenience. Small thinking and lack of vision make us vulnerable. We feel the pressure to do it “right,” yet it is not possible to know what is coming. We grapple with the unknown. The choices we make matter. The leadership we create and support matters.
There is a way through.
Look at the whole. Grasp a vision and keep it in mind. It’s not about sacrifice, its about choice, and choosing to be informed and to inform. It’s about facilitating understanding, so that we can hold and consider new possibilities. Its about respecting and honouring roles and responsibilities, but also challenging them to see and pursue new possibilities. It’s about improvement.
We have no idea what we are transforming into. We just know that its underway. And we can transform into what works for us, or what does not. The only way we’ll get what we want is if we choose to engage with the transformation.
What transformations are taking place that you wish to nourish?
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This post is a wee bit of the book I am working on, while I am working on it. Here are some plot helpers of Nest City – The Human Drive to Thrive in Cities:
- My decision to share the book while I am working on it
- The overall structure of Nest City’s three parts
- A summary of Part 1 – City Patterns, Concluding City Patterns
- A summary of Part 2 – Organizing for Emergence, Focus, learn and Emerge
- The plot for Part 3 – City Nestworks