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Cited: Shahbazi, Meisam, et al. "Collaborative planning as a way toward agreement." Advances in Environmental Biology, 2014, p. 191+. Academic OneFile, Accessed 12 Feb. 2017.

 Collaborative Planning as a Way toward Agreement


Meisam Shahbazi (corresponding author)

Ph.D. student in urban planning, Isfahan University of Arts, Isfahan, Iran

Mohsen Dadkhah

MSc. student in Urban Design, Isfahan University of Arts, Isfahan, Iran

Farzaneh Pirani

MSc. student in Urban planning, Isfahan University of Arts, Isfahan, Iran

Ayoub Iranshahi

MSc. student in Urban Design, Isfahan University of Arts, Isfahan, Iran

Mohammad Rezapour Aghdam

BSc in urbanism, Isfahan University of Arts, Isfahan, Iran




Along with rapid growth of the cities and urban problems and difficulties, citizens and the realities of the modern life are forgotten more than before are. As the most effective and affected urban players, people have been ignore in lots of communities while interventions in the cities should be carried out based on people’s needs. The function of people, groups, and institutes should be defined in line with public interest and appropriate strategies be devised. Collaborative planning approach has taken into account some concepts such as participation, interaction, and agreement and being all-inclusive as the effective dimensions and elements in planning process. The present study attempts to develop a framework for collaborative planning. Accordingly, it has been dealt with in four sections including history and origin of the collaborative planning, its definitions, the concept of understanding and the ways to achieve it, and its criticisms. Finally, preparing an appropriate context for the citizens’ presence within the planning, it could be said that collaborative planning would lead to a better comprehension of the more extended dimensions of urban problems and would propose appropriate options regarding a better execution of the plans.


Keywords: collaborative planning, providing context for agreement, democracy, citizen, communicative action.


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From 1950 to 1960, simultaneous with the movement of the middle class toward suburbs and consequently emptiness of the downtowns from people, an appropriate opportunity was provided for immigration of the poor population to these areas. Urban renewal was raised as the prevailing program of the government during this decade; despite of this substitution, these areas changed to high-cost commercial and residential centers by which interests of a particular group were guaranteed. Urban renewal and mere attention to structure led to ignorance of social and cultural dimensions in the process of planning (Sokol, 2012). Criticism of the authoritative approaches, top to bottom, revealed the public participation more than before. Therefore, social aspects were taken into account since the second half of 20 century. Many critics were theorizing about the effects of public on development of the plans. After emergence of the participatory processes people did not have a significant role in decision-making process, and beginning of the supportive and justice plans in line with participation of the deprived groups and it has applied instrumental rationality and in practice, participation was occurred mostly in a form of representative participation. In fact, no effective participations were revealed from people and participation was mostly imposed. Later on, participation was more developed and it was improved in the underlying levels of plans’ developments as well as the level of updating the plans. For instance, the State of Florida provided conditions for spreading the alternatives and suggestions, opportunities for written viewpoints, holding public meetings, public services, and responding the people’s viewpoints. Noticing the public opinions is one form of public participations which appears to be more appropriate than forum of political parties and a manifestation of sharing information ( Shakeri, 2011 , Chakrabort, 2012 , Vacik & etl, 2014,  ).Among the modern approaches regarding active and effective participation of the societies one can refer to Communicative Planning theory. For example, the state of Oregon instructed that every municipality is required to construct a consultative committee from public so that ideas, benefits, and requests of public could be reflected in plans and decisions. Although participation has increased public intervention, its effect on the results of the plans is less clear. Participation should be a component of analytic processes. This is where the change of attitude in scientific and technical methods toward experiential and practical knowledge is appeared. Therefore, the theory of instrumental rationality loses its validity and the theory of communicative rationality which leads to a sustainable participation of more people. Adopting the theory of communicative rationality, it seems that the collaborative planning approach is an effective step regarding the citizens’ function (Faehnele & Tirvainen, 2013; Rafiian & Maroofi, 2011; Eftekhari & Behzadnasab, 2004).


Significance of the Study 

Accepting the complexities of the current cities, even the comprehensive-rational plans applying developments such as technology, modern calculating models and usage of participatory methods of representation cannot resolve the increasing problems of the cities. Also, its final product was more than just definite and inflexible ways that are not capable to keep pace with rapid growth of cities and serious urban problems. 

