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Empathic leadership in sustainability planning Senbel, Maged 2005

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E M P A T H I C L E A D E R S H I P I N SUSTAINABILITY P L A N N I N G by M A G E D S E N B E L B. Arch., The University of Oregon, 1991 M.Arch. , M c G i l l University, 1995 M.Sc.(Planning), The University of British Columbia, 1999 A THESIS SUBMITTED I N P A R T I A L F U L F I L M E N T OF T H E R E Q U I R E M E N T S FOR T H E D E G R E E OF D O C T O R OF P H I L O S O P H Y in T H E F A C U L T Y OF G R A D U A T E STUDIES C O M M U N I T Y A N D R E G I O N A L P L A N N I N G T H E UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH C O L U M B I A Apr i l 2005 © Maged Senbel, 2005 A B S T R A C T Analysis of planning practice has led theorists to claim that planners are increasingly involved in communicative work as they negotiate between competing interests' and opposing parties. A normative study of the resultant theory of communicative planning, alongside a review of current trends in leadership and mediation literature, leads to a set of guiding attributes of conduct and action. This research begins by synthesizing these guiding attributes of effective planning into a framework of Empathic Leadership. In sustainability planning Empathic Leadership is particularly concerned with mediating between different perspectives while simultaneously advancing a specific agenda. The work of eight sustainability planners in the Vancouver region, each a leader in her respective field, was analyzed using the Empathic Leadership framework. Planners were interviewed shadowed and observed, and their staff and colleagues were surveyed to gain multiple perspectives on the significance of the various attributes of leadership. Empathic Leadership was found to permeate every aspect of the practitioners' work and they were found to possess many of the skills necessary for being exemplary leaders. The research also revealed that their work is an iterative pentad of: visioning, engaging emotions, building community, employing strategy and implementing action. The visions are compelling, seductive and infectious yet ambiguous. Emotions are strong and recognized as being significant, yet poorly integrated into the other elements of the pentad. Communities rallying around the visions are cohesive, fluid, diverse and context-specific, but largely untested. The strategies are political, relatively transparent but rarely uphold the inclusive values of the vision. Actions are varied, innovative and often democratizing, yet implicitly homogenous and classist. While ample evidence of communicative planning exists, it is an unrealized ideal; the reality is a temporally larger scope of relational planning whereby change is achieved through the building of relationships over time. Table of Contents T A B L E O F C O N T E N T S Abstract i i Table of Contents i i i List of Tables v List of Figures v Preface vi Acknowledgements vi i 1 - Introduction 1 P R O B L E M S T A T E M E N T 4 R A T I O N A L E F O R L E A D E R S H I P R E S E A R C H IN P L A N N I N G 7 R E S E A R C H Q U E S T I O N 7 M E T H O D S A N D M E T H O D O L O G I E S 8 M E T H O D O L O G I C A L P R E C E D E N C E 16 D E F I N I N G T H E V A N C O U V E R SUSTAINABIL ITY P L A N N E R 17 2 - Empathic Leadership in Planning 21 C O M M U N I C A T I V E P L A N N I N G 2 2 L E A D E R S H I P , M E D I A T I O N A N D N E G O T I A T I O N 2 9 F R A M E W O R K FOR E M P A T H I C L E A D E R S H I P I N P L A N N I N G 3 4 S E L F - R E F L E C T I O N A N D S E L F - A W A R E N E S S 35 S E L F - R E G U L A T I O N 35 A R T I C U L A T I O N OF V A L U E S A N D V I S I O N I N G 3 6 C O M P A S S I O N A N D U N D E R S T A N D I N G O T H E R S 3 7 C O M M U N I C A T I O N A N D R E L A T I N G T O O T H E R S 3 7 B U I L D I N G R E L A T I O N S H I P S 3 7 P A R T I C I P A T I O N , C O L L A B O R A T I O N A N D I N C L U S I O N 38 C O N F L I C T R E S O L U T I O N 38 INSPIRATION 38 V I S I O N I N G A N D C R E A T I N G C U L T U R E 3 9 A C Q U I S I T I O N O F K N O W L E D G E A N D S K I L L S 3 9 U N D E R S T A N D I N G P O W E R , A U T H O R I T Y A N D I N F L U E N C E 3 9 E M P O W E R I N G O T H E R S 3 9 H E A L I N G A N D C O N F R O N T I N G P A I N 4 0 P R E V I E W O F E M P A T H I C L E A D E R S H I P IN SUSTAINABIL ITY P L A N N I N G 41 3 - V i s i o n 49 T H E S I G N I F I C A N C E O F V I S I O N 5 0 P E R S O N A L E V O L U T I O N A N D V I S I O N 51 E P I S T E M O L O G Y 5 4 O R G A N I Z A T I O N A L V I S I O N 5 6 S O C I E T A L V I S I O N 6 0 V I S I O N O F C O N D U C T A N D P R O C E S S 6 2 V I S U A L I Z I N G T H E V I S I O N 65 SUSTAINABIL ITY P L A N N I N G 68 D E V E L O P I N G C A P A C I T Y FOR A N E V O L V I N G SUSTAINABIL ITY V I S I O N 7 6 iii Table of Contents 4 - Emotion 80 E M O T I O N AS S E E D O F V I S I O N 81 P A S S I O N : E M O T I O N AS V E C T O R A N D C O N D U I T OF V I S I O N 8 4 E M O T I O N A S V U L N E R A B I L I T Y 8 7 E M O T I O N A S POSSIBILITY A N D O P P O R T U N I T Y 8 9 E M O T I O N AS DIVISIVE F O R C E 91 E M O T I O N A S C O H E S I V E F O R C E 9 3 T H E P O W E R O F E M O T I O N : A N E V E R P R E S E N T C O M P O N E N T O F D I S C O U R S E 9 5 R E S I L I E N C E 9 7 A N G E R A N D F E A R 100 E M P A T H I C C O M M U N I C A T I O N 104 D E V E L O P I N G C O M M U N I C A T I V E A N D E M P A T H I C C A P A C I T Y 107 5 - Community 113 T H E FIRST C O M M U N I T Y 114 C O M M UNITY WITHIN O R G A N I Z A T I O N S 117 C O M M U N I T Y A C R O S S O R G A N I Z A T I O N S A N D INSTITUTIONS 123 C O M M U N I T Y A C R O S S PERSPECTIVE 124 C O M M U N I T Y A C R O S S SOCIETY 128 C R E A T I N G C U L T U R E A N D C O M M U N I C A T I N G T H E V I S I O N 131 D E V E L O P I N G C A P A C I T Y FOR C O M M U N I T Y B U I L D I N G 132 6- Strategy 144 C O N T E X T S O F P O W E R A N D T H E S T A T U S Quo 145 P R I V I L E G E , P E R S O N A L P O W E R A N D E T H I C S 146 P O W E R A N D S T R A T E G Y I N A N O R G A N I Z A T I O N 149 P O W E R A N D S T R A T E G Y ACROSS O R G A N I Z A T I O N S 157 P O W E R A N D S T R A T E G Y A C R O S S SOCIETY , A C R O S S P E R S P E C T I V E 159 C O M M U N I C A T I N G V I S I O N A N D G E N E R A T I N G C U L T U R E 167 A L L I A N C E S A N D C O A L I T I O N S 171 D E V E L O P I N G S T R A T E G I C C A P A C I T Y 172 7 - Action 179 F R O M V I S I O N TO A C T I O N 182 C O M M U N I C A T I N G SUSTAINABIL ITY ISSUES 187 P A R T I C I P A T O R Y V I S I O N I N G A N D D E C I S I O N - M A K I N G 188 P A R T I C I P A T O R Y I M P L E M E N T A T I O N 192 D E V E L O P I N G C A P A C I T Y F O R P A R T I C I P A T O R Y A C T I O N 194 8- Conclusion 200 References 217 Appendix A - Organizational profiles of Planners 226 Appendix B - Staff and Colleagues Survey 236 Appendix C - Questionnaire Data Summaries 241 Appendix D - Correlations Between Variables 250 iv LIST OF T A B L E S Chapter 1 Table 1 - Summary of Sustainability Planners' Organizations Chapter 2 Table 2 - Framework of Empathic Leadership LIST OF FIGURES Chapter 2 Figure 1 - Pentad of How Planners Exercise Empathic Leadership to Advance Sustainability P R E F A C E Trodden and struggling, wavering, reaching and receding before the jolts that come my way. Groping to stand and finding a stand and slipping to fall, but holding to keep from withdrawing into the darkness of my despair. Being hit and conquered and buried beneath my load of life but finding a place to continue to be nothing but the one thing that will leave me aglow: the freedom to love. More than just the passionate embrace of sexual space or the unquestioning smiling tolerance of social grace: this love is a reverence for the power of the self and an awe of the majesty of our collective destiny. This love is at once spiritual and practical. It is what fuels my desire to rise and what informs my choice to act. It resides within and beyond reason and is fueled by its like in everything that has ever touched me. Free of the protection that keeps me fearful of telling you that I love you, I sing with joy at the prospect of our union. To erupt in laughter in the company of another, and to look across the space of glee that resides between us to see a pair of eyes brimming with the raw beauty of ecstatic expression, is love. To give and protect and nurture without thinking, is love. To understand that I do not understand and to admire and respect while disagreeing, is love. To love those that I cannot imagine loving and to love those who cringe at the thought of my love, is love. To contribute to the unshackling of love between carriers of galvanized hate is the greatest honour that could ever be bestowed upon my life. If my dream is to reach outward and help cultivate a world of reciprocal inspiration across diverse populations, then my task is to reach inward and shape the world that resides inside of me. February 2001 Acknowledgements A C K N O W L E D G E M E N T S I began this journey wanting to give of myself to somehow assuage my sense of undeserved privilege as a member of the consumer class of the North. The accident of fate that had me live at this time and place seemed like a certificate of responsibility, demanding that I do my part in redistributing privilege. It would not do to simply live my life in relative luxury. I took on the task of undertaking research that I thought would allow me to give of myself. I thought that I could perhaps produce a sliver of knowledge that might be of some larger benefit to a world in turmoil. It was a vain thought, for the research itself was a luxury. It was a luxury and a privilege to be able to take five years of my life to pursue a doctoral degree. I have gained immeasurably more than I have given and I hope that I will somehow start to repay my debt to the world through a life of teaching and writing. There is also my debt to specific individuals who have supported, guided and nurtured me along the way. My debts to them are so deep that this work does not feel like my own. I was simply the conduit through which the efforts, ideas, behaviour and insights of others came to be combined and embodied in a single piece of work. Unlike countless unfortunate PhD students, whose stories I have heard over the years, my experience with every member of my supervisory committee has been extraordinary. I feel very fortunate to have had the benefit of their wise council and inspiring example. My foremost debt is to Tony Dorcey, my mentor, my teacher, my supervisor and, dare I say, my friend. His guidance has marked my entire journey in the world of planning. His commitment, his integrity, his transparency and his overall leadership as the Director of the School of Community and Regional Planning has inspired me, and my research, in countless ways. Tony has given me many gifts of experience over the years but the one for which I am most grateful is the gift of his trust. He believed in my work long before I believed in it myself. He taught me to trust my own instincts. He treated me like an equal, like a colleague and a confidante. I often feel like this trust, this confidence in my judgment, was the equivalent of handing me a decade of academic experience. Even so, my debt to Tony cannot be quantified. To Leonie Sandercock I owe a special kind of gratitude. Discovering her writing was akin to discovering a revitalizing and resonant way of understanding the human