Collaborative planning in an uncollaborative world

Ralf Brand, Frank Gaffikin

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The purpose of this article is to expose the concept of collaborative planning to the reality of planning, thereby assessing its efficacy for informing and explaining what planners 'really' do and can do. In this systematic appraisal, we begin by disaggregating collaborative planning into four elements that can enlighten such conceptual frameworks: ontology, epistemology, ideology and methodology. These four lenses help delimit and clarify the object of our examination and provide transparent criteria that guide our examination of collaborative planning's strengths and weaknesses. The second part of this article comprises an empirical investigation of planning processes in Northern Ireland, ranging from region-wide to local and from statutory to visionary. Planning efforts in this province make suitable test cases because special care has been invested in participatory deliberation processes to compensate for the democratic deficits in its mainstream political system. Such efforts have sought to ensure a maximally inclusive planning process. And indeed, the consultation process leading to the Regional Development Strategy, for example, has earned plaudits from leading exponents of collaborative planning. The final analysis provides a systematic gauge of collaborative planning in light of our empirical evidence, deploying the four conceptual dimensions introduced in the first part. This exposes a range of problems not only with the concept itself but also regarding its affinity with the uncollaborative world within which it has to operate. The former shed light on those aspects where collaborative planning as a conceptual tool for practitioners needs to be renovated, while the latter highlight inconsistencies in a political framework that struggles to accommodate both global competitiveness and local democratic collaboration. Copyright © 2007 SAGE Publications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)282-313
Number of pages31
JournalPlanning Theory
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2007


  • Collaborative planning
  • Epistemology
  • Ideology
  • Northern Ireland
  • Ontology
  • Realistic assessment


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