Over the past year, I have been invited to facilitate some truly difficult conversations. These conversations, whether inspired or called on by an organization’s members and staff, by residents, or by educators, have been a first step towards desired systems changes. Along the way, I was engaged to design training on how to integrate equity into approaches to research design, team building, knowledge mobilization, and curriculum development, champion efforts to address anti-Black racism in planning practice, and explore treaty rights in relation to planning practice. These are all necessary steps in a transparent and ongoing process to plot out long-term courses of action with measured steps for impact.

Throughout all these experiences it was clear to me that participants took the time they needed to ask questions and propose actions. Collaborative efforts to build trust, if at all established, will be assessed over time.

A trend in the planning realm is to speed things up to ‘build back better’ after 18 months of COVID lockdowns – to get things done according to established parameters, set up by policy or simply ingrained in the “way we do things.” However, if relationship building is foundational to planning practice, and time is needed to build trust, as it is sometimes slow to build especially under the pressure of efficiencies of developers, or expectations of the public, then some questions that planning practitioners should ask are:

What could planning look like if it functioned at the pace that it takes to build and sustain trust among different parties (e.g., neighbourhood residents; community members; planners; developers; government officials; Indigenous peoples)?

What would communities look like if they were planned at the pace of trust?

In conversation, about these questions, with my Community of Practice, my peers noted how “potentially the most significant challenge to ‘planning at the pace of trust’ is time itself” and how “change does not tend to happen at the pace where everyone wants or needs it to be meaningfully processed.” Still, I think that if relationship building is foundational to planning with purpose, and trust is crucial to meaningful relationships, then something needs to change for planning processes to proactively prioritize trust-building over the long term, and not simply reactively, from one project to the next.

Collage by Leela Viswanathan