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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Towards holistic approaches in participatory planning : exploring community cultural development in Vancouver’s diverse communities Koeller, Rebecca


In an urban world of increasing diversity, uncertainty, isolation and fear, creative and compassionate planning approaches are called for more than ever before. A concern of many planning theorists and practitioners today is how to create more inclusive participatory democratic processes and ensure that planner's work contributes to the development of greater social and environmental justice. This research follows planning theorists like Leonie Sandercock, John Forester and John Friedmann in a search for a new planning paradigm, a new praxis of inclusive engagement. It brings art, story, emotions, spirit, body, intuition, culture, identity, and other such taboo notions in the "mainstream" planning world front and centre in imagining a professional revolution. This research is motivated by theorists and practitioners who identify the need for a more holistic planning approach, rooted in an expanded view of the interconnected, relationship-centred and multi-faceted nature of people, communities, and planning issues and the recognition that who and how we are as practitioners is as important as what we do. It is also driven by the argument that culture not only matters, but that understanding and working with its varied and creative expressions in community and participatory processes holds uniquely insightful and transformative opportunities for communication, connection, and action. Finally, it is guided by John Forester's idea that there is a wealth of invaluable knowledge about what's going on and what works in authentic, daily, messy, discreet practice situations contained within the experience stories of practitioners and community members. Learning how to truly listen to and work with stories - in the many forms in which they are told - and tell our own, is a vital planning capacity in need of enhancement. Despite current theoretical debates and an increasingly recognised need for new (or perhaps re-imagined or re-awakened) capacities and tools for planning in cities of difference, little has been written about community cultural development (CCD) as a useful avenue of consideration. Meanwhile, cultural and arts-based participatory processes are becoming increasingly accepted in other fields of literature as uniquely effective in building community, transforming consciousness, resolving conflict, bridging difference, and engaging individuals and groups (especially the most marginalised) in learning, decision-making and action. The empirical research for this thesis is based in urban Vancouver, a multicultural city known for its community cultural development activity. Here, through listening to their stories and observing and experiencing their approaches myself, I explore the goals, capacities, skills, and impacts of various practitioners incorporating creative and cultural expression in their work. I also look at two case studies: the creative cultural work of the Kalayaan Centre, a Filipino community centre, and the Renfrew-Collingwood Arts Pow Wow, an arts-based community development program in an exceptionally diverse neighbourhood. I explore what is going on in these processes and consider what planners might learn from the experiences of these practitioners and participants towards creating more equitable, more appropriate, more pluralist, and more inspiring places to live and ways of living. I investigate what unique and essential functions and roles artists and creative/cultural activity play in society and planning and argue that a movement towards more inclusive participatory democratic processes will necessarily involve incorporating aspects of a community cultural development approach.

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