Global Course

Spatial Planning & Institutional Design

Lecture 1

Introduction: Institutions and Planning

photo Samira




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Dr. Samira Ramezani Dr. Barend Wind

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The first lecture of the Global Course: Institutional Design and Spatial Planning will set the scene for the rest of the course. What is the overall structure of the course? Which theoretical
approaches to institutional design are central in the weeks to come? During this course, institutional arrangements of planning in the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan, China and the Netherlands are compared. In this first lecture, it will be sketched out on the basis of which dimensions this comparison will be made throughout the course. 

Spatial planning is traditionally mostly concerned with spatial design. However, institutional design takes an increasingly dominant place in our discipline nowadays. In short, institutional design matters for planners in two ways: First, it is the context for spatial interventions. Second, we might need to change institutions in order to achieve particular spatial goals.

Two questions recur throughout the Global Course:

  • What are institutions and which historic, economic and cultural factors explain their existence?
  • How and why does the institutional context differ between the participating countries? 

The first lecture will give a tentative definition of institutions, using Nobel Prize winner Elionor Ostrom’s framework. She defines institutions as ‘action situations’ based on (1) resources brought by actors, (2) valuations of the world and actions, (3) knowledge contingencies and information, (4) processes that actors use for collective action.

Institutions are associated with issues of power. Whereas some social groups and locations profit from certain institutional arrangements, other do not. Sociological, historical, economic and political approaches to institutions will be touched upon to set the scene for the lectures in the weeks to come.

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