Dr Ronit Davidovitch-Maraton

The Spirit of Planning as a System for Connections

Current realities and technologies have created a new dynamism and accessibility and effected a transition to “global time” terms, as well as a trend toward the expression of free will, variance, and localness.  Most existing planning patterns are still based on dichotomous, hierarchical and linear thinking. These patterns typically employ definitions that distinguish between center-periphery, populations, activity clocks, micro-macro, etc., with an emphasis on quality within each different field, component, or application.

This kind of thinking not only is incapable of addressing today’s complex reality, but is actually leading to a planning crisis – to conflict-intensifying distinctions that make growth impossible.  The complex circumstances faced by today’s planners demand adjustments to existing planning methods, which combine familiar approaches with the innovations required by the changing reality.

The Planning Energy Network is a model that proposes a change in space perception and planning process, according to changing reality. At its center is the understanding that the real challenge lies in “weaving a network” between the various spatial elements, based on identifying, preserving and empowering these elements’ unique qualities and relative advantages. This planning network – an envisioned system of interconnections between the elements – encourages “positive friction” between them and growth and development promoting encounters leading to the creation of positive spatial energy.  Thus, the model springs from the local environment and is nourished by its language and materials – while also generating opportunities for connection to others as a basis of ensuring continued growth, development and empowerment.

The model has two essential features. One is the definition of a value code which includes basic concepts and guidelines for identifying, revealing and empowering the basic elements of each space, those that reflect its sources, unique qualities, and power.  An infrastructure which embodies the “growth potential” of the place. The other essential feature is that of a planning dialogue from which emerges  the planning energy system that provides opportunities for the “potential” to flow and navigate between the various elements, thereby turning it into  local energy. These two features make it possible to develop a plan that reflects the specific place, its spirit, identity and uniqueness, while creating opportunities for growth.

In contrast to the familiar models with their large and complex tool box, the Planning Energy Network offers a minimalist structure whose simplicity is meant to foster flexibility and adaptation to complex realities.  The value code lays a clear and static anchor for the dynamic planning dialogue and makes possible the creation of the local network.

The planner, as a source of professional knowledge, is required to initiate the planning dialogue that enables the various stakeholders to take an active part in the “network-weaving” process.  The network planning process creates a source of energy that grows as the number of planning participants increases – so that, over time, conflicts that originally seemed to hamper the planning process actually become its driving force.  The process generates a wide variety of products, both for the participants and for the planner, who is then able to channel the varied inputs into a coherent plan that reflects the ongoing dialogue.

The key to success lies in reciprocal relations and in forging the right connections between the different elements.  Connections between past strengths and future opportunities, between localness and globalness, between frontality and virtuality, between the various communal elements, the active sectors in the economy and the interests at stake.

The paper will present the Planning Energy Network as a planning model, with several examples of its application in planning processes in Israeli rural and urban localities.

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Bevir, M., Rhodes, R.A.W and Weller, P. (2003). “Traditions of Governance: Interpreting the Changing Role of the Public Sector”. Public Administration.

Castells, M. (2000). “The Rise of The Network Society“. Blackwell Publishing.