National Planning Award Categories & Eligibility

Eligibility Requirements

What can be entered?

  • Any plan, project, program, tool, process, report, or ordinance entered must have been published, implemented, or completed within three years of the date of submission. Published drafts of plans are not acceptable. This does not include the Implementation award category.
  • Any plan, project, program, tool, process, report or ordinance may only be entered in one award category per award year.
  • Any project or plan occurring outside of the United States may only be entered in the Pierre L'Enfant International Planning Award category.
  • You do not have to win a chapter or division award to be eligible for a national Planning Award.

Who can be nominated?

  • Recipients of any of the National Planning Leadership Awards are ineligible to receive the same award for 10 years after accepting it.

Who can nominate?

  • An individual may not nominate himself/herself (the individual) for an award. Anyone working on a plan or project may nominate that plan or project for an award.
  • Nominators may not be related by blood or marriage to any individual they wish to nominate.
  • Members of the APA Awards Jury, APA staff, APA Board of Directors, and AICP Commission are not eligible to nominate or to receive individual awards.
  • Any firm that employs APA members currently serving in national leadership positions is ineligible to be nominated.
  • APA staff may not nominate, contribute to, or review award nominations.


Award Categories

The HUD Secretary's Opportunity & Empowerment Award

A single award will be made for a community or plan, program, or project that, as a direct result of the effort, demonstrates improved quality of life for low-and moderate-income residents. Emphasis is placed on how creative housing, economic development, and private investments have been used in or with a comprehensive community development plan to empower residents who reside in that community or around it.

Example: Affordable housing; neighborhood revitalization; preservation plans; and sustainable, economic development.

Eligibility

This award also emphasizes tangible results and recognizes the planning discipline and its contributions as a community strategy. Nominees should show how they have overcome difficult community issues to achieve effective measurable outcomes, such as the reduction of urban blight, creation of jobs, preservation of affordable housing, or the expansion of transit mobility. Applicants must also demonstrate effective collaborative efforts with other entities, public and private. Examples include community development corporations (CDCs), banking institutions, advocacy organizations, philanthropy, for- and non-profit homebuilders, and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). The strategy should employ a variety of actions that maximize increased choice and opportunity for all citizens in the community. To the maximum extent possible, submissions should involve formal community planning efforts and include physical improvements and interventions (although the latter are not required). The strategy submitted should have been in effect a minimum of 3 years.

Criteria

Planning. How has the submission addressed existing plans (comprehensive, regional, and neighborhood)? How did the program or project respect and integrate or maintain existing and cultural content? Describe the specific role planners played in achieving the results? How was the planning process important to subsequent implementation? How involved in the plan were civic groups and individuals from private, nonprofit, and public perspectives, particularly those who may have been left out of similar efforts in the past? Explain the collaborative effort between public and private entities? The submission must provide a detailed account of how citizens were involved in each stage of the planning process.

Results. Explain how the submission addressed and documented the need for increased and sustained employment opportunities, quality education, and access to affordable housing or housing choice and mobility among low- and moderate-income residents through effective transportation systems? The submission must make an attempt to address each of these planning areas. How were these efforts cost effective and how did they improve quality assurance? The submission must include beginning and end dates, detailed cost and funding data, and information about when the results were implemented.

Innovation. Describe how the submission used innovative, forward-looking approaches to address various communitywide needs? How is the project innovative for the locality? How are these pioneering efforts applicable on a local and national scale? Are they replicable in other neighborhood or community contexts? For projects using HOPE VI (or Choice Neighborhoods) funds, the submission must show how the project exceeded the basic requirements of the program demonstrated through measurable outcomes (e.g., number of jobs and affordable housing units created and preserved, home-ownership rates, education outcomes, crime and poverty rates).

Transferability. How, and to what extent, has the submission served as an example for other localities working to address challenges inherent in the neighborhood or community? How does the program provide useful prescriptive measures for other communities similarly situated? How does the submission explicitly demonstrate that the project overcame these challenges to implement a successful program?


Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan

For a comprehensive or general plan that advances the science and art of planning. The award honors America's most famous planner, Daniel Burnham, for his contributions to the planning profession and to a greater awareness of the benefits of good planning.

Eligibility

Open to APA members and non-members. The award is given for group achievement and may be made to a planning agency, planning team or firm, community group, or local authority. There are no limits on the size of jurisdiction.

Criteria

Originality and innovation. Document how your entry presents a visionary approach or innovative concept to address needs. Explain how the use of the planning process in this context broadened accepted planning principles within the context of the situation.

Engagement. Explain how various public interests were involved and the extent of that involvement. Competitive entries demonstrate a strong effort to solicit input from those who historically have been left out of the planning process. Show how the nominated plan obtained public and private support.

Role of planners. Clarify the role, significance and participation of planners. Demonstrate the connection between the effort's success and increased awareness in the community of planners and planning.

Implementation. Address what steps have been taken to build momentum and public support for following and implementing the plan.

Effectiveness. State how your entry addressed the need or problem that prompted its initiation. Be explicit about how the results have made a difference in the lives of the people affected. Convey the level of effectiveness your entry can have over time.


Best Practice

This award is for a specific planning tool, practice, program, project, or process. This category emphasizes results and demonstrates how innovative and state-of-the-art planning methods and practices help to create communities of lasting value.

Examples: Regulations and codes, tax policies or initiatives, growth management or design guidelines, transferable development rights programs, land acquisition efforts, public-private partnerships, applications of technology, handbooks, or efforts that foster greater participation in community planning.

Eligibility

Any planning agency, planning team or firm, community group, or local authority helping civic leaders and citizens play a meaningful role in creating communities that enrich people's lives may submit a nomination. No restrictions on the size of the jurisdiction.

Criteria

Originality and innovation. Document how your entry presents a visionary approach or innovative concept to address specific needs. Specify how planning principles have been observed, especially in consideration of your entry's effects on other public objectives.

Implementation and transferability. Address what steps have been taken to build momentum and public support for your entry. Illustrate how your entry has potential application for others and how use of your entry's components and methodology would further the cause of good planning.

Participation. Explain how various public interests were involved and the extent of that involvement, including those who historically have been left out of the planning process. Show how your entry obtained public and private support. Clarify the role, significance, and participation of planners. Demonstrate the connection between the effort's success and increased awareness in the community of planners and planning.

Effectiveness and results. State how your entry addressed the need or problem that prompted its initiation. Be explicit about how the results have made a difference in the lives of the people affected. Convey the level of effectiveness your entry can have over time.


Grassroots Initiative

Honoring an initiative that illustrates how a neighborhood, community group or other local non-governmental entity utilized the planning process to address a specific need or issue within the community. Emphasis is placed on the success of planning in new or different settings, with total project budget (including staff, consultant, and direct expenses) not exceeding $25,000.

Examples: Community policing or drug prevention, neighborhood outreach initiatives, programs designed for special populations, public art or cultural efforts, community festivals, environmental or conservation initiatives, summer recreational initiatives for children, vacant lot management, transportation innovations, or focused tourism ventures.

Eligibility

Open to APA members and nonmembers.

Criteria

Effectiveness and results. State how your entry addressed the need or problem in a visionary or innovative manner that prompted its initiation, within a budget not exceeding $25,000. Be explicit about how the results have made a difference in the lives of the people affected. Convey the level of effectiveness your entry can have over time.

Engagement. Explain how various public interests were involved and the extent of that involvement. Competitive entries demonstrate a strong effort to solicit input from those who historically have been left out of the planning process. Describe the level of collaboration between leadership and competing interests. Explain how those affected were brought into the planning process for this initiative.

Education. Establish that your entry has encouraged community leaders to revise their opinions about the varied uses and broad applications of the planning process. State the influence your entry has had on public awareness beyond those immediately affected. Demonstrate the connection between the effort's success and increased awareness in the community of planners and planning.