Without considering effective participation of all of the stake holders of the society, comprehensive-rational planning has lost its efficiency. Decision-making process of this theory includes recognizing the problems, determining decision criterion in this regard, identifying the frameworks, evaluating and finally negotiating. Not only negotiation has been place in the last stage, but also it would practically be given up. Within such a kind of condition, collaboration will be fallen down and truthful social relationships will be decreased. In fact, as the largest stake holders, people would have a passive role in this process and in many cases they would be sacrificed by the disagreements between the parties’ representatives especially the political ones. It is here that there is a need to a new approach in the process of urban planning and decision-making so that the public, especially the deprived class could be participated in this process to meet the purpose of justice (Daneshpour, 2008; Eftekhari & Behzadnasab, 2004). During the last 20 years, critiques of the rational methods because of inefficiency in operation of alternatives, have led to new approaches about urban planning. These approaches have begun since 1980 with beginning of the social theories. Accordingly, with obsolescence of the centralized systems, social structures in planning system rise in importance. Consequently, the necessity of creating an efficient position for citizens’ presence in planning is appeared (Maroofi, 2001). It appears that the collaborative approach has the capacity to provide a process under which the stake holders, especially the public are not viewed as the secondary thought, but to be taken into account as an inseparable component of the decision-making process.


Purposes of the Study

Since 1980, planning theories have been directed toward more participation of the citizens and their position and importance have been considered. According to the importance of the public interaction and function in collaborative planning process, the following purposes are sought for:

v  Analyzing the role of social conditions in rise of collaborative methods

v  Analyzing the obstacles and problems in realization of desirable collaborative planning in practice

v  Analyzing the limitations in realization of mutual agreement in collaborative planning



The study has an analytical-descriptive approach and data collection was carried out through library research. Initially, the viewpoints of different scholars in respect of collaborative planning in various countries have been studied, after that, it was pointed out to evolution of theories of democracy to explicate the theoretical basis of the collaborative planning and finally, the obstacles on agreement are proposed and in order to improve and expand this planning, some criticisms have been mentioned.


Theoretical Foundation

Initially, it has been dealt with definitions of collaborative planning and then, its history and origin has been discussed.


Table 1. Concepts and definitions of collaborative planning.




The US

Collaborative planning is widely used in administrative, environmental, and neighboring plans. Collaborative planning which includes collaborative approaches for analyzing and managing the environment at the level of regional scale. Natural Resources Organization of Washington helped to discuss some problems with cooperation of organizations, local governments, the beneficiaries and society.  

Margerum, 2002: 2



Collaborative approaches in planning have emerged as approaches of management of water and rural lands. States of “South Wales” and “Quizland” embarked on managing the basins during late 80 and early 1990. In both states, governmental administrations, provider and commander groups i.e. those who make the committee members informed were selected. They include: governmental administrations, local governments, the beneficiary groups, and citizens.

. Margerum, 2002:3


The project of construction of the development center for children in the US.

School principal and staff were interested in participation. In the participation process, selection of architecture was in priority and the participants stated their aims and requests. And regarding design of the center, the teachers participated actively in group works by making replica.

Rafiian، M’aroofi، 1390: 117

Gadchok and Mill( 1996)

Supported the communicative and collaborative approach in planning that efficient planning should be based on the communicative road between public and planning institutes.

Margerum, 2002:1


It takes a society as a healthy civil society in which conflicts, encouragement to talk freely, challenging the government’s work and public political processes occur. Under these conditions, creativity, entrepreneurship, and learning will be ensued.  This states that we need to confront with various problems and to identify the policies as a method of strengthening the democratic civil society.



Mumford states that the ultimate goal of a city is increasing the conscious participation of people in historical and universal processes and this will be happened through emotional participation, rational relationship and technical skills. 

Dehghan،1388: 87

Bill Brahole et al.

They were effective in theories of planning. For them, involving different beneficiaries in the participatory processes is effective to achieve an effective agreement.

Dredge, 2006:9


He believes that foundation of a successful and effective planning is based on communicative methods and the prerequisite for providing a constructive relation is the fact that instrumental rationality be excluded as the only rational in planning and a wider range of reasons including technical-instrumental reason, ethical and emotional reason should be considered that are the same as emotional experience of people having from their environment.   

