As you might imagine, we’ve been doing some proper thinking at PAS villas recently. I’d argue that “good” planning will remain what “good” planning always has been – but there is no denying there is a new game in town, and some of the support and case studies we have on our shelves are suddenly out of date. It is impossible to support a new system before it’s become clear how it actually works – so what to do ?
Earlier this year some of us were put through our paces on a ‘Managing Successful Programmes‘ course (MSP), and – slightly to my surprise – I’m going to attempt to use some of the model here. To be really brief, MSP is about moving an organisation to a new state (cheaper, faster, better etc). To do this, you need to be able to understand and communicate what this new state is. MSP describes two complementary things:
A vision: Setting out why the new state is better – what are its defining qualities ?
A blueprint: A “howto” for the new state – how do things work, what is different, and therefore which bits need to change to get us there ?*
We are fairly clear on the vision thing. It’s about localism, reducing “red tape”, localism, value for money and localism. It’s time to build on the vision with some pragmatic thinking about how to build a system that helps us do the work. This is where our deeply wonderful network of peers comes in.
Is a sector-led think-tank an oxymoron?
A couple of weeks ago, recognising how important a blueprint is, we decided to temporarily set aside one of our core principles. PAS is not a think-tank. We don’t have people with big foreheads, making policy up or lobbying for a particular angle. Many others do it well, and we stick to a deliberately workaday, pragmatic, public-sector-planner perspective. This is not to say that we don’t support brilliant, innovative work – but that it is driven largely by people we meet out in the field.
But for now, and probably just this once, we’re going to see whether we can use our peers to be a ‘sector-led’ thinktank. We put out a short set of fairly open-ended questions to our peers asking them to imagine a successful future. If necessary, anonymity is fine. And we’ve already had some really positive responses from both councillors and officers who are clearly already thinking through the possibilities. We’ll be publishing them over the next few weeks – why not have a go yourself ? I’d love to tell you there was some kind of prize, and maybe you could end up sharing a table with us at the RTPI awards. But more importantly, the situation is still malleable and getting the practitioner persepective in at an early stage might make all of our lives easier in the long term.
* MSP also describes loads of other stuff as well, just in case you thought it was a bit terse.