Implementation

Recognizing an effort that demonstrates a significant achievement for an area — a single community or a region — in accomplishing positive changes as a result of planning. This award emphasizes long-term, measurable results. Nominated efforts should have been in continuous effect for a minimum of three (3) years, not including the time for plan preparation and approval.

Examples: Plans for smart growth, signage, farmland preservation, urban design, wetland mitigation, resource conservation, capital improvements, citizen participation, neighborhood improvement, transportation management, or sustained economic development.

Eligibility

Open to APA members and nonmembers. Nominated efforts should have been in continuous effect for a minimum of three (3) years, not including the time for plan preparation and approval.

Criteria

Originality and innovation. Document how your entry presents a visionary approach or innovative concept to address needs. Explain how the use of the planning process in this context broadened accepted planning principles within the context of the situation.

Effectiveness. Indicate the level of consistency of this implementation effort since its start. State how your entry addressed the need or problem that prompted its initiation. Be explicit about how the results have made a difference in the lives of the people affected. Convey the level of effectiveness your entry can have over time.

Overcoming challenges. Address what steps have been taken to build momentum and public support for your entry. Detail any changes, derailments, or improvements throughout the implementation phase. Identify funding challenges or support for this effort. Report any political changes that might affect, for better or worse, the effort's long-term funding.

Participation. Explain how various public interests were involved and the extent of that involvement. Describe how your entry obtained public and private support. Clarify the role, significance, and participation of planners.

Achievement. Describe how the longevity of this effort has increased the community's appetite for planning and the pursuit of similar initiatives. Clarify the extent that this effort's sustained success has been achieved beyond its general audience.


Public Outreach

This award honors an individual, project, or program that uses information and education about the value of planning to create greater awareness among citizens or specific segments of the public. The award celebrates how planning improves a community's quality of life.

Examples: Broad community efforts showing how planning can make a difference, curricula designed to teach children about planning, neighborhood empowerment programs, use of technology to expand public participation in planning.

Eligibility

Open to APA members and nonmembers.

Criteria

Originality and transferability. Document how the program uses new ideas or combines tools to address a demonstrated need for planning information or education within the community. Illustrate how your entry has potential application for others and how use of your entry's components and methodology would further the cause of good planning.

Effectiveness and results. State how your entry addressed the need or problem that prompted its initiation. Be explicit about how the results make a difference in the lives of the people affected now and in the future. Show how your entry has increased the understanding of planning principles and the planning process. Provide measurable results if possible or appropriate.

Participation. Explain how various public interests were involved and how your entry obtained public and private support. Competitive entries demonstrate a strong effort to solicit input from those who historically have been left out of the planning process. Clarify the role, significance, and participation of planners. Demonstrate the connection between the effort's success and increased awareness in the community of planners and planning.


Communications Initiative

This award honors efforts to "tell the planning story" and increase awareness and understanding about the planning profession.

Examples: Newspaper articles; series of blog posts or a planning-focused blog; publications (books or magazines); websites; podcasts; films.

Eligibility

Open to APA and nonmembers. Products produced by APA or APA components are not eligible.

Criteria

Support of planning and planners. Describe how your entry has built support for planning and increased understanding of the planning process. Describe why this effort was undertaken and the desired outcomes.

Originality and innovation. Describe how your entry engaged audiences in planning using innovative or unique communication approaches.

Effectiveness and results. State how your entry achieved its desired outcomes. Convey the level of effectiveness your entry can have over time.


Transportation Planning

This award honors efforts to increase transportation choices for all populations, reducing dependence on private automobiles and helping to ease congestion and reducing climate change impacts.

Examples: Transportation studies; plans for pedestrian, streets, highways, aviation, parking, maritime, transit or rail; development and expansion of transportation systems; development and expansion of trail systems.

Eligibility

Open to APA members and nonmembers. Any organization, private firm, or others involved in transportation planning projects may submit a nomination.

