Research field: Social justice as a leading goal of urban planning

Enhancing social justice has been the leading theme of Naomi’s teaching and research throughout her academic career. Planners, who study social justice, often concentrate on ‘procedural justice’, on including those whose voices are seldom heard in the procedures of planning and decision-making. While Naomi was involved in this kind of studies (Carmon, Yonish et al., 1992-H), her main focus has been on ‘distributive justice’, on asking who pays and who benefits from planning policy and projects, and on measuring actual planning outcomes (Carmon and Hill 1988-E; Carmon 1989-H; Yunger, Carmon and Shamir, 1993-H, Ziflinger and Carmon,2005; Kainer-Persov and Carmon,2017). She is particularly interested in translating principles of social justice into the language of urban planning deeds: deeds to improve the quality of life of underserved and discriminated-against people and social groups, and deeds to reduce the disparities between the haves and have-nots (see the titles of the sections below).

An extensive project on the topic of planning and social justice was “The Social Alternative” for Israel’s future that Naomi developed in collaboration with colleagues. This project was conducted within a framework of a research and planning effort led by Adam Mazur: Israel 2020 – Master Plan for Israel in the 21st Century (H – 1996). In this effort, which was supported in the first half of the 1990s by 11 governmental ministries – The Office of the Prime Minister and the Ministries of the Treasury, Interior, Housing, Environment, Transportation, Energy and Infrastructure, Education and Culture, Agriculture and also the Ministry of Defense – approximately 250 researchers and planners participated. Looking 30 years ahead (from 1990 to 2020), four main alternatives for the future of the country were developed: social, economic, physical-environmental and the alternative of “business as usual.” Naomi led the “social alternative,” which chose as its goal the advancement of “quality of life for all.” The meaning given to this term by Naomi and her colleagues included two principles. The first: a multiplicity of opportunities for all, i.e., provision of a variety of settlement, housing, employment, social and public services that would be accessible in terms of distance and price for the different groups in Israel. The second: a decrease in the economic and social gaps between different areas and different communities, between men and women, Jews and Arabs, healthy and handicapped people. The principles of the “social alternative” and the proposal for the creation of “spaces of choice” found expression in the National Spatial Plan, the summary volume of “Israel 2020.” This spatial plan had a great impact on the national and local plans that were developed, following this comprehensive research-planning project.

In 2009, Naomi invited the persons who lead international research in advancing social justice by means of urban planning to a four-day workshop at the Technion.[1] Some of the articles that were submitted to the workshop, after they were subject to strict academic review, were published in a book edited by Naomi Carmon and Suzanne Feinstein (Harvard University) – Policy, Planning and People: Promoting Justice in Urban Development (2013-E). This unique book, written by the most experienced scholars and writers in the field, deals with the theory and the practice of social justice in urban planning and development. In its opening chapter, Naomi discusses the mission of urban planning, its societal mandate and its values. She suggests “planning with and for people, to enhance ‘quality of life for all’ in the built environment,” as both the mission and the expertise of the urban planning profession (Carmon, 2013-E). Most of the other chapters relate to issues of social equity in various fields, including: the network society, transportation, elderly population, migrant workers, housing and community development.


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