Table of Contents

Handbook on Complexity and Public Policy

Handbook on Complexity and Public Policy

Handbooks of Research on Public Policy series

Edited by Robert Geyer and Paul Cairney

Though its roots in the natural sciences go back to the early 20th century, complexity theory as a scientific framework has developed most rapidly since the 1970s. Increasingly, complexity theory has been integrated into the social sciences, and this groundbreaking Handbook on Complexity and Public Policy has brought together top thinkers in complexity and policy from around the world. With contributions from Europe, North America, Brazil and China this comprehensive Handbook splits the topic into three cohesive parts: Theory and Tools, Methods and Modeling, and Application.

Chapter 21: Going for Plan B – conditioning adaptive planning: about urban planning and institutional design in a non-linear, complex world

Gert de Roo

Subjects: politics and public policy, public administration and management, public policy


Cities co-evolve, which means that they do not simply emerge from nowhere or grow linearly. Co-evolution is the non-linear transformation of a city’s structures and functions, through which cities change physically, socially and institutionally. Cities are subject to institutional constructs which frame the coherent development of the daily environment, while aiming to create a space for people to live together decently, perhaps even pleasantly. These institutional constructs supposedly mirror a sense of community, either through democratic mechanisms or other mechanisms through which a society’s desires can be taken into consideration. Cities emerge over time and new functions, meanings and perspectives consequently co-evolve along with them (Geddes, 1915; Mumford, 1961; Castells and Hall, 1994). Throughout this evolutionary path the city’s institutional reality will repeatedly be redesigned. It is a trajectory of continuously adjusting towards a fit between what is appreciated by communities and the changes that have emerged within the physical environment. This institutional reality represents all the mechanisms which enable a community to express its desires and worries regarding the communal environment, resulting in frameworks of conventions (including those representing conventions of ‘good governance’).

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