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“Collaborative Planning” and “Neopragmatism”: A comparison of two approaches to community change

“Collaborative Planning” and “Neopragmatism”: A comparison of two approaches to community change



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Published by Brian A. Salmons
References for paper written for course "Organizing for Community Change", GPIDEA Community Development Master's Degree Program, Spring 2007.
References for paper written for course "Organizing for Community Change", GPIDEA Community Development Master's Degree Program, Spring 2007.

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Published by: Brian A. Salmons on Mar 16, 2009
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“Collaborative Planning” and “Neopragmatism”:A comparison of two approachesto community change.
B. SalmonsPaper 2 for:CD505X "Community Development II"Dr. T. BorichSpring 2007Iowa State University
“Nothing is more dangerous than an idea,when you only have one idea.”
Émile-Auguste Chartier, (1868-1951)In this paper, I will compare two contemporary approaches to facilitating communitychange through planning processes. Both approaches draw on the idea of 
, that knowledge and meaning are constructed in the social act of communicating. Thefirst approach,
collaborative planning 
, was developed by Canadian-British theorist Patsy Healeymost fully in her book of that title (1997). Collaborative planning draws most notably upon thework of the postmodernist philosopher Jürgen Habermas and sociologist Anthony Giddens in anattempt to foster inclusiveness in planning processes in multi-cultural political communities. Thesecond approach,
, while also recognizing the importance of inclusivity, tries toachieve this in a way that avoids the perceived pitfalls of absolute relativism implicit in anextreme postmodernist viewpoint. Canadian theorists Thomas Harper and Stanley Stein are the primary advocates for the application of this postmodern-informed
 pragmatic rationalism
(seeBrooks, 2002, pp. 82-84) to the field of planning. A series of their articles published in the
 Journal of Planning Education & Research
(Harper & Stein, 1995; Jamal, Stein & Harper, 2002;Stein & Harper, 2003) will serve as the primary source material on neopragmatism for this paper,although the approach is more fully articulated in their recent book 
 Dialogical Planning in a Fragmented Society
(2005).In Part I, an overview of the collaborative planning approach will be provided, followedin Part II by an overview of neopragmatism. Part III will provide an examination of the2
differences between the two approaches, as well as an examination of their similarities in practice and commonalities within the context of their shared paradigm of communicativerationality. Part IV will contain a personal assessment of the efficacy of the two approaches.Part I. Healey’s “collaborative planning”Healey’s theory of collaborative planning is grounded in several strands of philosophicaland social thought, but most notably in the ideas communicative rationality, as developed byHabermas, and
, as developed by Giddens, Another significant source of inspirationcomes from the field of regional studies in the idea of 
new institutionalism
(Healey, 1997, pp. 44,326).Communicative rationality was born from the postmodern denunciation of modernist belief in conceptual absolutism and objectivity. As pointed out by Willson (2001), defining atheory of communicative rationality is problematic because of its grounding in the fluidity andnon-decisiveness of meaning (p. 10). However, as the term implies, communicative rationalitymeans that what is ‘rational’, what constitutes ‘truth’ to individual stakeholders, is determinednot by objective reasoning and reference to absolutes existing outside of social contexts, butrather by the social interaction of these stakeholders in public forums. Knowledge is constitutedthrough debate and the multiple forms of reasoning that stakeholders bring into the debate, rather than by any single form of reasoning, especially
instrumental rationality
and its claims toobjective truth (Healey, 1997, pp. 52-53).Giddens' theory of structuration also addresses the context in which meaning is created,rejecting the notion of the autonomous individual making the ‘best’ decision possible under theguidance of rationality. Structuration means that our social worlds continually create who we are,our 
, from birth to death, and throughout our lives we continually recreate these same

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