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
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.