Eftekhari and Behzadnasab، 1383:8


Boher asserts that if structure of urban planning is changed to real open ones and all of the participants are committed to the collaborative participation principles and people’s attitude. They will be committed to individual and collective benefits and the result of their agreement will be led to creation of a strong social network.




Following development of local relationships, inclusive discussions are effective and this is beyond inclination toward certain groups. This style could develop the methods of practical perception and participatory discourse and it emphasizes on a collaborative public agreement. 

Maginn, 2007:3


In order to determine the position of collaborative planning, initially, the history of theories of democracy is mentioned followed by criticisms of 1980s influenced by Habermas’ theories about citizens’ role and collaborative planning approach.

History and Origin of Collaborative Planning

The comprehensive-rational theory was based on data collection and detailed analyzes to provide social development. Ground Lund believes that the idea of comprehensive-rational planning is based on the fact that governmental managers have the responsibility of defining public interests, dividing the responsibilities in local governments between the city councils who are responsible for policymaking and the executive managers who are responsible for execution (Mäntysalo&Bäcklund, 2010: 338). Accordingly, Bäcklund asserts that there is distinction between preliminary planning and decision-making. Therefore, it is regular to consider superiority of knowledge and opinions of planning along with citizens’ opinions (Mäntysalo&Bäcklund, 2010: 339).

In his book “City is not Tree”, Alexander states that the real cities have complex structures which include numerous relations and subscriptions while urban planning proposes very simple models in its plans. It was after these criticisms that since 1960s other alternatives of urban planning were appeared that in addition to physical aspects it was dealt with social and economic functions, too M’aroofi, 2009: 39).

“Cook” enumerates the most important problems of the comprehensive-rational planning as follows: firstly, authoritative centralism, according to which by various forms especially diluted forms of integrated participation, this problem has been covered up that is due to arbitrariness and bias of the decision-makers of this attitude. Secondly, physical determinism which will take the form of physical solutions even if the policies are based on social-economic studies (Daneshpoor, 2011: 172). There was no opportunity for the citizens to participate in planning, and because of inefficiency of government, it was emphasized on the citizens’ role. Hence, the citizens’ role has been taken into account as an element in this kind of planning.

From the viewpoint of planning theory, one of the main prominent critics of the comprehensive-rational planning is Lindbloom stating in his article in 1959 that the planners have to design their planning solutions based on knowledge. This was a part of the work and Lindbloom’s purpose was developing a realistic planning theory to be used as alternative of the comprehensive-rational planning. According to many decision-makers, participation ensures that there will be enough attention to the fundamental interests (Mäntysalo&Bäcklund, 2010: 339). Therefore, and one of the democratic theories, synergic model was proposed. Lindbloom’s synergic model opened a new path on the policies based on the interests. In the middle of 1970, the cities have moved toward modernization and industrialization. Immigration from rural areas to the urban ones led to economic crisis. In these conditions, there was less need to the large or long term scale plans and Lindbloom’s synergic theory was appropriate for these kinds of conditions. 

In fact, Lindbloom’s synergic model is a cumulative-democracy model and has put away the processes of negotiation, bargaining and reaching a compromise in political field reach a decision between the conflicts (Mäntysalo&Bäcklund, 2010: 340). In synergic planning, the division of the responsibilities is between the selected representatives and public managers and the beneficiary groups. Although the synergic planning and the comprehensive-rational planning are significantly different, they are similar in their democratic nature and both of them propose a cumulating model. 

Nevertheless, this synergistic theory was criticized by theorists of collaborative planning and those who developed their viewpoints in late 1980s and 1990s. “Sager” is one of the critics of synergistic theory. Settlements of disputes were created without any need to negotiation. For relationships and decision-making in planning, Lindbloom’s method is close to politics of pluralism that actors have not motivation to learn from each other and instead, they seek to legitimize their own knowledge. These criticisms imply a change in the concept of democracy.

We are living in a world with many complexities, fast changes and sharing power as well as a dependent world. Therefore, we come to this conclusion that the position of government authority for reaching democracy (a fair and efficient management in social affairs) should be lessened (Baptist, 2005: 4).

