Developing a Planning Theory for Wicked Problems: Swarm Planning

  • Rob RoggemaEmail author
Part of the Springer Theses book series (Springer Theses)


Climate change adaptation is seen as a wicked (VROM-raad, De hype voorbij, klimaatverandering als structureel ruimtelijk vraagstuk, 2007; Commonwealth of Australia, Tackling wicked problems; a public policy perspective, 2007) or even a superwicked (Lazarus, Cornell Law Review, 94:1053, 2009) problem. A wicked problem is accurately defined in the seminal paper of Rittel and Webber: “Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning” (Rittel and Webber, Policy Sciences, 4:155, 1973). Wicked problems are defined as being dynamic, they do not know a final solution, are “a one shot operation” and essentially unique. As planners, we do not have the right to be wrong. Spatial planning is defined in many different ways. Dror for example (A reader in planning theory, urban and regional planning series, vol 5, 1973) describes planning as a process: “Planning is the process of preparing a set of decisions for action in the future, directed at achieving goals by preferable means”. In the course of this paper spatial planning is defined as the ‘co-ordination, making and mediation of space’ (Gunder and Hillier, Planning, in ten words or less, 2009, p 4) Current (and historic) discourses in spatial planning, such as incrementalism (referring to Lindblom, Public Administration Review, 19:79, 1959), post-positivism (as described in Allmendinger, Planning Theory, 1:77, 2002), communicative planning (amongst others: Habermas, The theory of communicative action, vol 2, 1987; Justification and application: remarks on discourse ethics, 1993; Healey, Collaborative planning: shaping places in fragmented societies, 1997; Innes, Planning Theory, 3:5, 2004), agonism (see: Mouffe, The return of the political, 1993; On the political, 2005; Hillier, Planning Theory, 2:37, 2003; Pløger, 2004), reflexive planning (Beck et al., Theory, Culture and Society, 20:1, 2003; Lissandrello and Grin, Planning Theory and Practice, 12:223, 2011) or even the actor network approach (Boelens, Planning Theory, 9:28, 2010) do have considerable difficulties to deal with wicked problems, or solutions, or fail to take wicked problems as the subject of planning. Hence, the need for an alternative theory emerges. In this paper this theory, Swarm Planning, is explored and developed.


Planning discourse Swarm Planning Wicked problems Climate adaptation Planning theory 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of ArchitectureDelft University of TechnologyDelftThe Netherlands

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