Aftab Erfan PhD 2013

Current Work:  Instructor, SCARP; Consultant, Whole Picture Thinking                                                                                                          

One of the most interesting things about a career in planning is that it can take many twists and turns. I came to SCARP in 2008, with a Masters in Urban Planning (McGill University), having worked as an environmental planner in a large consulting firm, and as a long-range planner in municipal government. By the time I got here my main interest was in the processes by which large and diverse groups of people make decisions that affect them collectively, particularly in the context of a significant history of conflict. How could planners play a facilitative leadership role in enabling dialogue that was attentive to difference and made a difference in how communities address their most pressing issues?

My PhD dissertation ended up being focused around an action research project with a small First Nation community on Vancouver Island. I worked with community members attempting to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma and rebuild the social fabric of their reserve - and I wrote up my account of this “experiment in therapeutic planning”. 

My time at SCARP was stimulating largely because of scholarly and professional connections that my supervisor and other faculty members facilitated. I was inspired and supported by other PhD students in my cohort, and energized by the excellent Masters students that the SCARP program attracts. I found the curriculum rigorous and flexible, allowing me to craft a very unique space for myself not only to engage in scholarship but actually to build a specialized set of practitioner skills in facilitating dialogue and working with conflict. I trained with a mentor –a master facilitator- outside the program and travelled around the world to hone my skills.

I was not a typical PhD student and I don’t feel like a typical academic, but the SCARP program set me up beautifully for what I eventually discovered I wanted to become: a scholar-practitioner. I currently divide my time between teaching, writing (on my own time), and running a successful solo consulting business that utilizes my facilitation skills in very exciting ways <www.wholepicturethinking.com>. My consulting work takes me into a more diverse set of contexts than I had ever imagined: First Nation communities, non-profits, social ventures and small businesses, large corporations, and governments at every level. The SCARP doctoral program has been an indispensible stepping-stone for getting to this place and for wherever I happen to go next.