Stirring Titles

I am cleaning my office and noticing the magazines sitting here before I put them away.  The titles, from Plan Canada and AACIP Planning Journals in the last several months, cause a stir in me…

  • Planners’ perspectives on art and culture
  • Rethinking infrastructure: going green
  • Planning for the homeless
  • Aging in place
  • Planning for changing demographics
  • Okotoks: staying within its limits
  • Welcoming communities: planning for diverse populations
  • Making it work: making it last; making it home
  • Food security: a growing concern
  • Planning without a net: the international experience
  • Looking to our past to plan our future

The stir?

Planners’ work covers a range of questions and matters that are deliberated widely in our communities – art, infrastructure, homeless, aging, sustainability, cultural diversity, food – and all of this on the home and international fronts.  And then there is the conversation about how to accomplish what we are aiming for.

But who is the “we”?  The perspectives offered are about how planners contribute to these questions, and these perspectives are offered to planners.  It is tempting to drift toward an assumption that it is the planners who are going to make the difference and that others get in the way.  What, however, if the “we” is planners along with the various stakeholders in our communities.  What if our technical expertise is not where our power of influence lies?

This spring I had an opportunity to run APPI’s Professional Practitioners Course with Gary Buchanan, an alternative written examination format for prospective professional planners where candidates demonstrate their mastery through conversation and writing.  The surprise at this particular gathering was the responses of planners in response to a question about the scope of planning today.  The candidates did not reveal technical aspects, but rather interpersonal.  To be able to do our jobs well these days, we need to be good communicators, negotiators, conflict resolvers, facilitators, coaches, and synthesizers.  All this with a bold courage to take leadership roles in unconventional ways.

Reflecting then on the titles above, I recognize the value of planners.  We offer technical skills to make contributions to our communities’ dreams.  Our value is no longer just  conventional technical skills.  Our value is in cultivating the conditions for all the players and stakeholders involved in these complex issues to clearly articulate where they are going, why and how they will get there.

From time to time we’ll employ our technical know-how, but these are not front-seat skills by default any longer.  Not if we want to make a difference.

2 thoughts on “Stirring Titles”

  1. Beth,

    While reading this blog,I thought…she is so very right! I was reading the titles and thinking, yes, I do that but not everyday. I rely on the skills “we” talked about at the Professional Practitioners Course to get through a day here at the RM. The idea that conversation can solve almost any problem. At the very least, provide some light. What I sometimes think – Planners are quite afraid to let go of the notion that every Planner is technical and that skill defines our profession, well as you know – it doesn’t.

    What I realized early on is that my technical skills alone will not make me an essential Planner, it’s how I use the rest of my skill set in conjunction with those technical skills that will help me be a better, more responsible Planner.

    Great blog!

    1. I would agree, Jamie – you are one of the people who thinks quite a bit about HOW you get your work done. It is as important as WHAT you do. I sense that this is also because you connect to WHY you do what you do, which is an important part of your professional practice.

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