Planning in a multicultural environment has come to mean expanding the depth and scope of city planning. This means not just changing the planning process, but also rethinking how planning issues are identified, conceptualized, and prioritized.
Involving ethno-racial communities in planning is a critical component of the multicultural/anti-racist planning process. Despite more enlightened attitudes toward ethno-racial groups, planners often fail to acknowledge the gifts these groups bring to the city planning environment. The most successful communities are those that can identify the gifts of all residents, including multicultural groups, and draw them into the planning process.
Appreciative planning shifts the role of the planner from one of directing programs and delivering services to supporting partnerships, enabling multicultural community directed assets and needs to be addressed, and facilitating local initiatives. Appreciative planning promotes empowerment, builds confidence and competence in the community to do things for themselves. It is about a cooperative approach to planning or a two-way approach to problem solving. When planners focus on fixing multi-racial problems based on rational principles, multicultural groups often develop defensive postures and seek to escape from blame. What is needed is an approach that gives credit to groups and communities as having the ability to become their own problem-solvers and generating new ways of looking at planning issues.
In the past decade or so, planners have become more sensitive to issues of race, diversity, and culture. Talking incessantly only about problems, issues, and failures, however, serves to deepen the sense of despondency that is all too common in the multiculturalism and public policy debate. On the other hand, talking about successes (such as the Surrey Parks and Recreation Inclusivity Initiative) can convey the message that there is hope and that sustainable multicultural community is possible. The challenge today is for planners and policy-makers to learn the characteristics of the appreciative model as it can be manifested in multicultural and city planning contexts and situations. We need to focus more on what works, not what has gone wrong; on successes rather than failures. There are several examples of successful efforts of planning with diverse ethnic and cultural groups. We need to document, describe, share, and most importantly, replicate them in all our individual efforts.
Barrett F. "Creating Appreciative Learning Cultures". Organizational Dynamics, vol. 2, no. 2, Autumn 1995.
Bushe G., and T. Pitman (eds). "Appreciative Method for Transformational Change". Organizational Practitioner, vol. 23, no. 3, 1991:1-4.
City of Surrey. Parks and Recreation Task Force Report on Intercultural Inclusivity. Surrey, Canada. 1994.