Theorists of collaborative planning stay away from the collective democracy model and have tendency toward conscious democracy and criticize both types of synergic and comprehensive-rational planning. In the conscious democracy model, the emphasis is on convincing and negotiating and a decision is legitimized when the all of the participants in that problem are involved equally throughout planning and decision-making processes. In this model, it is emphasized on focus on the process through various viewpoints for reaching mutual perception and agreement (Mäntysalo&Bäcklund, 2010: 34).

Encountering inabilities of the present institutes and also facing public problems, there is a need to change of attitude. Inspiring from postmodernism, phenomenology, critical theories, interpretive analyzes and seeking to understand various kinds of knowledge led to creation of convincing discourses. By going beyond the evaluation of the function of the processes, it was emphasized more on the cooperation of the group of actors. The scholars have also investigated that emergence of planning processes has led to creation of powerful relationship[s between the actors. Origin of the methods of collaborative planning refers to 1980s. To a large extent, the theory of collaborative or communicative planning has been taken from the theory of Haberms’ communicative action (Mäntysalo&Bäcklund, 2010: 341).  Based on this viewpoint, he has proposed communicative action instead of instrumental action based on which the communicative action is a negotiation in an environment without presence of any power of imposition and the actors reach an agreement through negotiation that they come to a correct perception of the problems with sharing their knowledge. Ficher and Foster were the firs ones who used the communicative concept in planning and policy and for them, values such as negotiation, debate, and cooperation were solutions of solving the complex problems in planning (Drdge, 2006: 8). 

Collaborative approaches have been used in other fields (including military, international relations, designing and developing, industrial and psychological products) for a long time. Many of the resources which used debate solutions have their origins in laboring management in the US and society’s debates in 1960s being inclined toward intermediary techniques. “Drak” states that the first application of these techniques in the US was used by “Glard” and “John” in environmental planning to construct the dam of Snoqualmie River by debate technique (Baptist, 2005: 4). Another obvious example is debating approach of “foundation” which expanded the discussions of laboring management to involve the communities and neighborhoods. Despite of overt conflicts, these techniques were developed soon and applied many contexts.

In 1990s, many planning researchers attempted to identify the existed gap between theory and practice. Using the communicative planning techniques, an environment was created for negotiation between the main actors in planning process. Therefore, the main foundation of the collaborative planning theory could be considered from 1990s onwards.

The researchers in collaborative planning used some ideas including negotiating theory, network analysis, collective action, consultative democracy, Gyds’s structural theory, Habermas’ communicative action, and Foucault’s notion of discourse.

The recent methods of participatory planning are a forward movement in relation to the previous planning purposes and are correspondent to the appropriate methods of planning. In fact, these methods are complements of the previous methods. By the end of the traditional planning, we can observe implications of the international planning theories (Bäcklund and Mäntysalo, 2009). Later, we will point to these theories especially from the viewpoint of citizens’ function.

Comprehensive approach of planning is efficient for the urban problems which have physical dimension and are failed to deal with social-economic problems. Therefore, this plan has been on the basis of a stable, serious, and strict administrative structure and has not paid attention to democracy principles and people participation. Accordingly, in the theory of comprehensive-rational planning, citizens are considered to be a subject from public administration. With complexity of the urban issues in the developed countries during late 1960s, some changes occurred in general attitudes and viewpoints of planning regarding consideration of democratic theories among which we can refer to the synergistic approach. In this approach, the participatory discussions came into the decision-making process but people still did not have active functions in decisions. The specific groups of beneficiaries such as the private section were contributed in participations. Finally, it could be said that in synergistic approach, citizens function as structured participants in planning. As it was mentioned before, serious discussions about effective participation of the public was proposed since 1980. In fact, avoiding individualistic behaviors in 1980s, the collaborative and communicative planning moved toward collective behaviors in 1990s. Like a democratic activity which intends to expand social justice, communicative planning aims at reaching a collective agreement. Therefore, the collaborative planning is reaching an agreement among the citizens equally. In the following figures, the citizens’ roles have been sketched throughout history.

Figure 1: paradigm shift of planning theories toward participatory and relationship change in citizens’ role (source: Mäntysalo & Bäcklund, 2010.344).

