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During the month of October, Snyder & Associates is proud to join the American Planning Association and colleagues from across the country in celebration of the lasting value thoughtful planning provides for our communities. With a focus on civic engagement, this year’s theme highlights the significance of engaging the public, elected officials, and key stakeholders in discussions to shape the quality of life and the future of the communities we call home.

From where we live, to how we commute and experience the world around us, planning has a powerful impact on our day-to-day lives.

Community planning can influence future development, preserve the environment, stimulate the economy, and provide a framework for city officials to make future decisions,” shares Jared Foss, Planner, of Snyder & Associates. “Civic engagement should be a planner’s number one goal,” he adds. “It allows us to learn about issues firsthand from the people that experience the built environment every day, so their input is invaluable.”

At the heart of effective community planning is a comprehensive approach recognizing the relationship of economic, physical, and social factors. It’s a process of learning how a community has changed over several decades while defining a public vision from numerous, and often conflicting, perspectives in the context of a rapidly evolving world.

“I enjoy the complexity of planning. It’s like a puzzle with continually shifting pieces. When I was in college to become a planner, I realized I was going to be a part of a unique and creative profession. It can be difficult, but that’s what makes it exciting,” states Jennifer Roberts of Snyder & Associates.

Adding to the unique and varied nature of community planning is how drastically projects vary in size and scope. Projects can be statewide, regional, or pertaining to an individual city or county. They can even be tailored for a particular neighborhood or transportation corridor within a community.

“Comprehensive planning covers multiple topics for one community, such as transportation, housing, and economic development,” explains Mindy Moore, Project Manager, of Snyder & Associates. “Alternatively, you can develop a topic-specific plan focused on something such as protecting a watershed or improving community health.”

Yet no matter the size of the project or the topic it addresses, civic engagement that includes all members of the public is critical to effective community planning, notes Moore. Every community has different characteristics, goals, and visions. The only way to create a plan that will work is to ask the people that live, work, and recreate there.

How can we encourage civic engagement?

Here are the top five ways the planning team at Snyder & Associates suggests:

  1. Use multiple modes of communication including letters, signs, and social media. Online platforms that can be easily accessed via mobile devices are popular.
  2. Hold “pop up” workshops in places where people already are such as local festivals or major shopping areas.
  3. Identify stakeholder groups and leaders within the community to help rally support and input.
  4. Encourage people to get involved at a younger age within their communities and local governments. The “If I were Mayor” Essay contest is a great example of engaging today’s youth.
  5. Make it fun! Have a neighborhood picnic, open house, or create a game or contest to get people interested and excited to participate.

Established in 2006, National Community Planning Month is celebrated each October as a way to recognize the role of planners and the importance of their work. From planning department open houses to community tours, photo contests, and mayoral proclamations, community planning is honored in a variety of ways across the country.

For additional information on community planning and civic engagement, contact Mindy Moore.