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Understanding knowledge production and dissemination in the field of urban planning: The case of business consulting and sustainability assessment

Krause, Agata 2014. Understanding knowledge production and dissemination in the field of urban planning: The case of business consulting and sustainability assessment. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis explores one of the key challenges in contemporary urban planning: understanding the production and dissemination of knowledge and how this shapes views and expectations towards urban policy and practice. Over the last four decades knowledge transfer has been considered as a ‘panacea’ for unsustainable urban growth. Private sector consultancies are believed to play an important role in this process as they are known to be policy advisors. As evidenced by the global growth of consulting businesses in the course of the twentieth century, so their influence might have strengthened. However, the role of consultancies in the production and dissemination of knowledge and the social outcomes of these processes have not yet been adequately evaluated: especially for the influence of sustainability assessment frameworks developed by these consultancies on urban policy and practice in a local context. In order to address this gap, the ‘Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse’ of Keller (2011) is deployed in the case study of the ‘Arena’ development. The framework draws on the tradition of social constructionism (Berger and Luckmann, 1967) and the power-knowledge scholarship of Foucault (1986) in order to explain how knowledge, intertwined with power, defines the outcomes of the sustainability assessment. Insights from semi-structured interviews with key ‘Arena’ project stakeholders, documentary and secondary sources, demonstrate that the processes of valorisation and objectification of knowledge in the context of consultants are contested across time and space with regard to: their credibility and reputation, the reliability of the sustainability assessment framework, and social interaction around it. This thesis defines the consultant-client relationship as the interplay of scientific-environmental knowledge and economic interests mitigated by the local socio-institutional context. It suggests that the ‘reputation’ of consultants is a ‘relational’ construct, limited by confusion over the meaning of sustainable development and the actions of their clients. It points to the pitfalls of using various frameworks in order to assess sustainability impacts with regard to a bias towards interests of a client. Finally, it also stresses the role of consultants in the production of competitiveness ‘imaginaries’ and how this fails under the pressure of local knowledge authorities and in the context of public-private relationships in Poland.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Geography and Planning (GEOPL)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Uncontrolled Keywords: urban planning, sustainable development, sustainability assessment, consulting, management consultants, knowledge transfer, the Sociology of Knowledge Approach to Discourse, Poland.
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2019 09:04

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