The initiation of ‘pilots’ in urban development is often a result of changing contextual circumstances like economic market conditions or new planning legislation requiring other solutions. Pilots require actors to innovate in terms of designing plans, handling planning procedures, managing development processes, and constructing real estate. They are often aimed at effectiveness, corresponding with the privatisation of planning powers witnessed in Western countries (Hobma & Heurkens, 2015). Also pilots urge actors to discover new ways of working through formal public-private agreements and informal processes of organisational change. This research investigates to what extent a brownfield redevelopment pilot project called Theo Koomenbuurt in Amsterdam has been effective in achieving its objectives, and whether the pilot’s privatisation aspects have hindered the institutionalisation of organisational learning (Wiseman, 2007).

In the pilot a housing association and the municipality applied three privatisation-oriented changes aimed at accelerating planning and development processes. First, a separate ‘spatial design quality team’ was set up to judge spatial-esthetic matters normally the responsibility of a municipal quality commission. Second, a flexible land-use plan and spatial vision were created to accommodate changing market needs. Third, ‘private quality safeguarding’, examining building plans and monitoring construction in accordance to the Building Ordinance, substituted the formerly public controlling role. The evaluation indicates that process acceleration took place and was considered effective (Heurkens, 2017). However, the municipal stance towards the pilot’s privatisation aspects, partly created by occurring market failures, hindered a process of institutionalisation of organisational learning. The case shows that the potential pilot impact to change urban development practices foremost requires informal organisational changes that support formal legal arrangements.

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  • Wiseman, E. (2007), ‘The institutionalization of organizational learning: A neoinstitutional perspective’, In Proceedings of OLKC 2007 - "Learning Fusion" (pp. 1112-1136).