processes behind cities. Her influence upon my work has continued to be a source of inspiration and innovation. Her appreciation of the value of searching inward for sociological insight, and her understanding of the power of emotions on our capacity to act and interact across difference, have encouraged me to take risks I would never have otherwise contemplated. Her coming to UBC and agreeing to be on my supervisory committee was one of the best things that happened to my research. Knowing that she valued my work has given me tremendous reserves of confidence over the years. Her courage in venturing into uncharted territory, her probing intellect in analyzing and charting that territory, her capacity to weave together a story from seemingly disparate strands of knowledge, and her ability to do it all in profoundly insightful yet accessible language, will always be the ideal to which I aspire. Moura Quayle was impressive from the first moment I met her. She has a unique ability to make everybody she interacts with feel valued and deeply appreciated. Thanks to Moura I got my first opportunity to experience the trials and tribulations, and ultimately the joys of vii Acknowledgements teaching. She too believed in my research long before I did. She also served a rather unique role on my committee. She has long played a leadership role in the area of sustainability in Vancouver and at UBC. As the Dean of Agricultural Sciences (now Land and Food Systems), she was a role model for me and it was her example that helped me conceptualize the components of my work. Had I not valued her wisdom and creative engagement of my work so much, I would have gladly substituted her for one of my research subjects. The further I got in my research the greater my admiration grew for the manner in which she navigated the turbulent waters of the university bureaucracy while still managing to give sustainability a voice. Peter Frost probably deserves the greatest acknowledgment as the inspiration for this particular research. It was his pioneering research in the areas of emotions in organizations, and his award-winning course on organizational leadership that helped me find my own passion in planning. Peter's death in October of 2004 was a tragic loss for many, many people and was certainly a loss for me and for this work1. Peter was also an incredible teacher and his creativity and dynamism in the classroom formed memories that will be with me forever. His facility with infusing research on emotions into previously unsympathetic disciplines was a great source of comfort for my entire research committee. He was simultaneously energizing and calming and was one of those people in whose company you always loved to be. He persistently encouraged me to tell a story and his advice played a large role in how I wrote this thesis. He never got a chance to see the final product and it is my deepest hope that he would have approved. This research would not have been possible without the participation of Larry Beasley, Johnny Carline, Patrick Condon, Daryl Fields, Cheeying Ho, Sebastian Moffat and Bruce Sampson. They all kindly agreed to participate in my study and generously shared their thoughts and feelings about their sustainability work. I consider each of the interviews they granted me to have been a precious gift, and my observation of their work to have been an imposition that they graciously accommodated. Through their insights and their sharing I gained a deeper appreciation for the complexity of their work. I grew to respect and admire them and to think of them as mentors in my own work in the area of sustainability. I am deeply indebted to them and, as the following pages reveal, their voices make up a large and important piece of my narrative. I am also indebted to many other mentors whose writings have inspired, guided and buttressed my own research. The work of John Friedmann, John Forester, Patsy Healey, Judith Innes, James Throgmorton and Bent Flyvbjerg built a solid foundation of theory upon which I could stand. Without their pioneering work my own explorations would not have been conceivable. They broadened the territory of knowledge that we can attribute to urban planning and allowed me to claim that my own research is a legitimate part of the field. Many friends and colleagues also deserve my gratitude for their advice and support over the years. Derek Masselink, Sarah McMillan, Tanja Winkler, Sharif Senbel, Eric Loucks, Barbara Montgomery, Michael Harstone, Tim Dewhirst, Leslie Dickout, Laurie Aikman and Vanessa Timmer have all helped me to varying degrees as I traveled the path of research and exploration. Please see Csillag (2004) for an obituary of Dr. Peter Frost. viii Acknowledgements My deepest gratitude goes to my parents. They have given me the gift of their love and their undying, immeasurable support. To them I owe my life, my values, my education and the desire to serve. My parents' presence in my life is a joy and their friendship is a blessing. I am deeply indebted to them in more ways than I will ever know, and I dedicate this work to them. ix Chapter 1 - Introduction 1 - I N T R O D U C T I O N This research is the culmination of many years of trying to find an appropriate avenue through which I could contribute towards greater environmental and social justice. My interest is quite simply to help find egalitarian ways for humans to make use of ecological resources without irreparably damaging the ecological systems that generate those resources. I see injustice in our collective indifference to the destruction of the earth's systems upon which our minds and bodies depend. I see injustice in the enormous inequity between the relative comfort of my lifestyle and that of my peers compared to the abject poverty that billions of people suffer. My sense of injustice is further fueled by my recognition that our affluent Northern lifestyles could never become the norm. It is a biophysical impossibility (Senbel et al. 2003)2 and for us to live a life of luxury requires others to live a life of insufficiency. Injustice was not all I saw and experienced of the world. I was inspired and emboldened by the creativity, innovation and courage I encountered in my quest for an alternative vision. From the profundity of the critical written word to the majesty of built exemplars of urban and ecological integration, I was awed by what is possible. In my architectural research I came across literally hundreds of brilliant ideas that seek to lift us from our destructive quagmire. Yet very little was being done. The problem, it dawned on me, is not a lack of ideas, or a lack of interest, it's a lack of persistent action: a lack of leadership. So I set out to study leadership in planning, but it was not to be the traditional understanding of leadership with all its trappings of authority and draconian control. Change towards sustainability would need to be cooperatively derived, and I had no interest in promoting a return to an authoritarian role for planners. Planners also, quite simply, do not have sufficient power to impose sustainability ideas on decision makers when those ideas are likely to challenge countless norms and conventions. I turned to current expertise in the areas of mediation and facilitation as well as managerial leadership to find models of leadership that suited my inclination towards collaborative leadership. This inclination is itself informed by contemporary directions in planning theory which position the planner as a convener of forums of communication between a range of experts and with different groups in society (Forester 1989, Healey 1992, Innes 1995, Forester 1998). Bringing together communicative planning with mediation and leadership led to my development of the framework of Empathic Leadership, which I then applied to my study of eight Sustainability Planners in the Vancouver Region3. Chapter 2 introduces the framework for Empathic Leadership and traces its evolution through its various theoretical influences. Empathic Leadership is composed of 14 attributes grouped under personal actions, relational actions and developmental actions. It is this framework that has guided my research inquiry from the outset. Empathic Leadership constitutes those attributes of communicative planning and leadership that are 2 My Master's research in planning modeled different scenarios of consumption and resource productivity over the next hundred years in North America and concluded that our current trajectories of consumption are unsustainable. 3 The "Sustainability Planners" refers to those planners in Greater Vancouver who participated in the study as opposed to "sustainability planners" which would refer to the broader and more general group. 1 Chapter 1 - Introduction normatively demanded of practitioners working to affect change. They are self-awareness and self-reflection; self-regulation; articulation of values and visioning; compassion and understanding others; communicating and relating to others; building relationships; resolving conflict; inspiring others; visioning and creating culture; acquiring knowledge and skills; understanding power, authority and influence; empowering others; and healing and confronting pain. While Empathic Leadership lays out the set of practices that sustainability planners ideally employ in performing their work, it does not reveal the manner in which they perform these practices to advance the sustainability agenda. It is a general toolkit for affecting change and my research here is specific to sustainability. Chapters 3 through 7 apply Empathic Leadership to sustainability planning and present what I have found to be the five essential steps of sustainability planning practice: vision, emotion, community, strategy and action. Chapter 3 presents sustainability as a vision and a series of visions. This is the root of action and the seed of inspiration that drives individuals and groups to act, react and create change. The voices of sustainability planners give us the first glimpse of sustainability visions. Moving from personal values to organizational and societal visions we see how an idea can grow to include increasing spheres of influence. The complexity and variety of sustainability is then further explored through theories derived from different disciplines leading to sustainability theory as it is discussed by planning theorists. In Chapter 4,1 present emotions in their various forms as they relate to sustainability planning work. Emotions are shown to be the stimuli for both action and reaction. Passion is profoundly powerful in charging planners and infecting those with whom they interact. It brings hope and enthusiasm and guards against debilitation from setbacks. Negative emotions also come into play and are part of the array of issues that planners have to contend with. Whether they divide people or unite them, whether they inspire or paralyze, emotions are ever present in planning work and Chapter 4 explores the different ways that planners manage their presence. Community has long been integral to theories and debates in planning. In Chapter 5,1 introduce an understanding of community that revolves around ideas and visions. It differs from traditional forms of community, which connect people around geography, place, culture or identity. It is a permutation of community converging around ideology. In this case the ideology is dynamic and the connections are constantly shifting depending on the issue and the context. The manner in which planners build communities of support across geographic scales and across perspectives contributes to our understanding of how the relational actions of Empathic Leadership operate. Strategy is introduced in Chapter 6 as a planning activity that is routinely employed to leverage avenues of support and empowerment that would otherwise not exist. I try to shed the stigma of strategic planning being manipulative and unilateral and instead paint a picture of selective collaboration and partnership. Disenfranchised groups and fringe ideas gain power and legitimacy through strategic alliances across sectors and across political ideologies. The discussion turns to the possibility of deception and manipulation in the absence of regular ethical reflection. The potential abuse of Empathic Leadership, through which relationships become self-serving, must be countered with a strong sense of ethics defined and redefined as part of the planner's ongoing self-reflection and self-awareness. 