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Reform Fields

RF 1: politics and policies of the urban

Content: Short description

Many technically sound planning efforts have failed due to an insufficient consideration of the political climate in which they are embedded. In particular, the inability of planners to manoeuvre within political interdependencies contributes to the omnipresent gap between planning and implementation. Many existing planning education programs have primarily focused on technical aspects, excluding the political arena. Yet urban planners and managers need to be better prepared to work within challenging political situations. Urban management needs to be understood as a policy field intertwining technical, managerial and communicative competences within a logic of political acting. It is therefore crucial for urban planners to understand the political factors that influence their work and to develop skills to address the political arena in order to better steer this dimension of their work. The success of integrated approaches depends on political will, and planners need to be able to communicate with political decision-makers to generate support for their endeavours. This holds especially true for complex planning issues that involve multiple governance levels on national, regional/metropolitan and local level, often with differing political priorities.

A discussion-based seminar or lecture course is suggested that enables students to better understand how urban planning interfaces with politics, with a particular focus on the forms and dynamics of power, the influence of politics on participatory governance, and case studies which focus on the interface of planning and politics in the Global South. Interactive exercise and workshops give students the opportunity to practice practical skills, and an individual research project encourages the deep analysis of a locally relevant case study.

Please find a PDF with a detailed description of the Reform Fields and Teaching Approaches below

RF 2: Understanding complex Urban systems

Complex urban challenges need to be addressed in an integrated way. Urban planners and managers, accordingly, need to acquire new competencies which enable them to plan and implement integrated solutions that truly combine different sectoral perspectives into one common approach. This requires a general understanding of the different relevant sectors and their functional logics, as well as their inter-relations and interdependencies. However, it also requires critical and analytical skills that enable urban planners to unpack the various ways in which sectors overlap, link, and merge with other areas of concern. Complex challenges such as climate change or informality are never isolated from each other and it is often difficult to understand the “big picture”, much less the countless small ways in which they relate to each other.

The suggested curriculum provides students with the conceptual skills to unpack complex problems in general, focusing on three major “lenses” through which complex urban systems can be understood. An independent conceptual mapping project enables students to apply these lessons to their own contexts.

An intensive discussion-based course is suggested, best limited to a small number of students. The material demands well-developed independent learning and critical thinking skills.

Please find a PDF with a detailed description of the Reform Fields and Teaching Approaches below

RF 3: Managing chance processes

Integrated approaches are embedded in complex multi-disciplinary and multi-actor contexts. Hence, the successful conceptualization and implementation of integrated approaches demands new approaches that enable urban planners and managers to communicate across different sectors, to integrate different disciplines, and to facilitate the inclusion of respective actors. Planners need to substantially extend their technical competencies and acquire complementary soft skills that prepare them to perform as change managers and facilitators, steering complex processes and opening dialogue between diverse parties across different governance levels. A better understanding of change management, planning approaches/tools (e.g. integrated action planning), urban governance, stakeholder analysis, cooperation management, coordination and interface management, process design and management, project management, conflict mediation, risk management, communication, monitoring and evaluation, etc. is useful in capacity development approaches as well as curricula of higher education.

The suggested curriculum is designed to develop key skills for managing change process among the participating students, while enabling them to critically analyse the implications of the policy, programme and project work they engage with. As such, technical tools and soft skills are paired with a critical reflections on how specific solutions may directly or indirectly affect stakeholders involved into the process. This is aimed at increasing a capacity for change management in inclusive and participatory ways.

The aim is to provide students with an understanding of the principles of Project Cycle Management (PCM) and be capability of applying basic project management tools including: the Logical Framework Matrix (LFM), problem tree and objective tree analysis, stakeholder analysis, monitoring and evaluation frameworks. They should also acquire soft skills enabling the facilitation of change in participatory ways. Students are exposed to the complex dynamics of the planning process and should be able to critically reflect on the multidimensional implication of policies, programmes and projects for their different stakeholders (for instance power holders, beneficiaries, and the public).

Please find a PDF with a detailed description of the Reform Fields and Teaching Approaches below

RF 4: Co-producing Knowledge between theory and practice

If we appreciate that cities are dynamic sites of co-production, which are shaped by the rationalities and actions of a multitude of actors, privileging technical knowledge alone will not suffice to produce truly “integrated solutions” as demanded by, for instance, the New Urban Agenda. Instead we should transcend traditional hierarchies as well as the sectoralization of knowledge to seek now formats of “co-producing” urban knowledge, programmes, and policies. New transdisciplinary formats of knowledge production and dissemination are needed to absorb different approaches and languages – where the knowledge and expertise of residents, local initiatives, and civil society as a whole is brought into conversation with that of technicians, designers, scientists, politicians, and administrators.

But knowledge alone does not directly lead to real-world change, nor does it necessarily nurture the human capacity needed for implementation. In response to this, human capacity development and training institutions should integrate a “practice-orientation” that includes methods to co-produce knowledge into the heart of curricula and programmes: creating transdisciplinary approaches which break out of the comfort zone of traditional teaching environments. The collaboration with practice partners should be understood as a mutually beneficial learning partnership, in which knowledge and tools are tested and new evidence-based and practice-oriented forms of urban knowledge are co-produced. This is a suggestion for studio-based course conducted together with a local partner organization. In addition to collaborative fieldwork, students are exposed to the concept of co-production and complete a cumulative reflection exercise.

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