Posted by Pat Gordon
Calgary joined the PLUS Network as a founding member in 2004. In those days (how can five years already be ‘those days’) it was all about planning; how to do a long range urban sustainability plan, how to engage stakeholders, how to take a systems-based approach to an entire city. My team and I were given the momentous task of developing such a plan for Calgary, a city of 1 million people. imagineCALGARY was an exciting, daunting, challenging, frustrating and rewarding experience. The learning curve was steep but when we stumbled we were caught by other members of our team, other city practitioners or by the wonderful people at the Sustainable Cities secretariat.
Five years later and things have moved on, way on, with projects like Imagine Durban in South Africa and Stand Chattanooga in the US. In Canada, the federal government has linked a gas tax funding program to a requirement for a community sustainability plan creating a rush by municipalities to complete these types of plans. Undoubtedly some communities are taking this opportunity and making the best of it but I can visualize the hasty addition of the word sustainability to the title of many unaltered and unsustainable plans! On the bright side, it has served to push the bar higher and many practitioners are now focusing on implementation.
How do we make sure we do what our plans said we were going to do? How do we bridge the ‘say-do gap’ as a colleague in Calgary called the mismatch between where our policy said we should go and where we are actually headed? This is the subject of this blog and future ones.
I think our first task should be to define a shared language around what we mean by implementation. It sounds a bit mundane but in order to have a productive conversation we would benefit from speaking the same language. As the term ‘plan’ can mean many different things to many people, so does the term implementation. We need to create a shared language around implementation for urban sustainability. I read recently that ‘he (she) who controls the discourse also controls the power’. Of course I mean power in its most benign, enabling form! Just as the Sustainable Cities : PLUS Network created a discourse that delivered a new vocabulary, expressions and style to communicate around planning for long range urban sustainability we are now in a position to do the same for implementation. So here is my first effort.
- Sustainability Plan – long range, comprehensive sustainability plan and process, defines a holistic sustainable future for the place achieved through a multi stakeholder approach
- Implementation – all other planning (e.g. land use and transportation), projects ( e.g. district energy or community supported agriculture), that flows from the sustainability plan or aligned with the direction of sustainability as defined by that community
I welcome any and all comments on this definition. My next blog will move the debate further forward.