The current discussion in the media and among policymakers of the pandemic’s spatial impact mainly concerns questions about the resilience of regional economic systems, the security of supply in times of global crises (supply chains), mobility and working from home. However, besides this superficial discussion about its symptoms, the crisis also calls for a more fundamental reassessment of economic and social policy. This reassessment involves the organisation of production just as much as the public provision of infrastructure and services, the valuation of gainful employment vs. unpaid work, lifestyles and consumption patterns. Previous ARL work relating to post-growth evinces a certain relation to this subject and can be used as a basis for further reflection. The following questions are of particular interest for spatial development (research and planning):
- Who are the (potential) actors in a transformation of spatial development, how can they establish themselves, and what kinds of organisations do they form? What role is played by those who are willing to shape policy, and what obstacles are there?
- How is the participation of different social groups organised?
- How can spatial planning provide guidance, and how can spatial development policy be reoriented?
- What function do government subsidies have in transformation processes (e.g. compensation payments for the coal phase-out)?
- Can any ‘bold’ examples be found, and how can their potential and processes be assessed with regard to alternative economies and regional development approaches? Is it possible to define a typology of regions?
The regional level is the spatial starting point for the Working Group’s investigations, which are to be extended to lower and higher levels as well as to various contexts.
Aims and intended outcome
The Working Group’s aim is to examine the topic from conceptual, methodological, and empirical perspectives.
Conceptually it will involve looking into the need for fundamental change in the guiding principles, visions, and goals of spatial development, away from growth-fixated premises toward a stronger focus on development paths and transition strategies that are sceptical of growth and prioritise the common good.
Closely related to the conceptual perspective will be an in-depth review of the methodologies of spatial development research and planning. In addition to examining alternative indicators of prosperity, the review will focus on categories that guide actions (e.g. businesses), the understanding of concepts like innovation, and associated measurement and evaluation methods.
The Working Group also aims to conduct empirical research, for example an interregional comparative analysis of secondary data and/or pilot studies in regions yet to be determined.
In addition to academic publications (journal articles, special issues, and position papers), the Working Group’s results will also be presented with a strong practical focus, including in:
- multi-level discussion formats with practitioners from the fields of planning, administration, promotion of economic development, and regional politics;
- easily available handouts / policy briefs;
- an interactive platform or blog for ongoing engagement;
- events with broad reach to communicate the results;
- suitable educational materials (e.g. for professional training events, civic education, or foundational and methodological seminars in relevant degree programmes).