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Planning can be said to be the art, science and craft of shaping places and spaces for the common good.
You can’t take my word for it. But that is the best working definition I can come up with when I consider the state of the art in progressive planning research and practice. In the absence of any authoritative definition, one should strive for most compelling working definitions. This can help shape both our actions and reflections.
The late Sir Peter Hall himself, a landmark figure in the field of town and country planning, struggled to provide a very precise definition of the profession and discipline (see the landmark textbook ‘Urban and Regional Planning’ by Peter Hall and Mark Tewdwr-Jones).
Such is the predicament of the spatial planning field: to require both great specialisation and a trained generalist eye to identify patterns and suggest specific practical interventions where all that might appear to untrained observers is messy, intractable and unplanned.
As regards the state of the art in both sub-domain specialisations and generalist expertise, three international networks stand out:
1) The AESOP network – Association of European Schools of Planning, and the Young Academics network
2) ISOCARP – the International Society of City and Regional Planners, mainly comprising professionals
3) The Regional Studies Association, an international community of researchers in urban and regional planning.
Probably the best in the world
There are dozens of blogs out there that deal with urban affairs, placemaking, and spatial planning in various degree. This comprehensive list provides a solid overview. All of them are great and provide various outlets for sharing research-based and practical insight.
But probably the most progressive and engaging one is the blog of the AESOP Young Academics network.
It goes without saying that I am biased. I was blessed to serve as editor-in-chief for about 3 years, and wrote these varied 30+ contributions. Serving as editor and being a regular author have shaped much of my current work and the way I think. Collaborating with the YA Coordination Team and learning to communicate research-based insight differently piqued my interest for collaboration in town planning and the built environment.
The AESOP YA network is a growing, global community of early-career researchers supported by both senior academics and practitioners. As a place for mutual learning, dialogue and participation, age and experience and seniority matter less than the willingness to share insight and good practice about all things spatial- and planning-related.
The history of the wider AESOP community, furthermore, has storytelling at its core. The network intentionally bears the name of Ancient Greek storyteller Aesop. As Klaus R. Kunzmann, one of the founding members of the network, wrote in 2012:
Clearly, not all narratives are fictional, and the facts of history are in fact narratives in continuous becoming and rewriting. Planning, after all, is an active, living part of history, particularly through its inherent power to (re-)shape places for current and future generations of humans and other living beings. Places and narratives shape each other continuously over time.
Share your work to shape planning education, research and best practice
So, the next time you want to blog or share your work in an impactful way, do send through your pieces to the blog of the AESOP Young Academics’ network, or get in touch with them directly at email@example.com.