2 Chapter 1 - Introduction Chapter 7 is a recasting of many of the issues discussed in prior chapters with an emphasis on the implementation of visions through action. I discuss specific projects that planners have undertaken to bring life to their visions. My intention here is to be neither comprehensive nor exhaustive but to highlight two different ways of involving members of the public and engaging their ideas in the creation of a collective vision. I see both innovation and opportunities for greater adherence to sustainability principles. The final chapter offers conclusions on the manner in which Empathic Leadership is practiced and offers insights that serve to inform knowledge in both communicative planning and sustainability planning. Three different narratives stream through each of the chapters. Beginning each chapter is my own voice, first as a student of sustainability and then as an advocate of sustainability on the UBC campus. The second narrative is a thematic analysis of the words of the Sustainability Planners as well as my own observations of their work. This narrative is also informed by statistically supported assertions about the perceptions of those working with the planners in the field of sustainability planning. Towards the end of each chapter I return to a theoretical narrative that I first introduce in Chapters 1 and 2. I discuss theoretical questions that arise through my analysis of the work of the planners, or that were raised earlier and were subsequently addressed in some way through the implications of my analysis. Much of this work's engagement of relevant literature occurs in these penultimate sections of each chapter. Theoretical explorations and the connection of this work to the literature unfold sequentially through the course of this work. I then conclude each chapter with discussions on how planners could help increase their own capacities for effective action. This research finds its home in Vancouver for several reasons. The Greater Vancouver region is home to numerous projects and initiatives that are attempting to implement sustainability in some way. These projects range in scale from innovative construction technology, to provincial roundtables.4 Research in the region is also at the cutting edge of sustainability analysis and implementation.5 The region is rife with activity in the area of sustainability, but it has never been studied from an integrative planning perspective. British Columbia has a long history of addressing sustainability issues in innovative participatory processes. Dorcey and McDaniels trace Canadian environmental initiatives back to the mid 1960s with the convening of a symposium on Pollution and our 4 Some of the more visible and ambitious projects include the City of Vancouver's Southeast False Creek "Sustainable Urban Neighbourhood", commitment by two major universities to employ sustainability strategies in developing their endowment lands, the Greater Vancouver Regional District's "Sustainable Region Initiative", and numerous projects by non-governmental organizations. 5 William Rees1 (UBC) work on the Ecological Footprint has been widely cited and is increasingly influential in the field of sustainability measurement. Raymond Cole's (UBC) work on the embodied energy of buildings is at the cutting edge of construction and engineering sustainability. Mark Roseland's (SFU) work on the characteristics of sustainable cities is frequently cited in sustainability planning literature. Lawrence Green's (US Center for Disease Control formerly UBC) developed the Precede-Proceed model of behavioral change. Numerous research and educational projects were undertaken by the Sustainable Development Research Institute (now called Initiative) at UBC including QUEST. 3 Chapter 1 - Introduction Environment, after which a flurry of activity took place (Dorcey and McDaniels 2001). Environmental concerns developed in concert with new large development projects in urban regions. The Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) launched the Livable Region Strategy in the early seventies to garner citizen involvement in a visionary multi-jurisdictional regional plan (Dorcey and McDaniels 2001). This plan evolved over the years and continued to play a significant role in regional growth management until 2001 at which time the GVRD began to replace it with the Sustainable Region Initiative, johnny Carline, the director of the GVRD, chose to start the SRI in lieu of reviewing the Livable Regions Strategic Plan in order to tackle a broader range of sustainability problems in greater depth (Carline 2003a). The British Columbia Roundtable for the Economy and the Environment was established in 1990 as a provincial response to growing national and international concern about sustainability, initially stimulated by the watershed Brundtland Report (WCED 1987). The Roundtable was comprised of 31 members including both governmental and non-governmental representation. Although there were similar roundtables in other regions and at the national level, this one was distinct in its emphasis on multi-stakeholder involvement and consensus building (Dorcey and McDaniels 2001). This collaborative approach gained popularity and numerous other processes followed the Roundtable's example. The British Columbia Commission on Resources and the Environment, the Fraser Basin Management Board and Land and Resource Management Planning are all examples of planning processes that explicitly sought to include diverse interests and stakeholders in the making of plans and the drafting of policies. Although there was a period of decline in the mid-nineties in citizen involvement in British Columbia, both in terms of participation and institutional interest, there continues to be a strong appetite for innovation and citizen engagement (Dorcey 2003). The region is also home to many pioneering institutions that are contributing towards a greater awareness of sustainability issues. The region is replete with environmental groups such as the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation, Ecotrust Canada and the Sierra Legal Defense Fund; social justice advocates such as the Tenants Rights Action Coalition and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives; and progressive financial institutions such as VanCity and Four Corners Community Savings. VanCity has for a number of years invited its members to vote for one of a number of short-listed innovative environmentally or socially sustainable projects. The winner receives a million dollar grant. VanCity also funds smaller projects through a variety of grant programs. This culture of innovation and activism makes the region ripe for broader and more large-scale participatory governance initiatives. Problem Statement Sustainability planning has become popular yet it is complex and riddled with internal paradoxes of process and content, which threaten to undermine its utility. The problems are wicked, the geographies are intertwined and the visions are divergent. Progress towards sustainability is mixed yet evident in pockets throughout the Greater Vancouver region. This research seeks to learn how planners navigate the rough terrain of human interaction to make progress towards a vision of sustainability. 4 Chapter 1 - Introduction Sustainability literature calls for participatory governance yet traditional mechanisms of participation have been found to be insufficient. Developments in communicative planning theory, coupled with experiments in innovative planning practice in Greater Vancouver, offer valuable opportunities for the advancement of sustainability planning. Communicative planning also stands to gain by being studied as an integral component of the larger sustainability movement. Communicative planning is an attractive idea that promises increased opportunities for participation by a greater segment of society. It is founded on a universalistic sociological idea of consensual decision-making aided by rational communication. Its potential for explaining much of planning work and for further democratizing planning processes is significant yet it is not without its detractors. Critics accuse communicative planning of being too idealistic and somewhat naive about the indomitable effect of politics, socio-economics and institutional structures. The debate continues as more research attention is directed at how communicative processes are imbedded in the larger forces of society. This research illustrates such an imbeddedness and shows how communicative action is used to both perpetuate and counter pervasive power structures. The details of the planning actions and interactions that facilitate greater opportunities for communication are largely understudied. We know little about how to cross boundaries of experience, culture and socio-economy in the context of collective visioning. Focusing on the procedural content of communication, including the emotional content, and how it is managed in communicative planning has been encouraged but has not been directly studied. The work demanded of planners by these descriptive and normative trends in planning literature amounts to a form of leadership for sustainability. Therefore researching sustainability leadership will not only serve to improve the practice itself but it will also inform broader questions in communicative planning. In planning's emerging role as the guardian of open and inclusive participation by all citizens affected by a planning decision it has inadvertently taken on a central role as the guarantor of democratic processes at the micro-scale of society. The normative requirements are somewhat understood: open and transparent process, inclusive and egalitarian participation, and the devolution of power and authority across all classes and groups. Yet the reality is not so tidy. The art of the process; garnering enthusiasm, building a collective vision, managing unpredictable behaviour, acknowledging emotional scars, and facilitating inspirations and epiphanies, are far less understood. Meanwhile individuals and organizations are taking leadership roles in defining different ways of visioning and decision-making. This research seeks to learn from these exemplary projects and communicates planning and leadership insights that would help practitioners working towards sustainability goals. Sustainability was conceived in response to the parallel stimuli of empirical analysis and real world observation of environmental depletion and deprivation. Beginning with a Malthusian analysis showing us increasingly incapable of providing human populations with basic needs, sustainability theorists have always sought to be prescriptive above all else. It is widely