Equity As a Skill You Can Learn

The topic of planning for equity is one that is multi-faceted and of growing concern throughout the field of planning.

In response, APA has engaged its network in a wide range of activities from the continuing work of the Diversity Committee to the inaugural Planning for Inclusiveness and Social Justice track launching at NPC18.

Another aspect of this organization-wide effort is the development of a new policy guide to address the issue of planning for equity.

Planners of all disciplines and working in all types of communities are on the frontlines each day of expectations to address issues of inequality, gentrification, displacement and much more. When complete, the Planning for Equity Policy Guide establish APA's official principles and practices on the topic.

Equity Policy guide

We have the honor of co-chairing the Planning for Equity Policy Guide committee which includes a diverse group of close to 30 planners from across the country. Our approach to this policy guide is based on two simple, yet bold ideas:

  1. Planning for equity is not an extra for planners — it should be practiced as a hard skill.
  2. The principles of equity should be at the core of all planning policies.

This APA member-led group is volunteering its expertise and significant time to create a policy guide that helps all planners embrace their ethical responsibility to plan for equity by building field capacity with specific policy considerations and practices.

Opportunities for Engagement and Interaction

In addition to producing an effective guide that advances the field, outreach and engagement is another central component to our process. This blog is the first in a series our committee plans to share throughout the drafting, reviewing, and implementation process for the guide. APA members are also encouraged to sign up to receive updates about the guide by sending an email to policyguide@planning.org.

That same email address can be used to share ideas, examples of policies, and supporting research that may be helpful during the drafting process.

Our committee also wants to interact more directly with members and there are two opportunities coming up this April. Members of our committee will be in Chicago April 11–13, 2018, for the PolicyLink Equity Summit and, of course, in New Orleans later that month for the 2018 National Planning Conference where we are planning several opportunities to engage with interested APA members who want to learn more about this effort and contribute ideas.

We need your input

While the committee is working diligently, our work together is really just getting started and will be heavily informed by input from APA members and leadership throughout the development process. Even so, we anticipate that a final version of the guide will be approved in September. In the meantime, we want to hear from you.

Specifically, the committee is interested in:

  1. Understanding the key challenges planners are facing in developing and implementing equity.
  2. Learning about any specific equitable policies or practices planners view as impactful.

APA members can share responses to these inquiries and sign up to receive updates about the Planning for Equity Policy Guide by sending an email to policyguide@planning.org.

Top image: The Flint Farmers' Market — named a 2015 Great Place in America — represents the importance of planning in community equity. The market has provided a diverse population in Genesee County, Michigan, with access to fresh and locally grown foods.

About the Authors

Lynn M. Ross, AICP, is the founder of Spirit for Change Consulting, LLC, a consulting firm dedicated to creative solutions for people and places working to serve the common good. Previously she directed the Community and National Initiatives program at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Susan A. Wood, AICP, is a planning project manager in the FasTracks Environmental Resource Group of the Regional Transportation District in Denver. Prior to joining RTD, she worked in local government, most recently as the manager of Long Range Planning for Douglas County, Colorado.

March 6, 2018

By Lynn Ross, AICP, Susan Wood, FAICP