The Planners Network has its origins in Planners for Equal Opportunity, an organisation that was formed in 1964 around the civil rights movement in the United States and specifically around the rent strikes of New York. In 1975 as a replacement for the recently disbanded Planners for Equal Opportunity, Chester Hartman established the Planners Network by sending out newsletters to radical planners as a way of keeping in touch and sharing information. This format has since remained an integral part of Planners Network's activities and from 2002 they have also published a quarterly magazine, Progressive Planning. Currently the network consists of around 500 members, which includes professionals, students and academics as well as community activists from areas in which the network has been active. Based at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York State, it has local branches in a number of the major US cities, as well as being active in Canada as Planning Action and having a related organisation in the UK.
At the outset the central aim of the group was to make their services as volunteers available to community groups, tenant groups and neighbourhood organisations, in order to serve those who were excluded from the mainstream planning process, particularly dealing with issues affecting women and the consequences of racism and segregation. In these concerns, Planners Network overlaps with Community Design Centers, which were also formed in the context of the civil rights movement and the women's liberation movement. Since then, the concerns of Planners Network have grown to include issues around gay rights, migration and the effects of the neo-liberal economy on urban and rural environments. Much of their work is carried out through local branches who act independently and organise themselves around local issues, mobilising campaigns and facilitating discussions. Planners Network have recently published a Disorientation Guide for planning students who want to combine activism with their academic studies, and provide a help and support system for those studying in an academic environment that does not valorise such work. They also organise regular conferences which are deliberately independent of the professional organisations, recognising the need to work outside of existing structures in order to include voices from neighbourhood groups, women's groups, representatives from labour unions - all people who are involved directly in issues of the built environment but not as 'professionals'.
Planners Network, Progressive Planning: The Magazine of
Planners Network (Published quarterly from 1997).
Planners Network, Disorientation Guide: Your How-to Manual for a Progressive Planning Education (Self-published, 2004), http://www.plannersnetwork.org/publications/disorientation.html
'Planners Network UK', http://www.pnuk.org.uk/aboutus.htm [accessed 1 February 2010].
'PNmb: Planners Network Manitoba', http://www.pnmb.org/ [accessed 1 February 2010].
'Young Planners Network', http://sites.google.com/a/youngplannersnetwork.org/www/ [accessed 1 February 2010].
"This is the first mailing of a new communications/action
network of leftist planners in the U.S. and Canada. At the first
level, the idea simply is to put the few hundred North American
'radical planners' in regular touch with one another, to share
ideas and experiences, discuss their work and lives, develop some
sense of community and mutual support."
- Chester Hartman, 1975, http://www.plannersnetwork.org/about/history.html
"Its [The Planners' Network] central theme and what its members
have in common is, that they have made their services available to
community groups, to tenant groups, to neighbourhood organizations,
to groups of women, hoping to create new forms that dealt with
issues particularly affecting women, that worked against racism and
against segregation, as volunteers. I think it is a very important
way of implementing an oppositional position in architecture for a
number of reasons. [...] because it prevents us from becoming
inward looking, from living in our own ivory towers, in our own
enclosed circles where we talk only to ourselves; and where we
forget what the real problems of real people are."
- Peter Marcuse, 'What Has to Be Done? The Potentials and Failures of Planning: History, Theory, and Actuality. Lessons from New York', in Camp for Oppositional Architecture, ed. by AnArchitektur (Berlin: AnArchitektur, 2004), pp. 36-40, p. 37.
"In the three decades since PN's founding, the political
spectrum has moved radically to the right. The left and progressive
movements in North America have become more diverse, and so has
PN's membership base. Today PNers work in a broad array of
disciplines, focusing on issues of race, gender, sexual
orientation, and environmental justice as they relate to the
physical, economic and social environment of cities and rural
areas. The constant objective throughout PN's history has been to
advocate that planning be used to eliminate inequalities and
promote peace and racial, economic and environmental justice."
- Planners Network website, http://www.plannersnetwork.org/about/history.html
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