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Contemporary Planning Theory: The Shift to Inclusion Term Paper

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Updated: Apr 15th, 2019

City planners are guided by the principle of non discrimination in their policy formulation and planning endeavors. In their efforts, they endeavor to provide level play ground on which equal opportunities are availed or awarded to individuals in society. The local agencies that plan for society focus on the general welfare of the whole society. Although they may consider the interests of different community groups, the planners harmonize all into one plan that is supposed to serve all.

One of the key contentions Davidoff raised against this kind of approach is that, non discrimination does not negate need for equity. Davidoff believed that the future of society was of urban nature. In the urban society, only planners would help towards equity in society. However, the movement towards equity based planning would require planning moving from notion of mere tacticians to embrace value seeking schemas or operations[1].

Value based planning involves looking into the future and appropriating current plans to befit or ensure better living conditions in that future. Equitable treatment is different from equality based treatment. Equity requires that we go beyond treating all elements or people equally to consider the element of fairness.

According to Davidoff, different sections of people in a society have different particular needs. These needs cannot be fully taken care of if one plan is adopted for all. Therefore, he advocated for the development of plans to cater for the special needs of each group. He observed that the upper class members of society had the financial resources to literary buy or force towards their interests.

The wealthy either use their economic muscle to find their way into the planning boards or to influence the planners. In actual sense, the planners hail from the upper class or middle class and may not fully appreciate the concerns of the lower class member.

Politics is about interests thus politicians or local politics is ideally expected to champion for local causes. However, as Davidoff points out, local politics is generally compromised and cannot adequately champion the interests of the weak[2].

Given politics has failed in providing a good participatory platform that would encourage pluralistic planning, hope turns to the different interest groups e.g. human rights activists in community. These groups have great potential of encouraging individual citizen’s participation in planning. The involvement of the wider community in planning makes planning more comprehensive than what planning commissions can achieve[3].

According to Davidoff, professional planners who act as technicians have not helped the situation. This is because they develop ways of sustaining the status quo rather than channeling efforts towards more viable socio-economic conditions for future generations[4]. To champion for the interests of the weak and helpless poor people, Davidoff suggested that different planners become their advocates[5].

Individual planners should produce plans that represent the views of the groups they represent. Once each planner produces his or her plan, a local planning commission weighs the different plans and, based on their strengths, maps out the most effective plan.

According to Davidoff, such a plan arrived at due to considering competing views presented by planners representing the interest groups, is more comprehensive than one done abstractly by officers in their offices[6]. Therefore, representation and advocacy is a big plus towards developing good plans.

For planners to contribute more meaningfully towards a pluralistic planning process, Davidoff recommends that the scope of planners’ education be broadened. The broadened scope of education is to enable planners learn how to play the coordination role demanded of them in a pluralistic planning process[7]. The kind of education the planners get should reflect the diversity in the organization.

Rahder in her article articulates how a participative approach to planning can help improve livelihoods of individuals. In tandem with Davidoff’s recommended approach to planning, Rahder presents a project that focused on helping a particular interest group access services.

Rahder points out that participative planning is the way to go and must incorporate both social and physical issues in to one composite plan[8]. Advocacy planning no longer merely focuses on representation of divergent views but providing a link through which differences in community can be addressed[9]. The planning process has to “acknowledge and celebrate differences”[10].

Giving the example of the four shelter project, Rahder illustrates how participative program can be engaged and the benefits that accrue from the same. Just like Davidoff suggested or recommended, the planers in the participatory model involved in the project required more than just technical knowledge.

The project team had to reflect the diversity and experiences of the women they had to work with[11]. This was important so as to facilitate proper understanding of the dynamics informing their situation. Due to the nature of the work, training was an essential part of the whole consultative exercise[12].

Umemeto and Igarashi discuss the idea of deliberative or communicative planning. Deliberative or communicative planning is based on the idea that proper communication based on respect for each other and engagement of community in discourse on plan issues leads to better plans[13].

