Judith E. Innes (1942 - 2020)

Published at: 20 April 2020

Judith E. Innes, Professor Emerita, City and Regional Planning, University of California, Berkeley died at her home in Davis, April 14th 2020, aged 78.

The planning field has just lost a fine scholar and academic, after a battle with cancer borne with grace and good cheer. She will always be remembered in our field for her work bringing the concept of collaborative rationality into planning, and especially as the one who in 1995 named ‘communicative planning theory’, which became a dominant approach in both theory and practice in subsequent decades. This work, initially to be found in many papers and reports, was brought together in 2010 with her major book, Planning with Complexity: collaborative rationality for public policy, written with her intellectual and life partner, David Booher. This has become a foundational  text for researchers and planners engaging with dynamic complexity, as well as with collaborative practices. 

AESOP members may be less aware that this breakthrough work built on her earlier realisation that the ways knowledge is used in public policy contexts is not objectively-grounded but socially-constructed (see Innes 1990). Policy justifications, performance indicators and measurements of outputs and outcomes are all politically crafted as much as scientifically-based. In planning academia at the time, dominated by concepts of scientific rationality, it was initially a hard struggle to get such ideas accepted. Her intellectual struggle for recognition was compounded by the prejudices she faced as a rising scholar in a male-dominated field. She provides a flavour of this struggle in her chapter in the collection of autobiographies in Encounters in Planning Thought (Innes 2017)

In addition to her intellectual contribution to our field, she was also a lively, well-liked teacher and valued mentor to generations of doctoral students at Berkeley and elsewhere. Reflecting her own experience, she put a lot of effort into encouraging women faculty members, providing support when they too experienced discrimination. She not only helped junior faculty find a pathway into tenured positions. She also helped with the craft of writing, in which she excelled. She was for two terms Director of the Berkeley’s Institute for Urban and Regional Development, where she secured and managed large projects. These were mostly focused around community development and community-based learning. She was very much involved in the early days of the US Association of Colleges and Schools of Planning (ACSP) as it split off from the American Institute of Planners and in the creation and management of the Journal of Planning Education and Research. She was also involved in developing the practices and procedures for accrediting planning programmes in the US. Her experience in building the institutional infrastructure for our field in the US certainly helped me as AESOP was brought into being. Judy was a frequent attender at AESOP Congresses in the 1990s and 2000s and always enjoyed the friendly and supportive atmosphere that AESOP has cultivated. 

For me, she was an inspiration, great friend and travelling companion. Many will have memories of helpful academic advice as well as encounters with her at various academic events. We will all miss her sharp intellect and guiding presence in the years to come.



Innes, J. (1990). Knowledge and public policy: the search for meaningful indicators. New Brunswick, Transaction Books.

Innes, J. (1995). “Planning theory's emerging paradigm: communicative action and interactive practice.” Journal of Planning Education and Research 14(4): 183-189.

Innes, J. E. and D. E. Booher (2010). Planning with complexity: an introduction to collaborative rationality for public policy. London, Routledge.(2nd edition 2018).

Innes, J (2017) “From Informing Policy to Collaborating Rationally”, in ed B. Haselsberger Encounters in Planning Thought: 16 Autobiographical essays from Key Thinkers in Spatial Planning New York, Routledge, pp.145-164         



Patsy Healey

Newcastle University, UK