Preparing for disruptions: A diagnostic strategic planning intervention for sustainable development (2017)

Malekpour, S., Brown, R. R., de Haan, F. J., & Wong, T. H. F. (2017). Preparing for disruptions: A diagnostic strategic planning intervention for sustainable development. Cities, 63, 58–69. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.cities.2016.12.016

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264275116301299

Despite the emphasis on sustainable development in some of the contemporary planning and policy rhetoric, we face an implementation deficit in practice. The impediments to the widespread adoption and successful implementation of sustainable infrastructure in cities’ critical sectors—such as water, energy or transport—are varied and complex. Although the scholarship has made some attempts to understand and categorize those impediments, not much has been said about how to identify them in a specific practical context. This study proposes a model for a diagnostic intervention in the ongoing process of strategic infrastructure planning, as a way of revealing context-specific impediments. The diagnostic intervention incorporates an explicit and reflexive consideration of short-term barriers and long-term disruptors into the strategic planning process, and assists with drafting the required coping strategies. The intervention has been tested in water infrastructure planning for one of the world’s largest urban renewal areas in Melbourne, Australia. This trial application provided promising outcomes for addressing the implementation deficit of sustainable development: it created a platform for various stakeholder groups to engage in explicit discussions on their confronted problems, which often have trans-organizational causes and impacts; it enabled reflexivity within the ongoing planning process; and, it helped to consider a large portfolio of future uncertainties to provide an enabling condition for more robust decisions to be made. Moreover, the trialed intervention provided empirical evidence in support of the scholarly discourse which contends that sustainable infrastructure delivery is not only about the development of technical solutions, but is also about the development of processes and tools that support the widespread adoption and successful implementation of those solutions in the face of wide-ranging impediments.

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