UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Spirituality and planning in a diverse world Anhorn, Michael Robert


At the core of many issues addressed by planning practitioners lie deeply spiritual questions. Unfortunately, until recently the planning literature has been silent on the connection between planning and spirituality. The literature that does exist tends to describe a normative set of spiritual beliefs that would advance ideals in planning such as sustainability or cultural harmony. This thesis takes a step back and encourages planners to gain a better understanding of the range of spiritual beliefs. From this broad understanding of spirituality, using a phronetic research methodology, this thesis explores possibilities for the integration of spirituality into planning practice. The experiences of other professions such as social work, international development and education in integrating spirituality into their professional practice set the stage for examining the work of five planning practitioners from diverse fields of planning and their attempts for spirit-conscious practice as revealed through unstructured, in-depth interviews. A framework for distinguishing integrating spirituality in planning from integrating religion, theology or ideology in planning is offered. It is proposed that spirituality can be incorporated into planning practice in two main categories: self-nourishment and building connections. Self-nourishment includes practitioners drawing on their spiritual experiences for increased understanding of the situation and participants, and for motivation to continue their work. Planners also rely heavily on their intuition to inform many aspects of their work. Practitioners build connections by developing processes which help participants to feel safe, work with potential, access their creativity, increase their connections with others, and tell their stories and myths. The thesis ends with an exploration of the implications of these findings for planning education. Suggestions for future research into planning's understanding of spirituality, the further development of spirit-conscious practice and theory, and for planning education are included in the final appendix.

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