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Baseline envision #3: ‘Beyond the techno-zone’

All around there are Nexus type tensions and contradictions – economic, social, political and technology forces, each pulling in different directions. But most of our policy is built on a fairly simple idea of problems and solutions: perhaps we have too little knowledge, or the wrong kind of knowledge.  Hence the phrase – ‘Mind the gap beyond the techno-zone’ – suggesting to look and step carefully…

Generally urban policy works on a technical style of knowledge and management, suitable for a technical urban system. We may need to shift this to a more responsive, nuanced kind of knowledge, looking ‘beyond the technical’. Similar for public services, with growing pressure for continuous performance management, benchmarking and evaluation. In contrast in health or education there are quite different pressures and opportunities, for responsive operations, community co-production, platform skills and resources.

For the MALPE system of collaborative agreements in urban planning, we need to share new kinds of knowledge, between policymakers / experts / citizens / activists / NGOs and newly emerging networks. Much of this knowledge is beyond the technical, with deeper layers of cultural and ethical and psychological experience, in organizations, communities, networks. By default, cities could lose green areas, small towns could decline, large cities could sprawl, local neighbourhoods could gentrify, public services could be more expensive and less effective. On the positive side there are emerging ideas, from networked organizations, public service co-production, platform ‘wiki-nomics’, and associative governance. Maybe the digital generation have more sense of where this is heading.

Domains – what is the dynamic?

  • Cultural dynamics are at the root of change, in organizations, institutions or communities;
  • Technical systems for management, benchmarking, evaluation etc, are also instrumental in organizing knowledge learning and exchange;
  • Political and policy systems are involved as agents of change and/or resistance, with new models for participation, deliberation, co-production.
  • Urban agendas: policy and management innovation, in multi-level and multi-sector governance.

Actors – who is involved?

  • Public services, in education or health or administration
  • Infrastructure providers, both local and regional
  • Citizens and users of public services, with location patterns depending on the distribution and logistics

Factors  – how does the system work?

  • Urban policy metabolism: this works generally from objectives to resources to outputs and outcomes, all of which are in flux
  • Public service metabolism: this works generally from a supply side to a social needs / demand side, in which new models of co-production and partnership may be crucial to success.

Overall challenges:

  • Organizations and public services are under pressure to adapt and innovate, doing ‘more for less’ by co-production and partnership. But they are also tied up with smart technical monitoring and management and evaluation, which make it harder to adapt and innovate.
  • Urban policy for spatial planning, as in the MALPE agreements, is expected to manage forces which are beyond its control, involving citizens beyond its boundaries. There is a call for new ways of working ‘beyond the techno-zone’.

What do we know?

These are the most relevant topics in this Envision: click on each to visit:

  • Shifting from Output to Outcome Measurement in Public Administration: (Vakkuri-13)
  • Re-greening and renaturing compact cities: challenges and conflicts of key environmental concepts.( Lapintie-07)
  • Imagination and Spatial Imaginaries: a conceptual framework. (Davoudi-01)
  • Innovation activity and MALPE-perceptions of Finnish companies (Tervo-08)
  • Challenges in knowledge-based regional MALPE planning (Vakkuri-05)
  • Survey on MALPE actors’ knowledge practices. (Vakkuri-15)
  • How to develop coordination between MALPE sectors and governance networks and scales (strategic envisioning)? (Mäntysalo-09)
  • Bypassing publicity for getting things done: between informal and formal planning practices in Finland. (Häkli-01)