How do policy professionals learn best practices? Lecture by Richard Tomlinson, April 29

April 25, 2013

Professor Richard Tomlinson, chair of Urban Planning in the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning at the University of Melbourne, will present a discussion on Monday, April 29, “The Prescriptive Character of Best Practice Knowledge Products: A ‘Slum’ Upgrading Case Study.” The lecture will begin at 5:00 p.m. and be held in room 369 of the Civic Square Building, 33 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick.

This talk is based on the view that policy professionals are considerably influenced by Web-based searches and social media communications that lead to the identification of best practice policy documents. Dr. Tomlinson argues that there is a prescriptive quality to best practice when it is “certified” by the World Bank, MIT, and one’s professional associations; and when this occurs in the context of, it is argued, a decline in critical thinking. The article answers commonly encountered questions: ‘What’s new about best practice?’ and ‘Why anticipate a decline in critical thinking?’. The article continues with inquiries into ‘Knowledge and the can and should of best practice’ and ‘Whose knowledge?’ However, since the interpretation of these views is so clouded by the perception of bias, he starts by explaining the focus on, rather than the bias against, the World Bank and associated organisations. The case study is slum upgrading and knowledge products for policy professionals in the Global South.

Dr.  Tomlinson teaches international ‘best practice’ and planning processes, urbanisation and comparative governance, and housing and services. His research and publications include articles and books on policy processes, housing and services, search engine optimisation and the implications for urban policy, and mega-events and urban economic development. He is the editor of a new book, Australia’s Unintended Cities: the Impact of Housing on Urban Development. He received his PhD from the Bloustein School in Urban Planning in 1981.


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