Figure 2: paradigm shift of theory and methods of planning (situation of some cities are shown as some examples)


Collaborative Planning

Collaborative planning has been widely accepted by scholars of planning. “Jones” and “Almendiger” believe that this planning is a developing method so that Ines talks about “paradigm emergence”. And this planning has not been proposed by one person but it seems to be the developed form of the previous discussions during late 20s. Nevertheless, some people who had roles in its development include American researchers such as Ines, Booher, Fastor, Freedman, Fischer, Hatch. And other European researchers such as Albert, Pesti Hill, Swingdo, Hajar, Davodi, Hoolart and the most prominent one is PetsiHili. For “Almendiger” and “Jones” the collaborative planning is known as a planning moving toward negotiation and discussion and for some others, it is known as a combination of planning in form of negotiation, conscious planning (Foster), Neoliberalism Thoughts (Harper and Stain), critical theory (Foster), Foucauldian Views and planning in Action (Hatch) (Gaffikin,Brand,2007:4).

For “Gadvin”, collaborative planning is usage of the society’s feeling to achieve collective action in the process of urban solving-problem. Connecting the knowledge with societies’ values, this planning attempts to percept the modern dimensions of urban planning problems (Hedayatifard, 2012: 3).

The collaborative planning is an approach for prevalent negotiations which functions with the aim of forming the social spaces (Brand&Gaffikin, 2007:3). We need to involve various beneficiaries in decision-making processes because negotiating cooperation among the beneficiaries happens with different interests and each one has common backgrounds for practice. The beneficiaries are defined as the people with certain interests and having common problems. The beneficiaries often include private citizens, governmental institutes, social service organization, student groups in schools and universities, the environment maintenance groups, industry and commerce (Hedayatifard, 2012: 5). And unlike the old views in which participation was between the central government  and investors, this approach attempts to provide creative environments for economic changes and the focus is on public areas and the purpose is making decisions in a participatory form (Brand&Gaffikin,2007:3). Hili also states that the background of collaborative planning is creation of location or capacity. In most of the cases, it is the government being able to create this space in that all of the involved institutes in the city which have roles in creation of various problems, also have cooperation to solve the problems of the city and problem-solving is not the duty of certain people with proposed solutions only by them (Dehghan, 2010: 90).

“Gray” (1989) asserted that at first, cooperation methods include sharing the capitals, participation of public and private sections, holding public meetings and other meetings that the beneficiaries attempt to identify the problems while consider their own interests. Mediation in disputes is a necessary element in the collaborative process. He believes that even when the collaboration for developing a common perspective is initiated, the beneficiaries are worried regarding their own interests. For this, he indicated that the effective participatory processes could decrease hostile relations and unequal interests among the beneficiaries (Goldstein, 2010: 3). When the political community creates actors with the same worldview and make committed with common purposes collaborative collective planning can reach to common purposes in negotiation process (Dredg, 2006: 9).

These kinds of actions and interactions do not reject the presence of competitive behaviors and usually, a kind of learning happens in the collaborating process. The participants develop new methods and creative solutions which were not existed in the previous participations. Therefore, collaborative planning processes often demand organizational spontaneous processes and cooperating structures. These kinds of structures are emerged in response to inability of hierarchical system of bureaucracy to solve the complex problems of planning and where the actions happen, the power and authority are distributed (Baptista,2005:4). Godvin emphasizes that there is no place for hierarchy in any cooperation (Baptista,2005:7).

There are both horizontal and vertical relations in collaborative planning. For instance, the governmental administrations which are responsible for managing water are made of committees including several governmental administrations, local governments, and NGOs. Although the governmental main administrations are final responsible for solving the problems, the authority of making decisions is given to the mentioned committees to make decisions and solve the problems (Baptista,2005:5).

As the most important content of this approach, the concept of relationship has the following effects:

1.      Makes participation and negotiation meaningful and applicable

2.      To participates all beneficiary and related groups to the development plan in planning.

3.      Strengthens the social networks and increases comprehension and knowledge of the groups in relation to each other and also increases the coefficient of responsibility and flexibility in the planning (Behzadnasab, 2010: 11).

Knowledge is necessary for efficiency of planning and also for legitimizing the professions. There is a significant difference between the previous planning with the collaborative ones which is the reality of social structure. While collaborative planners carry out analyses, provide plans, or develop policies, instead of using valid scientific data, they use other forms of knowledge. The planners use this form of knowledge (learning in practice or consultative methods) as information resources and this form includes technical data, the narrations stated by people (mythology, signs, etc.) practical insight and judgment, personal experience (the knowledge being achieved throughout life or doing certain activities).