acknowledged in the literature that the kinds of gains demanded by sustainability's various proponents have not been met. It has further been suggested that failures are in large part due to faulty process, exclusionary governance, or a simple 5 Chapter 1 - Introduction disconnect between theory and reality. It is this third culprit that forms an important anchor for my work. While the ignorance by theorists of the conditions of practice has often been blamed for seemingly pedantic academic debates across many professional disciplines, when it comes to sustainability this shortcoming is further marred by an implied prejudice. It is widely assumed by sustainability theorists that on the whole society is unsustainable and, by extension, so too is all current practice. I reject this premise on the grounds that much of the content of our modeling and theorizing about future scenarios of sustainability comes from contemporary examples. There are pockets of innovation all around us and practitioners view them as the seeds of change. It is my contention, and this is an important premise for this research, that theoretical discourse has overlooked current successes and deemed them to be irreplicable isolated cases. Incorporating the experience of these projects and learning from their successes and failures will provide invaluable insights for future directions in policy, systems analysis and institutional design and research. Sustainable development is deemed to be entirely consistent with the spirit and purpose of town planning, and to permeate all its activities (Selman 1995). This total infusion of sustainability into planning is advocated by several authors (Beatley 1995; Selman 1995; jepson 2001) and has given prominence to the notion of sustainable planning. Beatley's 1995 article claims paradigmatic stature for sustainability (Beatley 1995). Unlike Innes' (1995) interpretation of the communicative trend in planning as a paradigm, Beatley's proof is a normative argument about worth (Beatley 1995). Sustainability is ecologically imperative, socially needed, and qualitatively and aesthetically desirable (Beatley 1995). Selman (1995) sees sustainability as a renewing force that gives planning its legitimacy and necessity in the public sphere. McDonald asserts that "the whole direction of mainstream planning must be guided by the criteria of sustainable development" (McDonald 1996:235).6 His definition of sustainability is balanced between environmental and socioeconomic issues, and between procedural and substantive concerns. He also argues that good planning has always been concerned with sustainability. Conversely the sustainability literature also utilizes many of the tools of analysis and implementation used in planning. So much so that McDonald contends that "planning is one of the essential tools to achieve sustainable development" (McDonald 1996:230). The work of sustainability planning is complicated and challenging to the extreme. It requires communicating difficult ideas with troubling implications. At its core, it calls for fundamental shifts in the values and structure of society towards greater justice and equity across different socio-economic groups and through future generations. It questions the status-quo, it is skeptical about the capacity of technology to solve all problems, and it promotes abstract ideas about nebulous scenarios. As an ethic and a mission it inspires great passion in its proponents and incites considerable resentment by those who enjoy 6 The terms "sustainable development" are used by McDonald, but other authors use the term sustainability to discuss identical issues. Sustainability is the term preferred here because it avoids the implication that economic growth (i.e. development) is a necessary precondition for sustainability. Making it a noun rather than an adjective further emphasizes its unique importance. 6 Chapter 1 - Introduction power and privilege through current systems. Sustainability, in short, is a gargantuan project. It comes as no surprise that proponents of the idea are calling for leadership, the cultivation of leadership qualities, and the training of a generation of leaders. I therefore sought to study sustainability planners and the communicative work that they perform as leaders in their respective areas of influence. A more detailed definition of sustainability planning with all its challenges and internal conflicts is discussed in Chapter 3 as a component of the various sustainability visions held by both practitioners and theorists. Rationale for Leadership Research in Planning The work of planners as promoted by planning theorists, and as further demanded through their negotiation of the complex terrains of sustainability, pluralism and advocacy, requires action and practices amounting to leadership. The variety of social, institutional and political contexts within which emancipatory change must take place make leadership a necessary and primary ingredient of planning work. Flexibility, creativity, team building, refined social skills, risk-taking, coalition building, negotiation and persuasion are all practices commonly espoused in theories of leadership. Drawing from management and organizational sciences sheds light on the work that planners are expected to undertake, and in many cases are already undertaking, while highlighting specific areas that need to be explicitly engaged in planning education and practice. Sustainability planning has moved beyond its infancy as a practice in the Greater Vancouver region. As the coming chapters reveal, sustainability is commonly acknowledged as a legitimate direction in several planning departments and the regional planning office. In the meantime, communicative action planning has emerged as a legitimate approach to the study and practice of planning. It evolved out of observing the work of practicing planners and theorizing about these observations. It is descriptive in suggesting that much of planning already involves communication as a primary tool for the creation and implementation of plans, and prescriptive in acknowledging and promoting planners' facility with human relations. Beyond the broad significance of communicative action, planning theory offers little direction for acquiring the tools necessary for communication or for developing greater efficacy in this role. Leadership analysis provides a framework for researching, developing and refining knowledge on communicative planning. When applied to sustainability this knowledge guides sustainability planning practice and communicative planning theory with the ultimate goal of informing both theory and practice. Research Question The primary question guiding this study has developed and transformed through the course of this research but always related to issues of sustainability, communicative work and Empathic Leadership. The question that has endured the test of substantial revisions and modifications and that has withstood the test of field work is: How, and to what extent, do planners exercise Empathic Leadership to advance sustainability? Empathic Leadership is defined in Chapter 2 by distilling and reorganizing best practices as informed by leadership, mediation, conflict resolution, negotiation and communicative 7 Chapter 1 - Introduction planning literature. This research departs with the assumption that Empathic Leadership is in existence to varying degrees and desirable in its entirety. While the terminology and the framework of Empathic Leadership are my own, the claim and the assumption that the components of Empathic Leadership exemplify best current practices is taken directly from the interdisciplinary literature I reviewed. The main research question asks how sustainability planners use Empathic Leadership specifically. Given that theorists believe these attributes to be prevalent it is important to learn how they are practiced. Chapters 3 through 7 answer this question through a presentation and analysis of the five areas of vision, emotion, community, strategy and action. Methods and Methodologies This research primarily employed qualitative methods with an emphasis on ethnographic analysis. I sought to understand how sustainability leaders conduct themselves in different situations and how they interact with others through the processes of planning. Absolute replicability of situational reaction is neither possible nor desirable. Every situation inherently has its own idiosyncrasies with its own context and its own set of actors. The data gathered reveals unique individual reactions to unique situations and cannot be made to represent typical practices or reproducible results. Each person's life history and each person's style and personality, for example, likely results in a personalized mechanism for dealing with emotions and emotionally loaded interactions. The degree to which they are cognizant of emotive interactions and the manner and intent of their preparation for those interactions is likewise unique. It is the richness of detail and the depth of analysis that answered the research question. Quantification and calculation are certainly possible for this kind of study, and have been popular in psychology research for decades, but they necessarily generalize contexts in ways that would conceal the details surrounding specific situations. In addition to its intended contribution to knowledge and academic discourse, this research is also intended to be a resource for practitioners engaged in communicative plarining work. Statistical analysis charting norms, trends and general tendencies might serve analysts making broad policy recommendations, but the practitioner working in the field would be better served by following the trials and tribulations of the individual experience. Gauging the reflexivity of practitioners and revealing their stories, is a form of inquiry that can only be achieved through qualitative methods. Within the larger rubric of qualitative methodology, it is the ethnographic method that is most suitable to uncovering the social relationships between people even when such relationships occur in a professional context. My research question requires an in-depth exploration of individual people and the manner in which they engage others for the specific goal of sustainability. I began with the assumption that objectivity is unattainable. I am, instead, making my subjectivity explicit. The very choice of my research area and the manner in which I have defined my scope and chosen my subjects are all intertwined with my own values and experiences as an architect and a planner in search of greater environmental and social responsibility. Qualitative research is a situated activity that locates the observer in the world. It consists of a set of interpretive, material practices that make the world visible. These practices transform the world. They 8 Chapter 1 - Introduction turn the world into a series of representations, including field notes, interviews, conversations, photographs, recordings, and memos (Miles, 1994:8). Qualitative methods were first conceived in the disciplines of sociology and anthropology dating back to the 1920s and 1930s (Denzin, 2000). The tradition evolved from the detached observation of dark skinned subjects by white male ethnographers to a self-conscious awareness of the impossibility of representing the "other" (Denzin, 2000). Qualitative researchers have become keenly aware of the political nature of their research and of the contextual idiosyncrasies of every project. Denzin and Lincoln describe themselves as engaged in a "struggle to connect