Criteria

Planning and innovation. Describe the critical transportation elements that are addressed by your entry in terms of lessening or mitigating adverse impacts from development and everyday living. Illustrate how the role or planning or planners were involved in the development process of your entry.

Compatibility. Demonstrate how your entry integrates transportation planning into community planning. Describe how your entry connects to both environment and the economy.

Engagement. Describe the public education and participation process. Describe how support was generated for your entry.

Effectiveness and results. State how your entry addressed the need or problem that prompted its initiation. Be explicit about how the results have made a difference in the lives of people affected and benefits the overall community.


Environmental Planning

This award honors efforts to create greener communities that reduce the impact of development on the natural environment and improve environmental quality.

Examples: Green infrastructure plans; resource conversation efforts; alternative energy programs; efforts to reduce carbon emissions; public health initiatives.

Eligibility

Open to APA members and nonmembers. Individuals cannot self-nominate.

Criteria

Originality and innovation. Document how your entry presents a visionary approach or innovative concept to address specific needs. Specify how planning principles have been observed, especially in consideration of your entry's effects on other public objectives.

Implementation. Address what steps have been taken to build momentum and public support for your entry. Illustrate how your entry has potential application for others and how use of your entry's components and methodology would further the cause of good planning.

Integration. Describe how your entry has been integrated into other planning efforts such as a corresponding comprehensive or master plan or other related initiatives. Detail how your entry will help further the cause of good planning and support the broader needs of the community and surrounding region.

Engagement. Explain how various public interests were involved and the extent of that involvement. Show how your entry obtained public and private support. Clarify the role, significance, and participation of planners and any outcomes in terms of helping gain public support of planning.

Effectiveness and results. State how your entry addressed the need or problem that prompted its initiation. Be explicit about how the results have made a difference in the lives of the people affected. Convey the level of effectiveness your entry can have over time.


Urban Design

This award honors efforts to create a sense of place, whether a street, public space, neighborhood, or campus effort.

Example: Streetscape plans; public space plans; hospital, college or other campus plan.

Eligibility

Open to APA members and nonmembers. Individuals cannot self-nominate.

Criteria

Originality and innovation. Document how your entry presents a visionary approach or innovative concept to address needs. Explain how the use of the planning process in this context broadened accepted planning principles within the context of the situation.

Compatibility. Demonstrate how your entry integrates and supports the overall planning goals of the neighborhood or community.

Effectiveness and results. Describe how your entry has made a difference in the lives of the people affected. Convey the level of effectiveness your entry can have over time.

Engagement. Explain how various public interests were involved and the extent of that involvement. Describe the level of collaboration between leadership and competing interests. Explain how those affected were brought into the planning process for this initiative.


Economic Planning & Development

This award honors efforts to transform economies and stimulate economic development in communities of all sizes.

Examples: Economic plans, economic recovery initiatives, urban and regional economic analyses, commercial district revitalization, corridor revitalization, town center developments, and strategic plans for economic development.

Eligibility

Open to APA members and nonmembers. Individuals cannot self-nominate.

Criteria

Originality and innovation. Document how your entry presents a visionary approach or innovative concept to address specific needs. Specify how planning principles have been observed, especially in consideration of your entry's effects on other public objectives.

Implementation. Address what steps have been taken to build momentum and public support for your entry. Illustrate how your entry has potential application for others and how use of your entry's components and methodology would further the cause of good planning.

Integration. Describe how your entry has been integrated into other planning efforts such as a corresponding comprehensive or master plan or other related initiatives. Detail how your entry will help further the cause of good planning and support the broader needs of the community and surrounding region.

Engagement. Explain how various public interests were involved and the extent of that involvement. Show how your entry obtained public and private support. Clarify the role, significance, and participation of planners and any outcomes in terms of helping gain public support of planning.

Effectiveness and results. State how your entry addressed the need or problem that prompted its initiation. Be explicit about how the results have made a difference in the lives of the people affected. Convey the level of effectiveness your entry can have over time.