According to logic of collaborative planning, the planners receive lots of information by listening to the participators’ narrations and also they can recognize what things are important for them. Another aspect which refers to collaborative planning is the relation between knowledge and practice. Like narration method, the frameworks are another method of knowledge in practice. The frameworks are tools of identifying the problems and solving them. In collaborative planning, both methods of frameworks and narrations are used that are called discourse by the collaborative planning researchers.

Discourse is the basis of our interaction and relationship with others in practice. Unlike instrumental rationality, collaborative planning is taken into account as an acquiring knowledge which is created continuously. Knowledge and interaction are not two separate categories and they build each other through practice. Accordingly, practical judgment and action are two important concepts which are kept in mind in collaborative planning. The relation between these two subjects is taken from the American pragmatist “Dewey”. He states that valid knowledge is the result of practice and experience. Practical interaction with people makes us to understand the participants’ discourses about their narrations, values, and worldview and based on practical judgment we classify conflicts and disagreements. Practical judgment is something more than rational reasons and technical skills(Baptista,2005:7).


Figure 3: key dimensions of collaborative planning

Source: Allmendiger& Jones, 2002:26

The process of collaborative planning could be summarized in the following three phrases:

1.      Presence of a problem between the beneficiaries leads to holding a meeting.

2.      In order to reach an agreement, the beneficiary groups deal with setting goals and interactive directions.

3.      Finally, the beneficiaries come to a conclusion through individual and common actions and execute it (Margerum,2002:3).

In this regard, Behzadnasab has proposed the following process for rural planning with a communicative approach.


Figure 4: urban planning with communicative approach








Defining the subject

Recognizing the basis and expertise explication

determining the main actors and areas of intervention

institutionalization for planning

Choosing the massage and communicative tool

Communicative education and facilitation of the planning

Social analysis and decision-making

Setting priorities

Execution of decisions

Control, evaluation, effects and feedback













Source: Behzadnasab, 2010: 17

Finally, many researchers such as Innes, Hili, Saskin, and Lamber emphasized that the solutions and perspective should be approved by consensus and agreement. Some collaborative programs are organized and executed by beneficiaries. Nevertheless, when the beneficiaries of the public and private sections aims at changing the rules, regulations, plans and policies, their collaboration depends on two types of skills to reach agreement. One of these skills is created by impartial facilitator i.e. the one who deals with identifying the beneficiaries or manages instructions, discussions, and negotiations and the second one is created by experts who are capable to help the beneficiaries in their problems. Although they are involved, they are not playing the role of elites to impose their opinions to the beneficiaries. They involve the beneficiaries in providing relationships and problem solving through mediation to carry out the execution of the plans (Goldestain, 2010:3).

Providing Context for Agreement and the Way of its Achievement

Considering the group processes, the one who is effectively advocate of sharing the information can understand the logic of action and communications. That is to say, knowledge is considered challenging. These rules of action and communication which could be found in practical attempts create a new perception among the beneficiaries. Sasskin calls these attempts providing context for agreement. Context providing for agreement is a method which attempts to find consensus among the beneficiaries during the process and applies facilities of negotiation based on the interests and solutions which are achieved through discussion (Baptista, 2005:11).

In the early 1990s, in a study about management of the environment conducted in the US, “Innes” asserts that agreement is an attempt being occurred in long terms. Since then, many attempts were made to provide context for making agreements and this turned to be the best method for achieving and implementing effective negotiations.

“Innes” determines eight conditions for providing context for agreement: (1) involving all of the beneficiaries including any strata or groups. (2) it is a duty with the meaning of participation which has an on time effect. (3) The participants are those who are effective in organizing the instructions, decision-making, and many other subjects. (4) It is a process beginning with mutual perception of the interests. (5) It is a discussion and discourse in which all of the participants are listened to and their opinions are being respected. (6) It is a spontaneous process without any limitations in meetings and it allows discussing all of the hypotheses. (7) The available data should be shared among all of the participants (8) in fact, any attempt to remove their worries.

Some authors have investigated many agreement processes. Innes and Saskin state that because of the type of inclination toward providing context for agreement, one or more of the above-mentioned conditions are ignored.

