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  • Writer's pictureErika Conchis

Article: Finding feasible action towards urban transformations

In this paper, the authors argue that despite growing attention to urban transformations, scholars often overlook challenges faced by endogenous actors (eg urban planners) who must act within non-ideal, real-world settings...

They argue that an ‘inside’ view of transformations (focused on judgment-in-practice) is needed to complement existing ‘outside’ views (focused on assessment). The feasibility of action (political, social, legal) comes into focus as a key concern.

Transformation pathways are recast as unfolding series of ‘fuzzy action moments’, with both possibilities and constraints. To a planner just dealing with the next thing on their plate, transformative action is discrete & opaque. Focus shifts from path-following to path-creation

Implications for bridging urban science and planning include:

1) Transformation pathways don’t emerge automatically but need ongoing work to push forward;

2) Many seemingly mundane actions (eg negotiation, persuasion) should be more highly valued in thinking on transformations

3) Transformation might not be glamorous and is unlikely to involve a single moment of radical reconfiguration;

4) Key opportunity is to ‘join-up’ multiple action moments, but sometimes may also require slowing down decision-making (eg to include unheard voices)

5) A focus on feasibility can help to engage with dynamic possibilities for action and enable savvier forms of action;

6) Scientists must sympathetically explore opportunities for urban action in real-world settings to help advance sustainability transformations.

Summary written by Dr James Patterson.

The full article is available on npj urban sustainability

Article: Finding feasible action towards urban transformations

Authors: James Patterson, Niko Soininen, Marcus Collier & Christopher M. Raymond

Published online: 28/06/2021

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