Planning for Communities: Practice and Politics in the Real World

By Hansman, Catherine A. | Adult Learning, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

Planning for Communities: Practice and Politics in the Real World


Hansman, Catherine A., Adult Learning


I am in the beginning stages of planning a wedding--my second--so it would seem that the process would be easier this time. However, as my fiancee and I start to plan this event, it is obvious that our planning is not a clear process. Numerous questions come my way from a variety of sources, such as: Where should we have the ceremony? The reception? My hometown, his community, or the city where we now live? What kind of food should we serve? Beer or wine or hard liquor or all or none? And most crucial and troublesome, who should we invite? Relatives to be sure, but which ones (not the ex-relatives, obviously). Also, how many friends and colleagues can we afford to entertain? How can we involve our children in the wedding and make them feel welcome in our new combined family? When should we give up the whole idea and take the next plane to the Vegas wedding chapel?

The questions and suggestions are endless, and come from family and friends who are interested in our happiness, as well as those who wish to sell us something for the event. Our planning clearly is a process in which multiple sources feel free to give us input or advice, whether we want them or not, while at the same time, we are trying, to make friends and relatives feel involved and happy with our plans.

Planning Programs--Theories and Practice

Planning a wedding, like planning programs for adult learners, is a process that requires collaboration and respect for all involved in the planning. Most importantly, planning programs requires that the many people involved in the planning listen to and work with each other to negotiate program components in an ethical planning process, while at the same time, not taking actions that are counterproductive for the program and the adult learners for whom the program is planned. Caffarella (2002) outlines an interactive process for program planning in her text Planning Programs for Adult Learners:

 
   Discerning the context, building a base of 
   support, identifying program ideas, 
   sorting and prioritizing program ideas, 
   developing program objectives, designing 
   instructional and transfer of learning 
   plans, planning for evaluation, 
   communicating the results of the 
   program, selecting appropriate formats, 
   budgeting and marketing, and 
   coordinating facilities. 

Although the interactive model outlines clear steps for planning, as Caffarella (2002) suggests, planners need to understand their own practices and choose the components of the plan that make sense for their program planning practice and the context in which they are planning: "the planning context and parameters of the program primarily affect which components are adopted" (p. 53). Along with the context, planners need to take into account their own ethical concerns surrounding the planning process. For instance, who should sit at the planning table? Whose interests are represented? Who has power to make decisions and is this power used ethically (Cervero & Wilson, 1984)?

Caffarella (2002), Cervero and Wilson (1994), kpps (1991), Sork (2000) and others contend that an ethical approach to decision-making is essential to good program planning. However, in many cases this is easier said than done. There are many factors that play into making decisions concerning program planning, such as organizational, community, and societal beliefs, the planners' personal beliefs about planning, and codes of ethics from professional organizations. In addition, assumptions made by those involved in the planning process must be explicated and explored by planners and stakeholders. These assumptions could include: accepting that program planning may not be a hierarchical sequential process, but may take on a life of its own; appreciating that planning is contextual in nature and that the social, economic, cultural, and political climates play a part in how, why, and when programs are planned; and understanding how programs can or cannot promote learning, change, and possibly social action.

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