qualitative research to the hopes, needs, goals, and promises of a free democratic society." (Denzin, 2000:3) This is not a matter of choice. Neutral observance, as was once assumed to be the role of the researcher, does not exist. "The age of value free inquiry in the human disciplines is over" (Denzin, 2000:19). This normative position acknowledges the subjectivity of research rather than attempts to disguise or deny it. My own research follows this tradition of seeking to align the objectives of the research with the aspirations of the subjects. This is neither a presupposition of findings, nor a presumption of fortitude on the part of subjects, but rather an assumption of what kinds of questions would matter to the subjects. The answers are forever unfolding but their relevance is guaranteed through iterative reflection based on the evolution of the data. Some participatory action research traditions demand an inclusion of the subjects as participants from the very conception of the project all the way through design, data gathering and analysis (Kemmis, 2000). This is not the approach I am taking. The research design and research questions were derived through an analysis of the literature and in consultation with my supervisory committee and were only complemented by feedback from the participants. Although qualitative methods are now widely accepted as legitimate forms of inquiry in the social sciences, the debate continues about the relative merits of each of the various qualitative and quantitative methods. Denzin and Lincoln provide an excellent overview of this debate and of the elevation of qualitative methods to a discipline unto itself (Denzin, 2000): [Qualitative research lays down its claim to acceptance by arguing for the importance of understanding the meaning of experience, actions and events as these are interpreted through the eyes of particular participants, researchers and (sub)cultures, and for a sensitivity to the complexities of behaviour and meaning in the contexts where they typically or 'naturally' occur" (Henwood, 1996:27). The struggle for legitimacy and recognition by practitioners of post-structuralist and constructivist methods is no longer the essence of qualitative methods. The debate between positivist and constructivist approaches continues but the importance of qualitative approaches is no longer in doubt. The last decade has seen sufficient growth in scholarship and development of qualitative methods to warrant paradigmatic status equal to 9 Chapter 1 - Introduction quantitative methods (Henwood, 1996:26; Lincoln, 2000:163). Lincoln and Guba (2000) summarize the ontological, epistemological and methodological underpinnings of each of positivism, postpositivism, critical theory and constructivism. Positivism upholds the dualistic and objectivist tradition in which truth is discovered through experimental manipulative methods in which hypotheses are verified through quantitative analysis. Postpositivism is modified to include a critical appreciation of contextual factors. Findings are probably true and are derived through critical multiplism, the falsification of hypothesis and may include qualitative methods. Critical theory considers reality to be shaped by social, political, cultural, economic, ethnic, and gender values. Its approach is subjectivist and findings are mediated by values. Methods are dialogical and dialectical. Constructivism is relativistic in seeing reality as specific and locally constructed. It is also subjectivist and its findings are created through hermeneutical and dialectical methods (Lincoln and Guba, 2000:165). This research focuses on the interactions of individual people in specific situations that cannot be generalized to explain social phenomena. This is not replicable across situations let alone across individuals or organizations. Its greatest kinship is therefore to the constructivist paradigm. The work contributes to our understanding of leadership in communicative sustainability planning and planning work more broadly. Conclusions do not unequivocally state that planners engaged in sustainability work face a uniform set of situations and that they react and behave in a given manner. Conclusions do show, however, what specific individuals have done in specific situations to push forward a sustainability agenda. This project enriches our understanding of planning work and informs us about areas of planning that have, only been tangentially researched, hardly discussed, and never taught. In this research I employed the iterative cycling of grounded theory. Data from initial interviews were coded and categorized and used to inform subsequent interviews which were, in turn, coded to inform the observations and so on (Pidgeon, 1996:178). There are countless ways to code, categorize and organize qualitative data. The information generated through the research does not necessarily fall into neat packages of findings. Although the organization of information evolved over the life of the project, as informed by the content of the information, using the Empathic Leadership framework from the outset allowed me better access to more detailed arrays of information (Miles, 1994). I employed two parallel systems of coding the information. The first is a simple chronological record of each of the planning practitioners and the second is a coding along attributes of Empathic Leadership. Information was, at times, duplicated in each system. Material that did not fit into the components of Empathic Leadership as outlined in Chapter 2 was initially coded separately. My own autoethnographic writings were likewise recorded chronologically but also duplicated in the two parallel systems the first referencing individual practitioners and the second the Empathic Leadership framework. As the project evolved I reviewed the effectiveness of the framework as well as the possibility of adding categories related to specific planning projects that sustainability planners might be engaged in. A preliminary stage in this research involved an initial exploration of the significance of difficult or traumatic events in the transformation of thought and subsequent action by individuals. At the time the research focused mostly on the transformational experience as 10 Chapter 1 - Introduction an agent of change both individually and collectively. I sought out a number of activists working in the areas of social and environmental sustainability and conducted open-ended interviews with each of them. The results were insightful in testing out interview methods for eliciting personal values and life-stories. However, I found that life-stories alone were not enough to inform me about the communicative work of these advocates. My own communication with the interviewees was my only reference for how they communicated. While none of the initial set of interviewees are a part of this larger study, they helped guide and refine its methods. I used the Empathic Leadership framework in two ways. First, as I proceeded to uncover the manner, and extent, in which it is manifested in practical application, I tested its general utility as a framework for understanding the work of sustainability planners. Through this process I remained open to discovering that the components of Empathic Leadership, which constitute best practices as derived from the literature, where not in fact present or prevalent in sustainability planning work. Second, I applied it to the research context to ask questions of the individuals I interviewed and situations I observed. The research was conducted in three parallel streams each with a specific methodology: interviews, observations and surveys. Accompanying all three, for the duration of the project, was a fourth track of autoethnographic reflection. I set up individual interviews with each of the participants and at the start of each interview I asked their permission to record the conversation for transcription later on. These were open-ended interviews in which I sought information about each of the actions of the Empathic Leadership framework. Do the practitioners think about their own values and thought processes? How do they relate to people? What are their ideas about sustainability? Due to the open-ended nature of the interviews, specific questions varied from interview to interview depending on the direction and intensity of the discussion and the kind of rapport of communication that we developed. In some instances questions would trigger a whole series of enthusiastic revelations while in others the interviewee would not be so inspired by the same line of questioning. I noted such reactions and in many cases they form a part of my findings. I also asked questions about issues that arose out of my observations. I used the Empathic Leadership framework as a reference for guiding the questions. The emotional content of my questions about self-reflection and self-awareness and the generally personal nature of the in-depth interview style sometimes took the interviews into the grey zone between research interview and counseling interview. King suggests establishing clear parameters at the beginning of the interview where the risks of intrusiveness are explicitly stated and an option for 'opting out' is given (King 1996). I chose not to formalize the exchange with a specific opting out clause but told research participants they were free to not reply to questions. Grounded theorists are sensitive to their affect on the interview process. They are wary of cutting off "theoretical leads" through overly directive interviewing. Interviewers could likewise unknowingly load their questions with assumptions and prejudgments (Pidgeon, 1996 :89). My questions were open-ended and any slant they may have carried was neutralized a few sentences into the participants' answers. These were not short answers that would simply affirm my preconceived assumptions. Rather the interviews were a 11 Chapter 1 - Introduction chance for me to hear about the experiences of the participants in doing their work along general themes of inquiry. I also use the participants' voices directly throughout my analysis and writing. This entire document is a weaving together of the words of the Sustainability Planners to create a narrative of practice. Eight planners formally participated in this research. In addition to the open-ended interviews described above I observed them working in various forums including everything from small working meetings to workshops to plenary presentations and public speeches. Two practitioners work for two separate non-governmental organizations, two work for a provincial public corporation, one for a private sustainability consulting firm, one for an urban design institution, one for a regional planning district and one for the largest municipality in the region. In addition to the transcribed audio recordings, extensive field notes were an important source of data. The various components of the Empathic Leadership framework were used to analyze and categorize the different types of data collected. When I first started doing this I thought I could go in and talk to the person and talk to the staff and all would be revealed. I since realized, and was directly 'informed' by a staff member, that it will be impossible for the staff to talk freely unless I go behind the back of the person and engage in gossip mongering and tabloid reporting. This does not feel right. I've decided to use a confidential questionnaire to survey the staff as a way to get around their inhibitions (Senbel field notes 2003). The final component of the research