Amnon Frenkel and Idan Porat
Urban and regional planning strategies face an inherent gap between vision and reality. While vision refers to an ideal future state, reality is focused on everyday problems. The consequence is that decision-makers find it difficult to succeed in reaching their long- term goals. In order to meet regional goals decision makers must bridge the gap between vision and reality, taking into account the relative and absolute strengths of the region and its residents. This concept of comparative advantages is not easy to define or quantify, further challenging local governments. A region’s strengths come from a variety of assets and activities within its territory—its capital resources (Friedmann, 2002; Albrechts, et al., 2003; Kitson, 2004). These include the local economy, human capital, cultural capital, environmental capital, social capital, infrastructure capital, as well as the local authority’s political capital. Urban and regional decision-making should make use of a region’s capital resources in order to achieve optimum development for the region, its residents, and the local authority.
In the present study, we employ an integrative model for strategic local planning based on the concept of spatial capital. This model was developed and implemented in a peripheral region in Israel. The model bridges the gap between vision and reality by stimulating actions that are directed at mitigating the challenges to the vision. The model uses the concept of “spatial capital,” which is based on the accumulated assets and capabilities of a region, and “development engines,” which are alternative macro-strategies designed to help achieve the major goals set by the plan’s vision. It combines top-down and bottom-up analyses, using the Benchmark technique to rank the accumulation of a region’s capital resources, relative to other regions chosen as points of reference. This methodology identifies barriers and limitations that interfere with a local authority’s achievement of its goals. The developed model aims at achieving a better integration of the region’s overall capital resources. It provides a flexible, modular planning platform; that is sensitive to different interests, and the diversity that exists within and among different localities.