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Institutional capacity building in urban planning and policy making for sustainable development: success or failure?

Journal article
Authors Merritt Polk
Published in Planning Practice & Research
ISSN 0269-7459
Publication year 2011
Published at School of Global Studies, Human Ecology
Mistra Urban Futures
Language en
Subject categories Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified


Local and regional governments are facing extreme challenges regarding their ability to plan for sustainable urban development. The ever-present pro-market policy agenda leaves little room regarding global considerations for long-term environmental conservation and social justice. The complexity of sustainable development also defies the traditional management and problem solving capabilities of most local municipalities. Different types of informal and formal partnerships, networks and arenas have been formed to offset such deficiencies. This paper presents an example of a cross-sector, multi-level civil servant arena and examines its ability to provide a more integrative approach to planning and policy making in Western Sweden. The results were assessed using a combination of theory on institutional capacity building and sustainability learning. The arena increases institutional capacity by promoting relational links across organizational divisions and governance levels, and by increasing substantive knowledge. At the same time, the more radical and innovative results were either avoided or watered down, and opportunities developed through institutional capacity building were vastly underused.

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