The Pierre L'Enfant International Planning Award

This award recognizes planning practices and efforts undertaken outside the United States to promote communities of lasting value. The award criteria are based on a set of goals developed by the Global Planners Network.

Eligibility

Open to APA members and nonmembers.

Criteria

Innovation. Describe how planning was used to address critical issues such as urbanization, environmental degradation, poverty, hazard mitigation, and climate change.

Collaboration and participation. Illustrate how your entry worked with or educated agencies and other bodies to recognize that effective planning can create communities of lasting value and economic opportunities. Describe how your entry encouraged and engaged other professionals, civic society organizations, and private sector stakeholders.

Social and economic concerns. Demonstrate how your entry addresses not only the physical realm, but also the social and economic concerns and issues of a community. Identify how efforts to improve a community's quality of life been integrated.

Effectiveness and results. State how your entry has made a difference in the lives of people affected. Convey the level of effectiveness your entry can have over time.


Advancing Diversity and Social Change in Honor of Paul Davidoff

This award honors an individual, project, group, or organization that promotes diversity and demonstrates a sustained commitment to advocacy by addressing the concerns of women and minorities through specific actions or contributions within the planning profession or through planning practice. The award honors the late APA member, Paul Davidoff, for his contributions to the planning profession.

Examples: A general or comprehensive plan that improves the living conditions of those in an underrepresented neighborhood, an individual working to improve the lives of others, a policy that addresses a need not currently met through other efforts.

Eligibility

Open to APA members and nonmembers. Individuals cannot self-nominate.

Criteria

Social and economic. Describe how your entry addresses the needs of at-risk individuals or populations that society typically overlooks. How have your entry's efforts advanced or sustained sound, ethical, and inclusionary planning within the planning field, within a specific community, or in society at large?

Effectiveness and results. Specify how your entry has had a positive impact on the lives of those it was intended to help. Indicate how these efforts have touched a wider audience, helped increase diversity and inclusiveness within the planning field, or in helping support diverse populations.


Planning Advocate

This award honors an individual or appointed or elected official who has advanced or promoted the cause of planning in the public arena.

Examples: Engaged citizens demonstrating outstanding leadership in a community, region, or state; members of planning commissions, board of appeals, economic development boards, environmental or historic preservation councils, or other appointed officials; elected officials holding office at the local, regional, or state level; citizen activists or neighborhood leaders.

Eligibility

Individuals may not self-nominate and cannot earn their living as planners. APA membership is not required.

Criteria

Support of planning and planners. Illustrate how the nominee's work has increased the understanding of the planning process. Indicate how the nominee has shown a clear understanding of, and support for, the role of planners in public life.

Effectiveness and results. Describe the extent that the nominee has been effective in formulating and implementing plans and ideas in support of good planning. Identify the level of influence and effectiveness achieved by the nominee within different segments of the community.


Planning Firm

Honors a planning firm that has produced distinguished work that continues to influence the professional practice of planning.

Eligibility

Open to firms (established for more than 10 years) that employ planners whose practice includes a significant amount of planning projects. Any firms that employ APA members currently serving in national leadership positions (Board, Commission, or Council members) are ineligible to be nominated.

Criteria

Quality. Demonstrate consistent quality of the firm's work and its recognition by the general public or those who practice or sponsor planning, teach planning, or develop communities. Elements of quality include graphic design, content, evidence of implementation by clients.

Influence. Detail the firm's positive influence on the direction and professional advancement of planning, for example promoting new technologies, collaboration among other design disciplines, innovations in practice, and advances in the art and science of planning. Identify the number of planners on staff.

Ethical practice. Explain how the firm consistently upholds and champions the highest standards of ethics in terms of the public trust and guiding and educating its staff on the importance of ethics.

