Putting adaptive planning into practice: A meta-analysis of current applications (2020)

Shirin Malekpour, Jens Newig. Putting adaptive planning into practice: A meta-analysis of current applications (2020). Cities Volume 106, November 2020, 102866



Adaptive planning, as opposed to the conventional ‘predict-and-act’ approach, has emerged as a paradigm to increase the resilience of our built environment and infrastructure systems. However, we have a limited understanding of the broader governance environment that can enable or hinder adaptive planning. Research is dominated by individual case studies, which limits the generalisability of findings. We conducted a meta-analysis of 40 cases of real-world application of adaptive planning globally. We assessed the extent to which those processes have adhered to key elements of an ‘ideal’ adaptive approach, and identified the enablers and barriers to implementation. Our results show that adaptive planning applications are far from ideal. The enablers and barriers identified across all cases, and tested for statistical significance, indicate that enacting adaptive planning requires dedicated governance structures that take on the coordination and brokering role, long-term investment strategies that go beyond short-term budgetary cycles, and transdisciplinary environments that challenge simplistic assumptions entrenched in disciplinary experiences. Adaptive planning also requires a redefinition of performance and success indicators, from delivering a quick fix, onto longer term benefits that can be achieved through experimentation. We conclude by presenting the makings of a meta-governance framework that can guide adaptive planning in practice.

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