Transplanting Instruments that Work: Four Practical Lessons on Eliminating Erroneous Assumptions

T. van Dijk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The enlargement of the European Union has triggered the exchange of spatial planning practices between East and West. Particularly on the level of policy instruments, the intervention side of the planning spectrum, Western European experts on spatial planning have been actively exporting their knowledge to the new and candidate member states. This exchange seems logical in the light of the many similarities between the new and the old member states, such as their common history, similar land tenure concepts, spatial characteristics and challenges, and of course the EU context in which governance is embedded. However, there are several pitfalls that may cause the exchange of planning experience to lead to disappointing or even negative results. Four pitfalls are discussed in this article and illustrated with examples from Central European rural development. The first pitfall is the lack of sufficiently clear terminology that frustrates successful export of knowledge. When terms are ill-defined, people may use the same word for very different concepts and consequently, co-operation between countries that may look successful at first may in a later stage be blocked by a serious gap between the perceptions of those involved. Second, the pre-occupation with solutions instead of problem analysis is discussed. In successful export of planning knowledge, the basic question should be one of a strategic nature, namely what is the exact nature of the problem (is it a problem at all?) and what way of intervening may positively change the situation. The third pitfall is the underestimation of the range of context-dependent factors that affect the effectiveness of planning instruments. The article proposes a way of developing appropriate insight into an instrument's context-dependency by clarifying the link between the context and a potentially exportable instrument. The fourth pitfall is the persistent assumption that more recent instruments are better than traditional instruments, with the result that traditional approaches are ignored. It is argued here that instruments do not evolve into ever better instruments, but that they merely change along with the preferences of society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-442
JournalPlanning Theory & Practice
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2006

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