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Department of Spatial Planning

Temporality and Strategic Planning - The Timing of Strategy Changes exemplified by the Emscher Restoration Project

Strategies should provide orientation and be characterized by stability over time. Changes in strategy are therefore particularly in need of explanation. However, in long-term projects of strategic spatial planning, changes in strategy are to be expected regularly in view of complex, uncertain and conflictual framework conditions. TEMPUS investigates these changes by means of a longitudinal single case study on the restoration of the Emscher river in the Ruhr area in the years 1980 to 2022.

The project can draw on extensive earlier work on strategic spatial planning and on regional strategy development for the restoration of the Emscher river and therefore focuses on descriptive and causal data analysis. Two guiding questions are in focus: (1) Which phases and strategy changes are characteristic for the strategy development for the Emscher restoration? (2) Which causes explain the timing of strategy changes within strategy development?

TEMPUS, with its focus on strategy changes, time and temporality, makes an important contribution to the international state of research on strategic spatial planning by extending the descriptive and causal power of existing models. This is because planning research has rarely dealt with strategy change in a deliberate way. Also, little attention is paid to time and temporality, even though planning theories have traditionally been procedural.

The main objective of TEMPUS is to further develop the process model of regional strategy formation (Wiechmann 2008) in order to incorporate time and temporality explicitly, more comprehensively and more systematically than before in the model. The empirical goal is the descriptive and causal analysis of regional strategy development for Emscher restoration.

The work program comprises five work packages (WP). WP 1 goes beyond an "archive study" and also includes interviews with experts on the strategy of Emscher restoration. WP 2 is based on a detailed chronology of the Emscher restoration and deals in depth with the case-specific periodization or phase analysis, sequencing, duration and pace of strategy development. A test of hypotheses to explain the "timing" of strategy changes ("process tracing") is carried out. Data analysis is based on recent developments in the methodology of causality-oriented case study research (e.g., Mahoney's typology of causal effects). WP 3 and WP 4 address the development of results (case study evidence and model development). WP 5 addresses planning scientists and practitioners in two project-specific workshops.


Prof. Dr. Thorsten Wiechmann (project head)

Dr. Gérard Hutter, IÖR Dresden (project head)

Duration: 01.04.2024 - 31.03.2027

Funding: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)