was a result of the above reflection. I conducted a survey of the staff and colleagues (Staff and Colleagues Survey)7 with whom the Sustainability Planners work on a regular basis. Working with five of the planners I identified groups of people with whom they work in various capacities and I sent out 76 questionnaires with assured anonymity unless respondents chose to decline it. The total response rate was 72 percent. Two planners joined the study too late in the process to allow sufficient time for disseminating the questionnaires and a third was reluctant to allocate more time to this research but arranged for me to interview the president of the company. Results from the questionnaire are used selectively throughout the thesis to support, augment the other data sources. On a couple of occasions the results indicate contradictions between the planners' own perceptions of their work and conduct and the perception of their staff and colleagues. The final section of the questionnaire is also important in showing the relative significance of various attributes of leadership from the perspective of staff and colleagues. Appendix B includes the full questionnaire. The overall design of the research gave me a variety of avenues and sources for collecting information. This multi-pronged approach allowed me to employ triangulation to approach the questions from different perspectives. I worked with the subjects' own self-definition and self-descriptions, my own observations of the subjects at work, and the survey responses of the subjects' partners in communication. The findings of each source were checked against those of other sources. Triangulation was used not as a system of adding 7 Please see Appendices B for the questionnaire and Appendices C and D for summaries of the results. 12 Chapter 1 - Introduction certainty to specific observations but rather as a way of presenting different versions of the same story (Denzin and Lincoln 2000). Subject Selection The subjects were selected using a snowball technique beginning with my personal network of sustainability planners and advocates based on 8 years of work in this region. I also asked two members of my supervisory committee to suggest individuals who work in the general areas of social, economic and environmental sustainability. As is apparent from the discussions in Chapter 3, definitions of sustainability vary considerably. In soliciting information and suggestions about individuals doing work in this area, I inquired about the nature of their work and the makeup of their constituencies. I was seeking individuals who were not only concerned with one of the three areas of environmental, economic and social sustainability, but who were also attempting to integrate them in some way. My own local network began in 1992 with my work on architectural projects in First Nations communities and on a "green" building at the Strathcona Community Gardens. Through the organization of a national student conference on sustainability and subsequent work on sustainability at UBC, my network of sustainability practitioners has become extensive. I continue to be pleasantly surprised by my constant discovery of people who are working in this area. From an initial list of 18 practitioners I began contacting planners and discussed my research interests and asked them for further suggestions. The list grew to over thirty and I began considering three factors in making a final short list. First I noted those individuals who had multiple recommendations and who continued to be suggested by other practitioners as good candidates for the research. Second, I looked for planners who were involved in projects that were considered important and pioneering in some way by other practitioners. Third, I was looking for some degree of diversity in terms of area of work, scale of work and organizational context within which the planners worked. Although I wanted a gender balance, none of the participants were chosen for their gender. The following is an alphabetical list of people who formally participated in the study and with whom I conducted in-depth interviews. They are the only people I approached for participation; nobody declined to participate. I also gave each of them the option of anonymity at the outset but they all declined it. 1. Larry Beasley, Co-Director of Planning, City of Vancouver 2. Johnny Carline, CAO/Commissioner, Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) 3. Patrick Condon, James Taylor Chair of Landscape and Liveable Environments, University of British Columbia (UBC) 4. Daryl Fields, Water Use Planning, BC Hydro 5. Cheeying Ho, Director, Smart Growth BC 6. Susan Kurbis, Program Coordinator, Environmental Youth Alliance 7. Sebastian Moffatt, Owner and Principal of Sheltair, Inc. 8. Bruce Sampson, Vice President - Sustainability, BC Hydro Table 1 provides a summary of the organizational context within which each of the planners work. While organizational structures are not the focus of this research, the coming chapters reveal several instances in which the Sustainability Planners have to contend with organizational hierarchies. Planners reveal different strategies that they have had to undertake to expand the sustainability vision within their respective organizations. Table 1 13 Chapter 1 - Introduction is not intended to be analytical but simply an introduction to the diversity of environments in which the Sustainability Planners work. Sustainability Planner Organization Position Size/Number Of Staff Organizational Structure CONSTITUE NCYAND SCOPE Mandate Larry Beasley City of Vancouver (Municipality) Co-Director of Planning Hundreds, dozens of planning staff Hierarchical structure Residents of City of Vancouver with some influence on other municipalities Guide development and help create a livable city with a high quality of life Johnny Carline GVRD (Regional District, partnership of 21 Municipalities) CAO Thousands Hierarchical structure Residents of member municipalities Infrastructure services, but seeking to expand mandate to regional sustainability Patrick Condon UBC, Design Centre for Sustainability James Taylor Chair and Professor 6-12 Somewhat hierarchical structure with delegation of managerial responsibilities Varies and is client driven Design and collaborative visioning to promote sustainable communities Daryl Fields BC Hydro (Public Corporation, Provincial Utility Provider) Various, most notable for her management of Water Use Planning division Thousands, Daryl in charge of small division with decisions affecting hundreds Hierarchical structure British Columbia Agreement on water use planning management plans Cheeying Ho Smart Growth BC (NGO) Director 6-12 Somewhat hierarchical British Columbia Replace sprawl with complete communities Susan Kurbis Environmental Youth Alliance (NGO) Program Coordinator 6-12, + youth on short term contracts Non-hierarchical amongst full-time staff Urban youth in Vancouver area Empower youth and promote environmental and social consciousness Sebastian Moffatt Sheltair, Inc (Private consulting firm) Owner and Prinicipal 10-16 Hierarchical Varies and is client driven Advance urban sustainability through planning analysis and design Bruce Sampson BC Hydro (Public Corporation, Provincial Utility Provider) Vice President of Sustainability Thousands, Bruce working in corporate office not in charge of any division Hierarchical structure British Columbia and foreign customers buying power Provision of water and power at minimum cost to consumer 14 Chapter 1 - Introduction Table 1 - Summary of Sustainability Planners' Organizational Context Appendix A profiles the organizations for which the Sustainability Planners8 work through the words of the organizations themselves. The planners were chosen for their individual work, rather than that of their organizations but in some cases, as this research reveals, it is impossible to disaggregate the two. In some cases the organization might even be considered, at best, apathetic about sustainability and, at worst, antithetical to its mission. The individuals have, nonetheless, managed to carry forward with a sustainability vision of one form or another. I individually contacted each of the planners and invited them to participate in the project. I scheduled two interviews during which I asked open-ended questions about the nature of their work, their visions and the vision of their respective organizations. As mentioned above I also used the Empathic Leadership framework as a guide in asking whether the planners think about their own values and thought processes? How do they relate to the people they work with? How are they advancing their ideas within and without the organizations in which they work? I came to know, respect and admire each of these individuals and fondly refer to them by their first names throughout this work reflecting the level of familiarity we developed. My journal entries allowed me to reflect on how my observations evolved as I became more familiar with their personalities and character traits. The combination of my self-reflection in my journal entries and my use of the Staff and Colleagues Survey allowed me to be conscious of the degree to which my closeness to the research participants was affecting my analysis of their work. It is my hope that you, the reader, will also become acquainted with these planners and come to know them as people engaged in challenging planning work and not merely as research subjects. The research methods I used demanded a certain application of the Empathic Leadership framework in my own role as a researcher. In-depth interviews and ethnographic work in the postmodern context of embedded subjectivity require a relationship of trust and empathy between the researcher and research subject (King 1996). My own attempts at building these relationships of trust and my own reflection and communication with the research subjects are not only intertwined in the methods, but are also activities encapsulated by the Empathic Leadership framework. Empathic identification in qualitative inquiry requires the observer to get "inside the head" of a subject to understand her or his motives, beliefs and desires (Schwandt, 2000:192). This has required me to employ some of the characteristics that I was seeking to explore. My own notes of the experience of attempting to see the world through the eyes of the practitioners and their constituents were relevant as data and as guides for data analysis. Following the ethnographic tradition in anthropology, I kept a journal of my reflections about the process and about my own behaviour and these became a part of my collected data. My own communicative actions were therefore analyzed to contribute to answering the research question. I was my own subject. Every doctoral degree is a journey of learning across several planes of knowledge and experience. Mine is no exception. I have come to discover things outside of myself in the tiny fragment of the world that I studied, but also things about how I interact with that fragment of the world. This work is necessarily reflective in that it asks questions about the 8 Please note that the terms "Sustainability Planners" refer to those planners in Greater Vancouver who participated in the study as opposed to "sustainability planners" which refers to the broader and more general group. 