Equity, Technology, and Infrastructure: What Got Planners Talking at NPC21

And just like that, another APA National Planning Conference has come and gone. Attendees from all 50 states, 2 U.S. territories, 4 U.S. military bases, and 20 countries came together virtually this year for NPC21. The virtual environment did not slow down attendees from challenging assumptions, sharing knowledge, and asking questions.

Here's a snapshot of what attendees got excited about during #NPC21:

Making Connections, Even Virtually

Distance didn't stop planners from connecting. Attendees jumped into the virtual world and used their avatars to explore NPC21 Connect, visiting the career center for resume reviews and mentor matches, literally 'bumping' into fellow conference attendees to network, and continuning the discussion momentum of spotlight sessions.

NPC21 Gather Town in action

Attendees connected in NPC21 Connect following one of the Spotlight Sessions to continue the conversation.

APA Resources

Career Center

Building Skills, Sharing Knowledge

Rapidly emerging trends, many of which were accelerated by the pandemic, are impacting how planning is done. Planners are working to lead communities to a stronger, more sustainable future, which includes providing opportunities for accessible community engagement, using new data to make even more informed decisions, and helping small businesses manage curbside demands.

Embracing the Responsibility to Advance Equity

Presenters and attendees did not shy away from delving into the legacy of racism or inequality that had been perpetuated by past actions of the planning profession. Tangible steps and examples were shared on how planners can help move the profession, but also communities, toward a more equitable future — focusing on elevating the voices of minority populations and actively working with community members on future plans.

Applying Technology in New Ways

From GIS to AI to smart cities, existing and new technologies are impacting the profession and changing the way in which planners can — and will work. Just as important is ensuring that planners learn from past mistakes and prevent the transfer of existing inequalities into the era of digitalization.

Building Stronger Infrastructure

Infrastructure can connect people to opportunity and offer protection from the effects of climate change. Climate migration, broadband accessibility, and micro-mobility were just a few of the many infrastructure topics discussed during NPC21.

Growing Focus on Health and Wellbeing

When is the last time you hugged a tree? The importance of public spaces, access to nature, and other elements of the built environment can impact not only the physcial, but also the mental health of community members, as well as offer respite from the impacts of climate change. Attendees also countered the time spent in virtual sessions during NPC21 by participating in a variety of early morning wellness activities such as yoga, a Peloton ride, and a HIIT class — led by a fellow AICP-Massachusetts planner.

Experiencing Some Boston Beats

While not physically "in" Boston, attendees still got to experience the city through virtual mobile workshops to learning about real-world Boston-region planning efforts.

Jamming Between Sessions

One frequently asked question throughout NPC21 was not the location of the bathrooms, or where to grab a bite to eat, but rather, the music playing before the sessions started. The artist was Kind Beats, but that specific track played during NPC21 will be released soon.

NPC21 drew to a close with a jam session featuring two different musical acts and lots of physically distanced dancing by attendees.

Thank You!

Thank you for joining us this year for NPC21. And a special thank you to all of our conference sponsors for helping to bring NPC21 directly to you, our attendees. We're looking forward to seeing you at NPC22.

Access NPC21 Recordings

Need to revisit a session? NPC21 Live Plus registrants can go back and access available on-demand content and recordings. Didn't opt for the Live Plus registration? It's not too late to upgrade!

About the Author
Roberta Rewers is APA's communications manager.

May 12, 2021

By Roberta Rewers