The approach is further pegged on the belief that exchange of ideas is instrumental towards better understanding of issues that inform planning. Apart from dialogue helping towards better understanding of issues, it also helps individuals to transcend their relativist or selfish positions or ideas on planning[14].

The idea of communicative planning or deliberative planning correctly captures Davidoff’s thoughts about planning. Planning should capture the real needs of all people rather than serving selfish ends. It is only through engagement in a form of dialogue or exchange that community is enabled to participate. How to engage community so as to respond adequately and realistically to each group’s interests or needs is the big challenge.

As a drawing line, ethnicity plays an important role in framing pluralism planning dialogue. Ethnicity is a good consideration when theorizing about deliberative planning because it plays an important role in defining society. People are generally grouped and even associate based on some form of ethnicity[15].

Further, even within ethnic spheres, there are variations that have to be put into consideration. Despite the acknowledgement of differences, effort has to be made to ensure neutrality and mutual respect is exercised by all participating in the deliberative process. Openness and clear communication are important for success of the process[16].

Deliberative planning is worthwhile but as the case of foreigner’s assembly at Kawasaki in Japan shows, more care has to be taken[17]. Just as Davidoff related about the inability of politicians to represent their people properly, due to power games and the might having their way, the deliberative planning process is often compromised by behind the scenes power games.

Before starting a deliberative process, therefore, it is important that all members are well prepared for the same. The socio-ethnic powers likely to affect the process have to be ironed out[18]. Further, political and structural issues have to be looked into to ensure the institutions and politicians do not scuttle the deliberation process[19].

Despite the challenges or pitfalls of deliberative or communicative planning, the prospects for its application in the future are high. In tandem with Davidoff’s recommendations, proper preparations are critical to the success of any participatory or inclusive approach to planning.

From the case study, Umemoto and Igarashi established that the benefits of a deliberative process are substantial[20]. The process critically helps towards consensus building among stakeholders. Further, it also helps reawaken the otherwise disfranchised individuals, to the reality that their views or opinions are important and are worthy voicing. However, for the efficacy of the deliberative processes to be improved, more concern has to go towards appreciating and improving its heuristic structure[21].

In concluding remarks, the two scholars acknowledge that theorists have to be aware of contextual limitations to their perceptions. This call parallels Davidoff’s call for broadening the knowledge of planners or planning theorists. It is only through broad knowledge acquisitions that planners will be able to respond to different contexts appropriately.


Davidoff, Paul. “Advocacy and Pluralism in Planning” Journal of the American Institute of Planners31 (1965): 331-432

Rahder, Loevinger, Barbara. “Victims No Longer: Participatory Planning with a Diversity of Women at Risk of Abuse”. Journal of Planning Education and Research 18 (1999): 221- 230

Umemoto, Karen, and Igarashi, Hiroki. “Deliberative Planning in a Multicultural Milieu.” Journal of Planning Education and Research29 (2009): 39- 49


  1. . Paul, Davidoff. “Advocacy and Pluralism in Planning” Journal of the American Institute of Planners (1965): 424
  2. . Ibid., p. 426
  3. . Ibid., p. 427
  4. . Ibid., p.430
  5. . Ibid., p. 426
  6. . Ibid., p. 423
  7. . Ibid., p. 431
  8. . Barbara Loevinger Rahder. “Victims No Longer: Participatory Planning with a Diversity of Women at Risk of Abuse.” Journal of Planning Education and Research18 (1999): 222
  9. Ibid., p. 223
  10. Idem
  11. Ibid., p. 225
  12. . Ibid., p. 229
  13. . Karen, Umemoto and Igarashi, Hiroki. “Deliberative Planning in a Multicultural Milieu”. Journal of Planning Education and Research29 (2009):39
  14. . Idem
  15. . Ibid., p. 40
  16. . Ibid., p. 41
  17. . Ibid., p. 43
  18. . Ibid., p.45
  19. . Ibid., p. 47
  20. . Ibid., p. 49
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