Outreach and engagement. Demonstrate the firm's efforts and skills in engaging stakeholders and resolving community conflicts with positive outcomes. Demonstrate responsiveness to the client and the various elements of the community in the planning process and willingness to incorporate ideas and suggestions from the community.


Planning Agency

This award honors the work of a public sector planning agency that has continually produced a program of exceptional work that has elevated awareness about planning.

Examples: Metropolitan planning organizations, regional planning associations, planning department, planning board, zoning board.

Eligibility

Open to nonprofit planning departments, organizations, and associations; open to APA members and nonmembers. Any agency that employs an APA member serving in a national leadership position is ineligible to be nominated.

Criteria

Quality. Demonstrate consistent quality of the agency's work. Describe how the agency's program of work has elevated awareness about planning and built community support for planning. Describe the number of staffers, their various roles, and if any members have specific certifications.

Outreach and engagement. Demonstrate the agency's efforts and skills in engaging community members, business leaders and other stakeholders, and in resolving community conflicts with positive outcomes. Describe efforts undertaken to engage community members, especially those often overlooked, in planning processes.

Innovation. Describe how your agency has addresses concerns or issues within the community in a visionary or innovative manner. Specify how planning principles have been observed, especially in consideration of your entry's effects on other public objectives.

Implementation. Describe the program of work that has resulted in identified and meaningful outcomes that raise the quality of life for all citizens. Demonstrate the connection between planning and implementation with tools such as capital budgets.


Emerging Planning & Design Firm

This award honors a young planning and design firm that has helped elevate the planning profession and build public support for planning, and through its current work demonstrates the potential of having a continual influence on the planning profession for years to come.

Eligibility

Open to firms whose practice includes a significant amount of planning projects. Any firms that employ APA members currently serving in national leadership positions (Board, Commission or Council members) are ineligible to be nominated.

Criteria

Quality. Demonstrate consistent quality of the firm's work and its recognition by the general public or those who practice or sponsor planning, teach planning, or develop communities. Elements of quality include graphic design, content, evidence of implementation by clients.

Influence. Detail the firm's positive influence on the direction and professional advancement of planning, for example promoting new technologies, collaboration among other design disciplines, innovations in practice, and advances in the art and science of planning. Identify the number of planners on staff and if any members hold specific certifications.

Ethical practice. Explain how the firm consistently upholds and champions the highest standards of ethics in terms of the public trust and guiding and educating its staff on the importance of ethics.

Outreach and engagement. Demonstrate the firm's efforts and skills in engaging stakeholders and resolving community conflicts with positive outcomes. Demonstrate responsiveness to the client and the various elements of the community in the planning process and willingness to incorporate ideas and suggestions from the community.


Planning Landmark

Recognizing a planning project, initiative, or endeavor that is historically significant and that may be used or accessed by the public.

Eligibility

Nominated landmarks must date back at least 25 years from the nomination deadline (August 26, 2014).

Criteria

Historical significance. Explain the nomination's historical significance in terms of at least one of the following: pioneering work or a documented first; historically significant, unique, and outstanding; having initiative a new direction in planning that has had a lasting effect or other impact; having an impact on American planning, cities, or regions during a broad range of time, space, or both time and space.

National significance. Document the effect or impact the nominated landmark had on planning in the United States as a whole and creating communities or other places of lasting value throughout the country. Who were the significant planners or others who were involved or responsible for the accomplishments of the nominated landmark?


Planning Pioneer

The Planning Pioneer Awards are presented to pioneers of the profession who have made personal and direct innovations in American planning that have significantly and positively redirected planning practice, education, or theory with long-term results.

Eligibility

Open to APA members and nonmembers. Individuals cannot self-nominate. A nominated individual's contributions must date back at least 25 years from the nomination deadline (August 26, 2014).

Criteria

Historical impact. Describe the nominated individual's innovations or new models that directly influenced the future of American planning and explain how these developments significantly and positively redirected planning practice, education, theory, or organization.

National significance. Describe the national impacts or effects of the nominated individual's planning contributions.