International Conference SRW "Spatial Planning in Flanders/bBelgium: challenges for policy, opportunities for society date:15-16 dec 2011
A reflection about the added value of future scenarios for spatial planning departs from two different perspectives: a ‘supply’ perspective that builds an argument from generic characteristics of the scenario methodology as it is practiced in policy and business strategy; and a ‘demand’ perspective that starts from a conception of how (spatial) planning works and what it needs in terms of knowledge and other resources (for instance, trust amongst stakeholders).
The supply perspective relies on a number of typologies that have been developed to structure the very varied field of scenario-based interventions. It transpires that even fairly sophisticated typologies are not able to easily accommodate some of the more complex efforts (such as the global emission scenarios that have been performed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) that have been executed in this area.
The demand-side perspective acknowledges that policy-making in itself is malleable concept that can be supported by different epistemologies. And these epistemologies set a framework for the role that foresight methods can possibly play in policy. In this paper a distinction is made between two policy conceptions that have been widely recognised in the spatial planning literature: a ‘technocratic’ and a ‘sociocratic’ approach (alternatively also labelled as the ‘speaking truth to power’ and the ‘arena’ perspective). It is clear that both conceptions are associated with different sets of expectations as regards scenario-based interventions. This will expanded with a third, constructionist conception that sees policy as a continuous effort to come to terms with ‘wicked problems’. This brings with it a particular mode of deploying scenarios, namely as flexible canvases for a process of ‘learning for action’. This conceptual move is reflected in various strands of post-modern spatial planning theory.
Studying these two perspectives learns that it is difficult to provide an unequivocal answer to the question what the added value of scenarios is to spatial planning. The analysis points to the limitations of an ‘objectivist’ approach which bestows a ‘status aparte’ to the scenario methodology and pleads for a ‘reflective practitionership that sees the relationship between the tool and its application domain as internal and emergent, not external and causal. The paper closes with some recommendations for the deployment of future scenarios in the development of a new encompassing Spatial Policy Plan for Flanders.