RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2013

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219 Models, Mobilities and Mutation: Reconceptualising the Form of Travelling Urban Policy and Planning Ideas
Convenor(s) Elizabeth Rapoport (University College London, UK)
Astrid Wood (London School of Economics and Political Science / University College London)
Chair(s) Elizabeth Rapoport (University College London, UK)
Timetable Thursday 29 August 2013, Session 4 (16:50 - 18:30)
Room Skempton Building, Lecture Theatre 207
Session abstract The recent policy mobilities approach has substantially enhanced our understanding of the way in which urban policies, models and strategies circulate. However, to date, there has been a lack of focus on the features of what circulates. This session aims to address this gap in the literature by creating a forum for a critical discussion on two interrelated themes: the characteristics of circulating policies, models and strategies, and the impact of these characteristics on their mutability and mobility. The session will address the lack of consistency in describing what exactly is moving, where terms such as “policy” and “model” are used, sometimes interchangeably, without being clearly defined. The potential differences between an urban policy such as workfare and a normative, prescriptive model of urban planning such as new urbanism need to be explored. In addition, the session will explore reasons for the lack of agreement in the literature about the way in which traveling policies and models are shaped and influenced by their travels. Contributions should focus on these two themes, and explore one or more of the following questions. What types of policies, models and strategies circulate? Are there important differences between the types of ideas circulating? What are the implications of these variations? How and to what extent do circulating ideas mutate through the circulation process?

This session will be one-part paper session, one-part round-table session. This first half of the session will be a standard panel presentation with five speakers presenting their views on the questions raised in the session abstract. Each speaker’s presentation will be limited to 10 minutes. The remainder of the session will be a round table format, in which both the speakers and session attendees will be encouraged to participate. The aim of the roundtable portion of the session is to use the material and viewpoints presented in the first half of the session as a jumping off point for broader critical discussion of policy models and mutations.
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2013@rgs.org
Technologies of mobility – best practice, not ‘New Urbanism’ on the move
Susan Moore (University College London, UK)
Focusing on the ‘mobility’ of New Urbanism not as a policy but as a ‘movement or formation’ (following Anderson and McFarlane 2011, Allen 2011) of actors, practices and principles this short paper addresses the core questions of this session, concerning the typologies of circulation and the implications and mutations interpreted in theorisations of what exactly is moving. The abstraction of New Urbanism as a ‘global movement’ is first de-universalised to suggest that local practices, aligned interests and dominant political rationalities underpin the typification of New Urbanism as a planning and development ‘best practice’ in particular contexts.

I will argue that the governmental technology or instrument of best practice itself needs further interrogation in order to understand the apparent mobility of New Urbanism. The abstraction of New Urbanism into matter of fact default practices valorised within particular contexts implicates a powerful political force normalising the way things are (or should) be done in a given development culture, possibly at the expense of democratic debate on local urban futures. Yet, the primary mode of circulation via best practice formation is seldom questioned as a governmental practice in itself.
What moves, how does it move, and what does mutation look like? A practice theory perspective on the mobility of sustainable building design models
James Faulconbridge (Lancaster University, UK)
In this paper I explore the analytical traction that a theories of practice perspective provides when seeking to understand precisely what moves when urban models are mobilised, how this movement occurs, and what determines the mutations that take place in the mobility process. Using the ‘stripped down’ theory of practice proposed by Shove et al. (2012), I focus on the way three elements of practice tied to any model – forms of meaning, competency and associated materials – do or do not get mobilised, the strategic work behind mobilisation, and questions about whether strategic work leads to mutations that produce greater or lesser degrees of proximity between ‘original’ models and their reconstituted post-mobilisation forms. I develop this theoretical perspective by applying the ideas to the case of the mobilisation on one sustainable building design model – BREEAM. By tracing the elements of practice tied to the model, insight is provided into what determines if a model moves or not, and the ways in which mobility involves competing forces of global diffusion and local reproduction in urban practices.
Crossing the pond, or jumping a fence? Exploring how the concept of defensible space adapts as it moves across disciplines, networks and policy domains
Elanor Warwick (King's College London, UK)
Defensible space as a solution to failing public housing has been tracked from New York housing projects to British council estates (Jacobs and Lees 2013). Subsequent to the international policy mobility narrative, this paper focuses on the dispersal/embedding process following the concept’s landing in Britain. Defensible space impacts on interconnected policy domains: planning, urban regeneration, housing, neighbourhood management, as well as crime prevention. It’s a concept whose principles underpin policy guidance (such as Secure by Design) and regeneration funding instruments, yet is not a policy or even a robust theoretical model, rather a cluster of associated contested ideas. Each associated element demonstrates unique features, which aid or hinder transfer and take up at intra-national, cross policy-domain, cross-discipline scale.