Collecting the experiences in management of agreement context and collaborative processes provides several laws for managing these processes. Several of the researchers have provided frameworks for collaborative planning processes in order to investigate the obstacles which are existed in theory and practice. In general, it is known for “Krislip” and “Saskin” that there are five effective cases for collaborative successes.


Many planning researchers are concerned about providing context for agreement; nevertheless, some researchers such as Innes, Hili, and Farster claimed that for many critics, theory has been taken equal to the experiences which were created in practice and they ignored a lot of the practical frameworks. However, the researchers believe that collaborative processes should not be considered as a magic that responds every problem or they take long time and are resource consumption (Babtista,2005:11).in the following, a sample of problems about providing context is proposed that was carried out by Richard Margerum (Margerum,2002:9).


Table 1: obstacles on providing context of agreement




Clarification of election process: electing the beneficiaries in flexible processes


Innes,Susskind &Cruikshank, Carlson






Need of inclusiveness: limited needs

Innes, Gray, Lowry, Adler,Milner

Individualism, technology complexity,

Historical obstacles, the past ineffective actions


Gray,Whetten,Bozeman, Gray







Need of sufficient resources, need of educational facilities

Need of agreement, need of identifying the interests, importance of agreement process




Innes, Susskind,Cruikshank,




Susskind &Ozawa, Pasquero,Innes

 Mckearnan & Fairman




The administrative authorities often see agreement free from power, limited view on political system, organizations might not support the cooperation

Gray,Susskind,Seline & Chavez,Gray

, McCarthy & Shorett

Organizations and interests

Process of power management, process of power perception, lateral action of power, existence of various powers

Gray,Amy,Bingam,WHetten & Bozeman,Susskind &Cruikshank

Power and capacity


The first problem of these obstacles is the way of election. In this study, inclusiveness and flexibility have been emphasized on (Margerum,2002:7) and the beneficiaries should be those who are related to the problem and people should participate without any dependency to a certain organization. However, the largest obstacle is political interference because of which this election might not be carried out correctly.

The second problem is related to agreement. For some researchers such as Gray, it is known that dynamism of social levels, historical barriers, and technology complexity are among the main obstacles of agreement.

The third problem is about the resources. Finding the resources is said to be the most important stage to support the agreement processes, but the long term nature of the collaborative planning has created particular problems. In studies conducted in the US and Australia, the participants were worried that their budgets would not have enough budget for execution since they cast doubt that the governmental beneficiaries would execute their strategies.


The fourth problem is regarding operation. Studies indicate that the participants have debate to reach agreement. The groups have significant difference. Some of groups were not satisfied that the process of decision making was not clear. Another problem is about skill that many participants do not have it. Therefore, it is stated that the process of effective agreement demands clear and obvious laws for decision as well as constructive management of problem-solving.

The fifth problem is about organizations and resources. The beneficiary groups have encountered several organizational obstacles. Often, the governmental organizations are not continuously committed to attempts of collaborative planning because organizational culture and political culture do not support the collaborations. Therefore, providing context for agreement among the beneficiaries needs to be widely intertwined to reach agreement in the society.

The sixth method is about power. Chawez and Silin have suggested that when there is power among the participants, it becomes the main obstacle in the process of agreement and “Gray” emphasized that power and injustice prevent collaboration. For instance, in “Southern Wales”, the committees’ representatives were worried about the power of the governmental administrations and industrial organizations which were effective on the processes. Although in the first glance, the citizens have more importance than the representatives in the committees, this did not happen because their presence was not always clear.


Criticism of Collaborative Planning

Emergence of the communicative, collaborative, and negotiating planning was an evolution in theory and practice. Not only was this theory developed but also it was criticized. The criticisms occurred at two levels both in theory of collaborative planning and in practice of planning. Most of the criticisms point to the feature of idealism. One of the main critics is Foucault who discusses power. According to him, power cannot be separated culture, society, and psychology. “Mafi” rejects the idea of communicative action of Habermas since its meaning is separated from power in rational discussions. According to Mafi, discussion and negotiation are always hand in hand with convincing and it is a part of politics which is vulnerable in relation to power. Therefore, agreement is the result of establishment of power relations. The idea of collaboration without power is inappropriate in relation to the conditions (Mäntysalo & Bäcklund, 2010.342) and since hypothesis of this theory is based on assumption of unanimity and agreement while the contemporary social relationships are encountered by problems such as class, racial and cultural gaps that this idea is originated only through power struggle among the people and the involved girl (Daneshpoor, 1390: 40).