15 Chapter 1 - Introduction actions of individuals towards others in a quest for certain societal outcomes. My own actions as an individual, both as an agent of change in the small spheres of influence I inhabit as a graduate student, and as a project participant and partner-in-reflection with the Sustainability Planners, amounts to sustainability planning. This work is therefore very much intertwined with my own person. In many research situations the object of discovery is some form of truth that lies outside of the student's daily experience of the world. In other cases, and this is becoming more frequent, the lines between student and researcher, indeed the line between life and research, is not a line at all. It is an amorphous and dynamic zone of overlap and cross-fertilization. Participant observation and action research have developed enough over the last 30 years to constitute a legitimate field of inquiry that moves the researcher from being a peripheral observer to being an active participant or even to being the centre of analysis. My own research, as is revealed in the coming pages, links my work as a researcher and planner to that of the research participants. It is not merely the choice of research methods itself that necessarily links me to my participants but rather my proximity as a planner to the subject of my research. I did however have to maintain some degree of detachment to allow me to stand outside of what I was observing, doing and hearing, and to analyze it in the context of normative theory as outlined in the Empathic Leadership framework. My journal notes were an invaluable resource for this task. I routinely found myself having to reflect on how I was being affected by my research and how my own supposition and assumptions were evolving. As is apparent in my personal introductions to every chapter self-reflection and ethical deliberation were important in maintaining a productive balance between too much detachment, that would undermine my ability to relate to the research participants, and the complete absorption into their work that would undermine my ability to be critical and analytical. Methodological Precedence A number of researchers have conducted similar ethnographic research of individual planners. Forester is the most prolific writer in this field (Forester 1989,1996,1999, 2000a, 2000b; Forester, Fischler et al. 2001). His books and articles present an understanding of planning practice as informed by profiles of practitioners. Through a combination of observation and individual interviews Forester has developed an extensive database of planner profiles. Healey's 1992 article was an observation of a single planner at work and is exemplary of the kind of detailed ethnographic analysis that communicative planning theorists have been conducting (Healey 1992). Her work demonstrates the richness of data that can be collected from a single day's observation. Her study further illustrates the importance of communicative work in everyday practice. She concludes however that little is known about what communicative skills actually involve and what ethical questions are inherent to this kind of work (Healey 1992). Donald Schon's widely cited and influential book "The Reflective Practitioner" is built on a series of observations of professionals at work (Schon 1983). His section on town planning is based on the work of a single planner. Through in-depth interviews and observations of meetings and interactions Schon was able to determine how the planner framed his role and acted upon that framing. He compared the planner's capacity for reflection-in-action to that 16 Chapter 1 - Introduction of a hypothetical planner who might frame his role in such a way that would make private dilemmas public and private assumptions would be subjected to public test (Schon, 1983:235). By observing and analyzing the work of a single individual Schon was able to make generalizations about the entire profession with enduring relevance. Intense observational analysis also has precedence in the case study approach in business, management, leadership, negotiation and mediation research. Kolb and associates (1994) profiled mediators in an in-depth study of practitioners with distinctly different mediation styles and approaches. Defining the Vancouver Sustainability Planner My definition of a sustainability planner is broad and inclusive. The majority of research participants do not use the term planning to describe their work but in every case their work constitutes planning in one form or another. The coming discussion on the nature of planning reveals the great diversity of opinions on what planning is and by extension who might be a planner. In some cases the term sustainability is not one that my research participants are comfortable with and in other cases, the term planner is something they would not readily use to describe themselves. Their reluctance with the labels is not an aversion to the type of work that the label implies, but rather, a reluctance to be pigeonholed and stereotyped. Nevertheless, each of the planners who participated in my research is working directly on changing organizational and societal norms and practices towards what they perceive to be greater sustainability. The following are examples of how two of the participants relay their official job descriptions. I'm the CAO/Commissioner for the GVRD and all the utilities, and my prime functions are; number one, to be the principle liaison between the political body and the staff to interpret the political ivishes into managerial actions and to interpret what problems and issues we come across into political policy questions for the Board to answer. That's the first function, secondly to provide overall managerial responsibility and direction to the team and determine what the priorities are (Carline 2003a). I'm the Co-Director of Planning and the Director of Current Planning and I also sit as a voting member, of three voting members, of the Development Board that makes decisions on development. As Director of Current Planning, I am responsible for managing the policy context and input for the regulation of development and the changing of development. There is a Director of Development Services that handles the process [development] and then my staff and I handle the content. So we review all developments and I have a group of staff that look at changing zoning. They are the rezoning people. I have an urban design team. I have a heritage team. I have a whole team that focuses on all aspects of the inner city central area (Beasley 2003). There is no mention of sustainability, no mention of organizational or social change and no allusion to any kind of vision. These may well be the official job descriptions but as this research reveals, their work activities and their personal agendas within their respective organizations are ambitious, visionary and actively implementing ambitious visions. Traditional definitions and even contemporary job titles can be deceptive. I therefore neither limited my research to practitioners with traditional planning jobs nor those who explicitly label themselves as sustainability advocates. Biases and Limitations 17 Chapter 1 - Introduction There are a number of biases inherent in this kind of study. First there is the selection of the leaders themselves. The "snowball" technique limits the sample to established social and professional networks. Sustainability planners working in relevant areas but whose circles of influence are outside the range of the "snow-balling," or who are unknown beyond their circles of influence were not considered. My biases of subjectivity and those of my professional and academic sustainability networks have informed the conceptualization of the research, the formulation of the methods and have undoubtedly affected the collection and analysis of data. Rather than attempt to counter subjectivity I have been explicit about the decisions I made along the way and justified them through explicitly stating my epistemological frame of reference. There are other methodological limitations stemming from the manner in which I accessed the Sustainability Planners' stories. Being identified as a leader worthy of detailed doctoral research may have caused the planners I studied to embellish their responses to paint an idealized picture. Outright falsification is unlikely because of their relatively public roles but there may have been a tendency to talk about optimum or intended behaviour as opposed to the reality of what actually happened. Real interactions are full of shortcomings and messiness and my research methodology explicitly sought to avoid self-aggrandizement on the part of the planners being studied. Through the course of my research I developed enough familiarity with most of the planners to be able to tell when their version of how they conduct themselves might not mesh with that of their staff and colleagues. I did not rely on intuition alone; the Staff and Colleagues Survey and my own observation of interpersonal interactions were another check. Inconsistencies of perception were in fact a significant research finding. Gaining access to a planner in "action" for observation proved difficult however. There was likely an inherent bias against giving me access to certain difficult situations or interactions that were expected to have the potential of showing the practitioners in a negative light. My research did not systematically contextualize all planning actions in the procedural and hierarchical boundaries of each organization. Another study might have focused on the structure, size, culture and power distribution within each of the organizations that the planners worked for. Studying their actions from an organizational perspective would have led to a series of insights about a planner's ability to operate and affect change from within different institutional settings. A different starting point may have indeed interpreted all action as being determined by different organizational contexts. I found considerable overlap, however, in the sequence of actions that planners undertook irrespective of the size and scope of their organizations. I followed their lead in identifying areas of significance in advancing their visions and my focus is a reflection of my findings and not a presupposition of relevance. There are many other ways of studying organizational or social change. Issues of process, including the design and implementation of group process are extremely important to leadership in an organizational and public context. The manner in which a planner, or a leader, conducts processes of collective visioning and participatory decision making is integral to our understanding of that planner's work. This research does not, however, explicitly focus on process. I reflect on process as part of a broader set of activities and interactions that the planners are engaged in while pursuing their goals of realizing 18 Chapter 1 - Introduction sustainability visions. Chapter 7 does address two types of process but does so in terms of the macro scale of greater inclusion and accessibility as opposed to the micro details of process design. On several occasions in this document I conceal the identity of the planner I am discussing. None of the planners' identities are revealed in Chapter 2 for example. This was a difficult ethical decision that I had to make in consultation with my research supervisory committee. I wanted to follow through on the findings of my research but I also did not want to betray the trust of my research participants who had generously entrusted me with their stories and their working environments. I finally decided to include those findings that would be damaging to a person's professional reputation but to do so without revealing their identity. I did not set