Drawing on interviews with planning and architecture practitioners, housing managers and policymakers, the paper explores ways the concept is viewed, interpreted, and implemented as it circulates from national to local level, across one London Borough, and even between the private spaces on adjacent housing estates. Policy mutation is compared to local contextualization - adjusting a policy to fit - as is the role of formal guidance mechanisms, informal pre-policy discussions and stories in the information sharing by knowledge brokers and transfer agents crossing networks and disciplines. The resultant policy discourses are repetitive (reusing historical ideas), iterative (adapt ideas to context while retaining core attributes), cyclical (patterns of innovation, perceived solutions, acceptance into common practice). These patterns are replayed over again in the process of shaping policy and delivering liveable safe places.
Models, policies or discourse on the move? Spatial planning in the post-devolutionary UK and Ireland
Ben Clifford (University College London, UK)
Janice Morphet (University College London, UK)
In this paper, we discuss the sharing of ideas around ‘spatial planning’ amongst the administrations of the post-devolutionary UK and Ireland. Planning is a fully devolved function and over the last decade there has been a concerted process of ‘planning reform’ implemented by all the administrations. This has included a move from ‘land-use’ to ‘spatial planning’ (Haughton et al., 2010; Nadin, 2007). Spatial planning ‘goes beyond’ traditional land-use planning by integrating policies for the development and use of land with other policies and programmes which influence the nature of places and how they function. The concept emerged from European practice, and appears to be what, after Peck and Theodore (2010) we might consider a ‘policy on the move’.

Having demonstrated similarities between policy documents produced by all the administrations, we then draw on expert interviews with professional civil servants who work together in the British-Irish Council’s ‘Spatial Planning workstream’ – which aims to share best practice – to question just what has been shared between these transfer agents (after McCann, 2011) and the administrations that employ them. We explore whether policy models, specific policies, broader ideas or mere discourse has been transferred, and how ‘spatial planning’ has mutated as it has moved between Europe and the governments of the UK and Ireland.
Material Mobility – Understanding how we create and interpret mobile urban policies
Astrid Wood (London School of Economics and Political Science / University College London)
Policies are clearly on the move as creative city, municipal management and urban drug policies as well as more free-form ideas such as gentrification are popping up in cities around the world. These assorted models find local salience in diverse contexts in spite of relatively structured and complex policy market. This paper explores the materiality of policy circulation focusing on the model itself, and with a particular emphasis the various elements of translation and interpretation that lead to heterogeneous adoption practices. In understanding why certain innovations are emulated and others are ignored, this research explores the importance of materiality in policy circulation arguing that certain innovations are more prone to circulate because of their tangible and intangible interpretations; that is, policy models simultaneously have multiple meaning to implementers while being replicable. These arguments stem from the recent policy mobility literature, which explores policy models as inchoate ideas and their representational power to impart policy. For urban policy mobilities scholars, policy models rarely circulate intact but rather are prone to change through their translation and in fact, by doing so further the circulation process. This paper builds on those arguments using the adoption of BRT in South Africa as an empirical case of mutation and emulation, in particular understanding characteristics of the BRT policy model to advance policy circulation and adoption across South African localities.