Urban Planning in a Multicultural Society

By Michael A. Burayidi | Go to book overview

will always be important to parties who meet each other and find each other strange or frightening ( National Hunger and Poverty Resource Guide 1998). How to encourage such listening and perspective-taking is a matter not of recipes, however, but of fitting a variety of strategies or techniques to the practical situations at hand. Many times, role-playing will be crucial, so that one party is able to imagine the perspective and concerns of another party. Sometime, however, as we have seen, role-playing may not work on a given day, and then other group processes can be called into play. What matters most, here, is not that planners look for simple solutions, but that planners become familiar with the range of situations they will face, the range of situations to which they can come to respond, sensitively and productively.

Finally, Larry Sherman's striking point to integrate planning and implementation through mediated negotiations demands attention. Sherman asks us to recognize that implementers have a special power, a power we ignore at our peril if we pay so much attention to planning analysis that we fail to ask carefully how that analysis will be put into practice. However, Sherman is not telling the dispute resolution joke that recounts how the lion and lamb lay down peacefully together every evening, even though the lion always needs a new lamb in the morning. Collaborative problem-solving only can be truly collaborative when the power of parties is balanced enough to make them interdependent, to make their problemsolving a joint enterprise, not the decisions of one party visited upon the others. If any party can prevail on its own, collaboration is likely to be a sham, and the weaker parties may well need the protection of courts or legislatures, not mediated negotiation processes in which participation is ostensibly voluntary.

This point is crucial in multicultural settings: mediation practices by planners may enable parties to resolve disputes productively only when the parties are interdependent enough to negotiate, interdependent enough to need to listen to one another. Mediation processes can complement, but not substitute for, legal and political processes in which weaker parties might gain real protections of their resources or entitlements ( Susskind 1999). The purpose of this chapter has not been to recommend mediated negotiations as a cure-all for political inequality, but to show how the practical experience of environmental mediators provides insights and lessons regarding the complexity and actual practice of multicultural planning processes.


NOTE

This chapter contains interview material from Shirley Solomon and Larry Sherman. The complete interviews can be found in Mediation in Practice: Profiles off Environmental and Community Mediators edited by John Forester. This teaching material is a compilation of interviews available at the Department of City and Regional Planning, Cornell University, Sibley Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853.

1
Support for this project has come from a USDA Hatch grant, administered through the Cornell Community and Rural Development Institute.

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