An experiential approach to research in planning
Most planning research seeks to understand how current planning practices influence (and are influenced by) the processes and institutional contexts of decision making and the transformation of spaces. Typically, analytical methods borrowed from other social sciences are employed for this purpose. However, if one wants to know how new planning practices can be generated, a different research approach seems to be needed. Relevant innovations do not originate in an academic vacuum, but have to be developed in coproduction with intended users and in the context of their intended use. Only then can a reciprocal learning process between research and practice be activated in which original hypotheses about possible planning innovations are developed through iterative testing, reflection, and adaptation. In our opinion, carrying out research into possible planning innovations thus requires a different type of research methodology from the one typically applied. Because of its static nature, a traditional comparative case-study analysis—as often used in planning research—does not allow for such an iterative, evolutionary process. In this paper we propose a new methodology, which we have labelled ‘experiential case-study analysis’. In this approach each case study provides learning experiences that fuel theory building, but also serve as input for the next case study. We have used this approach to develop and test different planning innovations in three case studies in the field of transport and urban planning in The Netherlands.
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