Table 3. Key elements of a strategic spatial planning (SSP) process.

Key elements of strategic spatial planning (SSP) Strategic intent of the key element of SSP and literature
Track one:
Value rationality > the design of alternative futures
(1) Vision making >

Designing long-term visions of alternative development paths
A vision is an integrated long-term spatial logic in which land-use regulations, including zoning, are framed (Albrechts 2010). These regulations are used for natural resource protection, for sustainable development (Hersperger et al. 2019), for spatial quality, for equity, to enhance action-orientation, and to create a more open, multi-level type of governance arrangement based on local knowledge (Mäntysalo et al. 2015). A strategic vision is a political program aimed at community development, that is, a future community that is assumed to be better prepared to face global societal challenges than the present one (Mazza 2010), including those related to land use as identified in Table 3, e.g., transnational land deals or transnational land acquisitions.
(2) Action-oriented schemes >

Defining short-term actions, projects, or programs
Strategic spatial plans are often implemented through spatial and sectorial projects (Oliveira and Hersperger 2018). Projects, as strategic development projects (Pagliarin et al. 2020). These are typically medium- to large-scale projects, working as fast-track plan-implementation approaches to ensure that spatial transformation happens on the ground along the key strategic domains defined in (1). The combination of long-term perspectives (the vision, as in 1) with short-term actions and projects makes creativity tangible and enables it to react almost immediately to certain urgent global societal challenges with a clear perspective as to where to go and what the likely impacts of decisions are (Albrechts 2010).
(3) Selective nature >

Focused on strategic key issues supporting plan-implementation
The success of SSP depends on being focused on a limited number of issues/challenges aiming at managing transformative socio-spatial and spatial-economic change (Albrechts 2004). This means that strategic spatial planning as a process implies that some decisions and actions are considered more important than other decisions and that much of the process lies in making the tough choices about what is most important for the purpose of producing socially fair, structural responses to those challenges involving diversity, sustainability, equity, spatial quality, and equality (Albrechts 2010). However, this also means that SSP can be co-opted, in a highly selective manner, to serve a range of different, even competing and conflicting, ideological, political, and policy agendas (Atkinson 2010) or interests of private actors, e.g., private investors that are competing for land with smallholder farmers and rural communities (Anseeuw et al. 2011) as identified in Table 3.
Track two:
Communicative rationality > involving a growing number of private operators and public actors in the process
(4) Political engagement >

Bringing political agents to support the defined vision
The success of an SSP process is influenced by how political agents are in favor of the defined vision (1) (Albrechts and Balducci 2013). Therefore, SSP is a political process. Political agents that are involved in vision making (1) will likely support it throughout the process (Mazza 2010), which includes plan-making and plan implementation (Oliveira and Hersperger 2018). For Kunzmann (2000), a strategic plan is a possible opportunity, depending on political will and on specific circumstances, a blank slate waiting for collective action, which considers possible convergences of opinion, political views, and compromises (Forester 1989, Friedmann 1992). Therefore, SSP seems a valid approach to, for example, counteract the downsides and uncertainty of political cycles of four or five years (Albrechts 2017).
(5) Knowledge co-production >

Multi-level and trans-scalar governance arrangements
Co-production acknowledges the value of multi-actor collaboration. It opens consensus-based governance networks more widely, to cover diverse interests related to, not only economic (Mäntysalo and GriŠakov 2017), but also social (Hersperger et al. 2019) and environmental issues (Servillo 2017), including land-use conflicts (Helbron et al. 2011, Nae et al. 2019) and rural development (Tomaney et al. 2019). Knowledge co-production by embracing a multi-level and trans-scalar governance approach will consider the possible visions that distant actors may have for the emerging land-use frontier, and, proportionally, the possible visions that the local actors may have about how their own territory may contribute goods and services to distant places, for example, through agricultural and forestry production (Rudel and Meyfroidt 2014, Meyfroidt 2015). Trans-scalar governance arrangements bring together public and private actors influencing directly or indirectly the land systems in frontier contexts, but typically operate at different scales, from global to local. This element proposes knowledge co-production across scales as a means of considering trade-offs between local realities and broader land-use challenges, and further integrate emerging private-led actors in long-term territorial development.
(6) Participatory scenarios >

Civic participation in scenario building
This element is fundamental to deal with drivers of expansion or intensification in land-uses frontiers. Building future scenarios aids in simulating possible impacts of spatial policies, including land-use policies, land-based legislation on future land uses (Henríquez-Dole et al. 2018). Scenarios, prepared through participatory-action research methodologies, such as workshops (Zaehringer et al. 2018) or serious games as participatory-role playing (Castella et al. 2020), are useful input methodologies in SSP processes, as future potential land uses will be determined and conflicts could be avoided (Heinrichs et al. 2009), for example, between private land-based investors and smallholder farmers. In this context, land-use scenarios support planners and land-management experts to tailor land capabilities to specific spatial settings.
Track three:
Instrumental rationality > searching for optimal ways to solve the problems and achieve the envisioned future


(7) Mapping >

Integrating a spatial dimension in strategic spatial planning
Strategic spatial planning processes depend to a greater extent on governance arrangements (Oliveira and Hersperger 2018) but also on the inclusion of visual elements, primarily maps (Grădinaru and Hersperger 2019), for example, asset mapping or mapping strategic key issues (3). Maps support plan implementation and contribute to sustainable uses of land by identifying the spatial location of different types of land use (e.g., built-up areas, for nature conservation) and land cover (e.g., cropland, grassland; Amler et al. 1999, Mazza 2010). Hillier (2007) proposes a reflection on the activity of mapping practiced in strategic spatial plan-making processes as explorations of territorial potentials or assets.
Track four:
Strategic rationality > defining strategies for dealing with power relations
(8) Strategic framing >

Designing strategic frameworks for action
Strategic framing implies alternative institutional work and a sensibility for new debates and struggles of a territory (Balducci 2010). Framing a strategy during the plan-making phase requires an interrelation of the active work of individuals and institutions. These are within a social process (the level of agency) with interactions, in the form of discussions and action-oriented cooperation, with economic organizations, political organizations, social dynamics with due considerations for natural forces (the level of structure of social relation; Healey 2006). This recognizes that, although occurring within a context of powerful structuring forces (power relationships) as well as governance arrangements (Oliveira and Hersperger 2018), strategic spatial planning may be used by social groups to design strategic frameworks. These frameworks could influence the flows of events that affect them within a structured field of action, in a social, political, and cultural constructivist perspective (Healey 1997, Balducci 2010).
(9) Defining finances >

Strategically defining funding schemes supporting the vision
The implementation of strategic plans depends, among other factors, on the availability of funding (Oliveira and Hersperger 2018). Credible commitments to active engagement and a clear and explicit link to funding schemes are needed, where the citizens, the private sector, different levels of governance, and planners enter fair, administrative, and financial agreements to realize the vision (1) proposes equitable short-term actions (3) or projects (Albrechts 2010, Pagliarin et al. 2020). Defining funding schemes during the SSP process could help to overcome the shortcomings of institutional fragility that often characterized land-use frontiers (Shi et al. 2017).
Notes: 1 to 9 correspond to the key elements of strategic spatial planning based on reviewed academic literature.