Conflict Management in Planning

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Conflict is an inevitable part of any collective effort to manage change in communities. Consequently, planners routinely manage conflicts in their work. Conflicts can arise from competing values, beliefs, or interests; miscommunication, misunderstandings, or misinformation; or structural inequities.

While often uncomfortable, conflict is not inherently bad. Identifying and managing conflicts can lay the groundwork for future collaboration or unlock novel solutions to longstanding problems. For planners, the ultimate goals of conflict management are to promote mutually beneficial resolutions, where possible, and an equitable distribution of benefits and harms, when tradeoffs are inevitable.

From this page, you can search for resources that provide background and practical guidance exploring conflict management principles, the roles planners play in managing conflict, and specific tools and techniques planners can apply in their work. And you can filter these search results by various categories and characteristics.


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The Planners Role in Conflict Management

Planners can play several roles in managing conflicts that arise during planning and land-use decision-making processes. In some contexts, they may serve as facilitators, helping participants identify shared values, priorities, and mutually agreeable policies and actions—while remaining neutral on matters of substance and procedure. In others, planners may need to actively mediate conflicts between parties. As educators, they may have opportunities to minimize the likelihood of conflict by providing a common baseline of information about issues, proposals, or opportunities to participate in planning and decision-making processes. As process designers, they can shape planning processes in ways that increase the likelihood of meaningful and inclusive participation that can surface hidden tensions and innovative approaches. And as advocates, planners can elevate traditionally underrepresented perspectives on contentious issues.

Conflict Management Tools

Planners can use various tools to help resolve conflicts. Some of these tools, such as local regulations that establish alternative dispute resolution processes for contentious land-use proposals, are intended to provide an off-ramp for otherwise intractable conflicts. Others, such as scenario planning and participatory mapping exercises, can help planners identify conflicts before they come to a head over a specific proposed policy or project. Still others, like participatory budgeting and charrettes, emphasize co-creation and can disrupt historical power imbalances.

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