November 8 marks World Town Planning Day, an annual event recognizing the role of planning in creating livable communities around the globe.
By virtue of our small and highly connected population, Yukoners have a close proximity to planning and decision-making. The Peel watershed, Dawson region, Carcross area, Whitehorse waterfront and reconstruction of F.H. Collins Secondary are but a few of the many recent subjects of planning in our territory. A quick scan of the local papers from any given week will uncover at least a dozen opportunities to participate in planning.
This proximity to planning and apparent abundance of opportunity to participate can be a double-edged sword. Citizens submit their comments, attend the open houses, and await the final result. Sometimes disappointment, even cynicism, sets in when their desired outcome fails to materialize. At other times, they’re disheartened to see plans that they do support only partly implemented. They start to expect less of planners, decision makers, and themselves as participants.
In short, citizens struggle to keep the possibility in planning.
Professional planners understand that planning is more than a mere means to the all-important end: the plan. Plans may change in response to unforeseen events, but planning creates a foundation of visioning, goal setting, dialogue, and problem solving that prevails despite changing circumstances. At its very best, planning is as much about process as product.
Planners are the stewards of that process, empowering others and ensuring that the full chorus of opinion, concern, and hope that resides in a community is given voice. This task can be thankless at times. Planners may become the target of stakeholders displeased with results. The financial and human resources available can fall far short of the aspirations of the groups planners serve. The compromises planners seek can offend passionate viewpoints.
Amidst these challenges, even planners sometimes struggle to keep the possibility in planning.
And yet, possibility is the very lifeblood of brighter futures and more livable communities. Possibility counteracts the downward spiral of defeatism about what is with enthusiastic enrollment in what could be. Many of our most cherished community attributes and spaces originated with possibility. Planning without possibility isn’t really planning at all.
So how do we put the possibility back into planning? Perhaps it begins with an awareness that possibility resides first and foremost in us. Each time we surrender old prejudices, contribute without expectation of leverage, or take ourselves a little less seriously and others a little more, we create new frameworks of possibility in planning. Even subtle shifts on the part of individual planners and participants have the power to propel us collectively into a richer dialogue and view of the future.
In recognition of World Town Planning Day, we are inviting all professional and “honorary” planners and members of the public to an evening of presentations and discussion on the theme of “Putting the Possibility Back into Planning.” Please join us this Wednesday, Nov. 6 from 7:30-9 pm at Baked Cafe.
Jane Koepke, board member
Planning Institute of British Columbia Yukon Chapter