"Setting the Scene for Future Planning. Reflections of a Young Planning Scholar";
Planning Theory and Practice,
Volume 12 (1)
Although it is certainly true that young planning scholars´ perceptions of the future differ from those of established academics, not everything they imagine to be new is entirely original. On the contrary, as I myself found out in conversation with senior planning academics, those research ideas which I had previously considered groundbreaking and innovative had already been placed once on the table by previous generations of young planners, only to be forced to the margin or forgotten over the years.
It appears that the youthful vigour of young planning scholars can to some extent be compared with that of little children, who reflect the world of their parents but do not replicate it. On the one hand, little children might be seen as continuing their families´ mindsets, just as young planning scholars - the `little children´ of the scientific community - are heavily influenced by their supervisors´ opinions and, more generally, by things learned through their education. But children are also known for saying things very directly, unfettered by the thought of potential consequences. Similarly, young planning scholars - at the very beginning of their scientific careers - may speak very directly, sometimes even emotionally, urgently wanting to make a contribution towards a better world. However it should not be forgotten that their audience, the established researchers and academics to whom they speak, were also the upcoming planning generation years ago.
As a person at the start of an academic career, I can imagine myself changing over time, becoming more moderate as I make compromises along the route of my scientific journey, but perhaps at the same time forgetting the scientific inquisitiveness which so attracted me to the discipline in the first place. So I am currently wrestling with a question which I imagine occurs more generally across our planning community, namely how to prevent the enthusiasm and spirit of today´s young planning scholars from slipping away silently as these young scholars try to find a place within the current research agendas defined by the wider scientific community. From my own experience, I can see that rather than trying to do this alone, there is real value in establishing a genuine intergenerational dialogue, which combines youthful vigour and mature wisdom. As the chair of the Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP) Young Academics Network from 2008 to 2009, my team and I were able to initiate a number of potential gateways for this meeting of youthful enthusiasm and mature wisdom.
As we can only proceed collectively in the planning discipline, this intergenerational dialogue must be considered as an ongoing process. As young planning scholars, we are happy to share our current research ideas with senior academics, hoping to have our voices heard, and in turn receiving feedback, as we collaborate in defining planning´s future research priorities. It is for this reason that this article draws attention to four thorny topics with which we, younger planning scholars, wrestled in the course of the 2010 Young Academics Network Annual Conference in Kostelec, kindly hosted by the Czech University of Life Sciences, Prague. The idea to structure the 2010 Conference around these particular issues emerged from the 2009 Young Academics Network Annual Conference at the Vienna University of Technology, where they were identified as essential focal points for future research. The 2010 conference saw these four themes receive a deeper exploration, not only in the plenary and paper sessions, but also in the framework provided by a `World-Café´ discussion on the very last day of the conference. We are pleased to be able to report that we were able to move the discussions forward, and we would like to express our profound gratitude to the plenary speakers who came and participated fully in the conference, helping us to conduct our own intergenerational dialogue, the results of which we would like to present back to the discipline.
This article therefore aims to bring together the most relevant points of the discussion of four broad `research debates´ which took place over the 2010 Conference. It represents the findings from the intergenerational dialogue that occurred at our conference, but also raises a series of specific research questions which we hope will be addressed and incorporated as planning research´s own agendas develop into the future.
Planning debate; future research agenda(s); intergenerational dialogue
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