(FYI: New Commons Academy will be hosting a Resilience Planning course for Planners (and others) on June 11th with Resilient Partnership founder Larry Quick and myself presenting. Please spread the word. But,I digress:)
I believe this is THE critical point that we’ve been missing. Everything from our zoning ordinances to our environmental regulations (though all created with good intentions) have mostly served to stifle creativity. The planning done in most communities today fails to see the community as a system at all, let alone a creative complex system. This has got to end now!We live in a time major transitions. At the global scale, we are witnessing conditions that are now and will continue to impact every nation, community and individual on the planet.
Rising sea level, global warming, Peak Oil are some of the broader issues that directly relate to drastic increases in the prices of fuel, food, and insurance that have the potential to completely alter our current economic systems. These conditions bring with them major environmental and health impacts. They also provide new opportunities that we haven’t even thought about yet (i.e. alternative energy sources/technology, new economies). But in order to deal with these and many other immediate and emergent conditions, communities and organizations must possess an understanding of those conditions, capabilities and the networks at play, not only at their scale of operation but at multiple scales above and below them. This level of understanding can only come from a process that meaningfully engages key stakeholders in a whole systems dialogue that embraces the complexity and diversity of the community or organization. It is through this engagement that stakeholders become not just participants but champions and custodians of the projects and initiatives identified during the process.
Just like a ‘good’ engineer must fully understand the conditions within which she is designing, planners must likewise understand the conditions, resources and capabilities of the place for which they are planning, at multiple scales. Planners are the designers/engineers of places. Like the good site engineer goes through a thorough analysis of the conditions of a given site, the planner must do an even more in depth analysis before ever even considering development of a plan. Unfortunately, most planning today is very reactionary based upon past events and compartmentalized data. The thinking being used to solve the major problems of the day is the very same thinking that created most of them.
Resilience means the ability to withstand or recover readily from difficult conditions. We use the term because we believe it best describes what we are aspiring to create: places and organizations that are resilient. Most of the planners today are trying to achieve this goal of resilience but they lack the processes required to fully understand (or at least more fully understand) the conditions and capabilities at multiple scales that affect the complex adaptive system that they call their community. Traditional visioning exercises and community charrettes are tools that, as currently utilized, fall drastically short of reaching the level of understanding required to plan for resilience.
As already stated, this is a critical point in our history. Communities and organizations that best understand the complexities inherent in the conditions that are unfolding before them will be the ones most likely to survive and thrive in the years ahead. Those that do not can’t possibly react fast enough or with the informed decisions necessary to avoid massive disruptions. A new way of thinking is required. A new process of planning is needed. Planners of the 21st century must strive to be the conveners and facilitators of change. They must work to break down the barriers to creativity that they and their predecessors created.
I’m excited by the work we are doing as part of the Resilience Partnership. Our new website www.ResilientFutures.org will be launched later this week. This is an international network of practitioners that embrace whole systems thinking and help facilitate this thinking in cities, towns, companies and organizations recognizing that a multiple-bottom line, multi scale approach is imperative.
Did I mention that New Commons Academy will be hosting a Resilience Planning course for Planners (and others) on June 11th with Resilient Partnership founder Larry Quick and myself presenting. Please spread the word.