unnamedWelcome to the FOReTHOUGHT blog, brought to you by researchers at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Town and Regional Planning. The idea for FOReTHOUGHT came out of discussions between staff and the research school in the department. In early 2014, a seminar organised by one of our PhD students opened up a conversation about our collective identity and relationships as a research community. Many of us would not call ourselves ‘planners’, and research emanating from TRP has become marked by its inter-disciplinary nature. Beyond planning in its most conventional sense, we study geography, urban and rural studies, property and housing, architecture and design, engineering, politics, gender, public policy and participation, international development, and environmental and energy policy. Over the coming months we’re hoping to nurture a space for critical reflection and engagement, for intervention, debate and dialogue over the purpose and application of ‘planning’, in its broadest and most multi-disciplinary sense.

What exactly is planning’s object of inquiry and where are its edges? What is planning for and what does it have to offer? The sorts of questions that emerged obviously went beyond the issues around the cohesiveness of our workplace. They seemed to have relevance to a much broader community of academics, students, practitioners and the wider public, and conversations worth having in an accessible beyond the confines of pay-walled journals and expensive magazines. The blog was conceived as a starting point for those conversations within TRP and beyond, and with the aim to critically engage with that wider community, in a spirit of intellectual curiosity and reflection on practical experience. We firmly believe that planning and its academic discipline does matter, and has much to offer in the making and remaking of the built environment and society.

With that in mind we commissioned an opening themed series under the title ‘what does planning mean today?’, asking for submissions from within TRP and from outside, some of whom are certainly not scholars of planning in the traditional sense. The first post published today is by our Head of Department John Flint, with contributions from Malcolm Tait, Jamie Gough, Will Davies, AbdouMaliq Simone and Rowland Atkinson to be released over the next six weeks or so. The series is open-ended, and we would welcome further contributions and responses, and we will be launching more themed series in the future.

More generally, we would invite submissions on a wide range of topics. They might be more theoretical contributions, short reports on research, opinion and reaction pieces to current events, or reflections on the everyday challenges of practitioners. We would especially encourage writers from outside the discipline and the academy, and stress that FOReTHOUGHT is as much a space for exploring the edges of what might be thought of as planning, as its more traditional applications. We’ll also be taking some longer-form essays and interventions, and creating video and audio content as well. For more on contributing, see our writer guidelines and contact details. We hope FOReTHOUGHT can be a space for collective learning, and we hope you’ll get involved in the conversations we want to spark.

The FOReTHOUGHT editorial team