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Report from APA in Atlanta Get Together

Last month, the American Planning Association (APA) hosted their 2014 National Planning Conference in Atlanta, GA. On the final day of the conference, a number of practitioners at the intersection of planning and public participation came together to discuss how the bridging efforts between these two communities could be improved.

Below is a report from Myles Alexander, Project Coordinator for the Center for Engagement and Community Development and Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy at Kansas State University, who co-hosted the meetup.

Beginning with an NCDD (National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation) listserv post by Ron Thomas (University of Georgia), Ron, Tim Bonnemann (IAP2 USA) and Myles Alexander (Kansas State University) began talking about how to instill the practice of planning with more meaningful public participation. We organized an informal meeting during the American Planning Association (APA) conference. On Tuesday 29 April eight planners and facilitators bridging APA, IAP2 USA, NCDD and the International Association for Conflict Management (IACM) met over drinks and dinner. After introductions talked about how we can do stronger, more productive public participation.

Our beginning agenda for APA 2015 includes:

  1. Coordinate a booth featuring public participation software and our organizations.
  2. Organize regular 75 minute sessions and possible a “Deep Dive” double session that would address a skill. Several topics were mentioned:
    • What public participation can be accomplished with online media?
    • What public participation must be accomplished face-to-face?
    • How do online and face-to-face modes complement each other?
    • Engagement infrastructure (both low tech and high tech) and community building

We also talked about some long-term projects.

  • Several of us contribute to an APA published monograph on public participation in planning. The monograph series, PAS, has a long history yet public participation has been neglected.
  • Advocate for public participation with possibilities that address the fears of elected officials and local government administrators.
  • Develop working relationships among our organizations. This summer a new executive director arrives at APA. Meet with Planners Network, International City/County Management Association (ICMA), IAP2, NCDD and IACM leadership probably beginning spring 2015.

There is obviously a lot of opportunity for collaboration across communities and the various neighboring organizations that support them.

For IAP2 USA’s part, Board member Marijoan Bull will serve as coordinator for these efforts. Already, more than 20 people have expressed interest to move the conversation forward. If you’d like to get involved, please contact us.

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