out to avoid controversy; rather I had to employ diplomacy and strategy in handling toxic stories. I had to employ some measure of Empathic Leadership in studying the Empathic Leadership of others. Other methodological limitations are those typical to any research. Umirnited time and money would have allowed me to spend much more time with each research participant, to interview them more extensively, to have observed them in a wider range of activities, and to have surveyed their staff and colleagues more intensively. For example, I was unable to make use of the option of interviewing respondents of the Staff and Colleagues Survey who included their names and contact information. At the end of the questionnaire there was an option for respondents to include their name for a possible follow up interview and 24 out of 54 respondents (44%) provided contact information. The questionnaire responses themselves provided me with sufficient data and conducting the follow up interviews would have extended the research period by several months. I made the decision to forego the follow up interviews but with unlimited time and resources they would have added additional depth and richness to the research results. This research is specific to Vancouver with its environmental, geographical, historical, political and cultural idiosyncrasies. It is also unique to the eight Sustainability Planners I studied. It is not a study of planners in general, nor even of sustainability planners. It is a study of eight sustainability leaders in the Vancouver area who have done noteworthy work with a range of organizations and across a variety of perspectives. Although the results are useful for planners elsewhere, situations will be different and contexts will necessarily require a different set of strategies and activities that are specific to that region. Neither the Empathic Leadership model, nor the pentad of action, are universal in their applicability. Empathic Leadership is derived from writings about North American practice and the pentad of action is derived from observing Vancouver area Sustainability Planners. Different cultural and institutional settings would require context specific conceptual frameworks and would likely result in different models of action to advance a sustainability agenda. The following chapter introduces the Empathic Leadership framework, which formed the basis of my inquiry. It is an investigative lens that I crafted in order to study and analyze the work of the Sustainability Planners. As the chapter illustrates, the Empathic Leadership framework is a sequence of actions that I culled from the current thinking in leadership, mediation, negotiation and communicative planning. I systematically identified those actions that are deemed effective in that literature. I then organized, combined and 1 9 Chapter 1 - Introduction reorganized the set to make it more useful as an aggregated tool for both research and practice. 20 Chapter 2 - Empathic Leadership in Planning 2 - E M P A T H I C L E A D E R S H I P I N P L A N N I N G Over the last couple of years, in discussions with planners and academics, I have frequently come across the perception of empathy as being something akin to sympathy. In various conversations and correspondence with colleagues I have seen my work labeled as being focused on emotive, empathetic or emphatic leadership. While the latter might be selectively employed as a strategy within Empathic Leadership, it is only a small piece of what I studied. Empathetic leadership is similar to empathic but I am careful to avoid it because of its associations with the word sympathetic. Empathy is different to sympathy. Empathic Leadership is not about altruistic goals of compassion, although these may be present, but rather, it is about deliberately attempting to comprehend another's perspective in its entirety. Postmodern, post-colonial, and cultural theorists would, of course, object to this as an impossible and politically loaded task. You cannot possibly know what it is like to occupy another person's world. To even attempt it is to trivialize the experience of others and this is especially problematic if they are less privileged or oppressed by your own perspective of the world. I do not take issue with this line of reasoning, in fact I totally support it, but my approach for this research departs from a different theoretical position. My purpose here is to find avenues for mediating difference and arriving at joint and collaborative visions for societal change. This necessarily requires reaching, or attempting to reach, understanding across the different perspectives presented by the planners and their constituents. My foundation is therefore derived from mediation literature on the one hand and communicative planning on the other. Empathic Leadership is my own conceptual construct. It is derived from a review of leadership, mediation, negotiation and communicative planning literature. In reading these varied perspectives I sought those actions that were not only seen to be effective and desirable within the individual discipline, but that were also recurring across the different disciplines. I was seeking the cumulative and overlapping wisdom of all of four areas of action-informed theory. There were cases were a particular action was only prevalent in one literature but was so strongly prescribed, and would logically integrate into actions prescribed in other literatures, that I chose to include it. Articulating a clear vision was one such action. It was extremely prevalent in the leadership literature but was absent from the communicative planning literature, especially that which sought to distance itself from the comprehensive planning model. Having arrived at a set of attributes that were consistent across the different areas of knowledge I combined and reorganized the list to give it a sequential logic. It begins with the individual and internal spheres of awareness and action, and continues to include the ability to relate and to communicate to others. The last set of actions is developmental in causing the planner to reflect on those areas of personal and relational action that require refinement and improvement. This chapter is composed of three distinct sections beginning with a discussion of the theoretical context that gives prominence to the communicative and emotive content of planning work. A discussion about relevant lessons from mediation and negotiation follow. The second section presents the Empathic Leadership framework with 14 attributes of leadership grouped under three areas of action. It is in this section that lessons from the leadership literature are integrated into the discussion. The final section is a summary application of the Empathic Leadership framework to the Vancouver Sustainability Planners, and is a preview of the findings addressed in much greater detail in each of the following chapters. 21 Chapter 2 - Empathic Leadership in Planning Communicative Planning Communicative action builds on traditions evolving from the Frankfurt School of thought that moved to reject the uncritical embrace of technology and all things scientific. It was put forward by Habermas as a historical analysis of the evolution of the sphere of public discourse at the end of the seventeenth century in England, and in France one hundred years later (Martelart and Mettelart 1998). Planning underwent a similar critique of modernity as it transformed from being based on science and its neutral revelation of facts and natural laws (Friedmann 1987) to being a facultative process of negotiating between multiple groups and multiple truths (Sandercock 1998). The 1960s saw the beginning of a large scale rejection of the supreme authority of science and rationality. Many factors led to this gradual diminishment of objective rationality. Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" was instrumental in casting doubt on the supremacy of scientific intervention by iUustrating the deleterious effects of pesticides (Carson 1962). This work did not receive much mention in planning theory but had a significant effect on public opinion in North America and is widely regarded as one of the major catalysts that started the environmental movement. Jane Jacob's Death and Life of Great American Cities cast doubt on the value of planning expertise that consistently favored large planning projects, and destroyed the humanistic character of cities and city streets (Jacobs 1961). The major failures of the day were freeway construction that displaced inner city neighborhoods, and large monolithic housing tenements that ultimately lay abandoned. The popularity of Paul Davidoff's advocacy planning in the mid to late 1960s further demonstrated the great divide between the technical knowledge and comprehensive plans of planners, and the needs of affected communities and groups (Davidoff 1965). It became evident that while planning claimed to be rational it was also exclusive in its bias of catering towards certain segments of the population while ignoring others entirely (Sandercock 1998). This scientific, reductionist and exclusionary attribute of modernity was first cast into doubt, from within science itself, by Einstein's understandings of the relative nature of our "objective" observations of the natural world. It was subsequently further undermined by Thomas Kuhn in his depiction of scientific thought as a history of scientific institutions (Sandercock 1998). Sandercock brought the full bearing of this evolving understanding of truth into planning practice and theory. Sandercock demonstrates the existence of multiple stories, multiple histories and realities each with an equal claim to validity and truth. The history of planning is not a confined singular truth but rather a plural and evolving series of perspectives and relationships of individuals and groups to each other and to society as a whole. Like many critics of comprehensive rationality, communicative action planners, denied the existence of an objective scientific truth. They see knowledge, no matter how scientific it is purported to be, as value laden (Innes 1995). Power structures were seen to be perpetuated through the use of socially constructed norms and manipulated truths (Forester 1989; Innes 1995; Sandercock 1998). Innes saw communicative planning, as informed by Habermas' conditional use of rationality, to be an avenue for freeing planners from the role of technocratic expert (Innes 1995). Planners can instead focus on the facilitation of emancipatory communication. 22 Chapter 2 - Empathic Leadership in Planning "Both knowledge production and exchange are infused with ideological and political practices that protect the powerful and confuse the powerless." (Healey 1992:10) Habermas posits that of the three types of reason that humans employ, instrumental-technical, moral and emotive-aesthetic, it is the first that has dominated public discourse and invaded private spheres (Healey 1997:51). Habermas also proposes a normative model of democracy that concerns itself with "action oriented to reaching understanding" and to an ideal "structure of linguistic communication" (Habermas 1998:246). This alternative to liberal and republican understandings of democracy, in which politicians are elected for their stand on issues, is deliberative democracy and would form the foundation of a state-wide adoption of communicative action as a form of governance.9 It relies on will and opinion formation through a "free and open political culture and an enlightened political socialization, and above all on the initiat