Undoubtedly, planning has a political nature and it is often connected to power constructions. Here, the effect of focused power on planning is not always positive and sometimes bring about undesirable results not being compatible with some ethical and social criteria (Makrani, 2007:19). In addition to ignoring power, there might be an emphasis on the powerful actors in the process and even not giving power to the weaker situations. However, some critics believe that collaborative planning does not tell us how to conflict with different powers, while with creation of discourse and prevalent processes, power relations are still stable (Baptista,2005:6).

Perception of collaborative planning has been criticized often as a practice and knowledge. Collaborative planning easily rejects instrumental rationality and ignores the function of knowledge and science. Floberg asserts that is not just an ideal version about democracy based on communicative action. He has not an ideal image from democracy. According to him, the actors do not always act rationally. In other words, the actors are influenced by others’ opinions, as the rest of the beneficiaries might come to this problem (Baptista, 2005:6).

Other critics stated that consensus, agreement and perception among people are not enough for action and method of planning and it is a category beyond reaching agreement. By itself, agreement is a tool to move toward practice and implementation of planning, not the result and output of planning process.

As a critic, “Fine Eshtain” enumerates some weaknesses of collaborative planning as follows:

·         Instead of being a theory of social conflict it is based on functionalism.

·         In order to reach a nominal agreement, it has led to concealing the real problems and this would not reflect the reality.

·         Ignoring the function of power and its capability which limits the execution of agreement actions.

·         The planner or expert being only considered as facilitator, actor, new thought, and creativity, only the step by step solutions will be emerged.

·         This process is excessively long and according to limitation of the resources, it leads to pessimism.

·         Evidences show that experts propose a better solution in the process of planning.

“Penington” is another critic, whose criticisms are in the five following cases:

·         Logical: this claim that complexities relating to the whole should be managed based on the holistic view is illogical and makes no complete conclusion. However, it is obvious that in these systems which are related to all, making public aware is very difficult.

·         Epistemological: most of the things which conduct the people’s action are implicit. The data related to a specific place are not just created by discourse forms. This idea which is in line with discourse and its main source of data is public’s speaking, should not be void of knowledge.

·         Cognitive: the way of perception of human action is very complex and because human mind has limitation regarding cognition, this is inevitable to rely excessively to these actions as informing tools.

·         Discursive: technically, it is impossible to involve anyone. As a result, dominance of technical and specialized methods would not give more power to people.

·         Nature: consultative approach prevents innovation and creativity. Because of occurrence of discrepancies, the creation of innovative ideas may be decreased and people may be involved in disagreements and debates (www.oamk.fi/entracop)

Finally, it could be pointed that critics have challenged the legitimization of collaborative process by the following questions:

1.      What criteria are existed to identify the real beneficiaries?

2.      How could justice be implemented despite of variety in interests of the beneficiaries?

3.      How could it be possible to recognize the impartiality of the beneficiaries and facilitators? (Baptista, 2005:6).


Collaborative planning approach is an action process for creating agreement, understanding and applying all of the beneficiaries and also involving the citizens in planning process. Problems such as complexities of the modern life, contradictions, and disagreements, lack of complete implementation of the plans and programs and not noticing to the citizens’ function as the main actors of the scene and decision-making process are the reasons of researchers’ interest to communicative planning. Thus, in this approach citizens got a higher position in participation case. Consultative concepts, ways to achieve agreement, data, education, consultation, group action processes were appeared. Nevertheless, this theory was criticized like the other ones. In fact, the criticisms are proposed in two main areas of theory and practice and some critics questioned collaborative planning with noticing to subjects such as lack of attention to power in decision-making, policy in planning, the criteria for recognizing the real beneficiaries and their impartiality, the way of creating justice with existence of disagreements, position and function of the planners. However, one could not neglect the advantages such as: highlighting the citizens’ function in all stages of planning, identifying the social structures, collecting data, education, learning, skills, increase of plan implementation because of public’s participation which include resources of the society 






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