Like community musical impresarios, Beth Sanders and Dnyanesh Deshpande are innovators in composing, scoring and conducting an Integral City 2.0 planning process for mature neighbourhood planning. In 2013 this civic meshworker (Beth) and city planner (Dnyanesh) guided the 4 Voices of Strathcona County, Alberta, through a planning process that inspired uncommon participation, intelligent engagement and sustainable futures.
I would like to recognize their accomplishment and explain why it enacts a significant performance occasion for Integral City 2.0.
Firstly the Planning Maestros (PM) took a meta-design approach to creating an expertly informed self-organizing process. Like composing a 3 movement symphony, they designed the project in 3 phases each of which related to a core Integral City Strategic Intelligence: Asking Questions (Inquiry Intelligence); Coming Up With a Strategy (Navigation Intelligence); Implementing a Strategy (Meshworking Intelligence).
With this meta-design in place, they were able to use many Integral City Intelligences as they applied Integral City Practical Steps to clearly provide the context for environmental performance analysis (Eco Intelligence); situate the Purpose for the Mature Neighbourhood Study (Structural Intelligence); summarize the Assumptions behind the people, priorities and place (Storytelling Intelligence); and explain the comprehensive Consultation Framework of the first phase of the project (Integral Intelligence).
They set out “to listen to the community, to seek their input regarding issues and opportunities … [referring to available data] using a variety of methods to catch a wide range of perspectives”. To do so they adapted the core Integral City design tool of the 4 Voices to create a Stakeholder Wheel. This gave them the organizing relationship of the 4 Voices of the Strathcona County mature neighbourhood and guided the sequence of their engagements, the choice of engagement methods and demonstrated the inter-relationships of data findings and analysis (see Figure 1).
To do their work, the PM called on the 4 Voices of the community:
- Civic Manager/Local Government
- Civil Society/NGO’s & Service Providers
- Civic Developers/ Development, Builders and Business Community
The Stakeholder Wheel acted like a choir master’s “pitch pipe” to provide a powerful reference frame to organize engagement processes and sessions with each of the stakeholder groups separately. Like scoring the sections of a symphonic work, appropriate options for engagement were offered to optimize the quality and volume of voices (e.g. Social Media and Survey for Citizens; World Café for Civic Manager; Interviews for Civil Society; one on one sessions with Developers; and a Circle Gathering and Open House for the Combined Voices). The Stakeholder Wheel helped to situate when and where to bring in experts not to present relevant expertise like arrogant soloists, but as melodic sparks that highlighted collective expression. The Wheel gave logic to the sequence of the rehearsal and performance timelines, analysis of themes and finally to bring all stakeholders together into a participatory gathering where all voices were not merely assembled, but re-engaged like a multi-part choir, at another level of complexity.
This Planning Maestros created conditions (like spontaneous “call and respond” choruses) where mutual, trust and respect were built into the ground rules of engagement so each stakeholder group could express their perspective(s), while the other groups could actively listen, improvise and even generatively challenge.
I think the design of this mature neighbourhood planning process was powerful and comprehensive because it allowed for conflict to be voiced without hijacking the process. It also tracked individual voices (used as quotations in the report to illustrate findings from each group) and offered elegant ways to track collective values and tensions, improvements and concerns and summarize and present data in many valuable tables (in the final public performance at the Open House and in the signature composition that has become their Public Report).
In the Strathcona County project from a planning perspective Integral City Principles (based on Living and Evolutionary System Intelligences) were used to embrace the complexities of land use planning, mature neighbourhood values and geo-spatial information. This Integral City planning process was based on a whole systems engagement of the neighbourhood. The key notes of sustainability lie at the heart of the process because it essentially enacted the core melody of the Integral City Master Code: Care for Self, Care for Others and Care for Place. This resulted in a strong memorable chorus (like recitative) for developing a sustainable strategy for Place Making that is also People Caring.
Using the Stakeholder Wheel as motif, the Integral City Planning Maestros created an attractive and extremely well organized online downloadable pdf report. This makes it accessible by all stakeholders who participated and easy to follow (like a song sheet) by all other city stakeholders and external consultants. Furthermore the alignment of the process can be easily referenced during the next stages of drafting the Strategy for Mature Neighbourhoods and later when implementing it.
This dynamic Integral City Planning duo, Beth and Dnynanesh , created the conditions for future sustainable development through nurturing the relationships, stories, data research and recommendations from each group and all groups who participated in this experience. Because their team created a coherent rehearsal hall for learning to optimize the qualities within each Stakeholder Group and then discover the power of their combined voices across the entire set of Stakeholder Groups, they enabled the community to gain meta perspectives on itself that were not previously available to it.
It is noteworthy that our PM’s were able to context the entire process of social and cultural awareness with environmental sensitivity and economic realities by engaging a balance of Thought Leaders, Policy Makers and the Public from each Stakeholder Group. Like a full community choir, their final integrated process resonated with expectations and invitations for others to join in the next natural steps of the mature neighbourhood strategy.
Our Planning Maestros have demonstrated how to create the conditions for future learning process(es) to widen the community orchestra of engagement. And what is more, they did this as 2nd generation Integral City Meshworkers – innovating with the 4 Voice-Stakeholder Wheel, Integral City Principles, the Master Code and Intelligences. Their example inspires the whole Integral City Community of Practice, with a keynote performance that serves a whole planet of emerging Integral Cities.
Brava Beth! ! Bravo Dnyanesh! ! Your way of “planning” takes us beyond “singing for the community”, and even beyond “singing with the community” to “singing as the community”. That difference lies at the core of the Integral City planning process. Your “planning-as-the-community-performance” deserves a standing ovation! And I happily recognize you with the first Integral City Meshworkers of the Year award.