Community Planning Assistance Teams

The Community Planning Assistance Team (CPAT) initiative is an AICP component of a broader APA Community Assistance Program.

By pairing a multidisciplinary team of expert planning professionals from around the country with community members, key stakeholders, and relevant decision makers, the place-based initiative seeks to foster community education, engagement, and empowerment.

Each team is selected for the specific expertise needed on the project to offer pro bono assistance in developing a framework or vision plan that promotes a sustainable, livable, economically vibrant, and healthy community.

Communities facing a range of challenges including, but not limited to, social equity and affordability, economic development, sustainability, consensus building, and urban design are well-suited for assistance through the program. Projects focus on localities with a demonstrated need for assistance, where planning resources and expertise may not otherwise be available.

Community Planning Assistance Teams flyer (pdf)

Learn more about CPAT from an article in APA's The Commissioner and from a post in APA's Sustaining Places blog.

Application Periods

Community Applications

If your community has a project suitable for a CPAT, download the application and submit it . A $50 application fee is required.

CPAT Community Application (doc)

CPAT Community Application (pdf)

Team Member Applications

If you are an APA member and have a desire to join a CPAT Team, please submit an application.

Team Member Application (doc)

Team Member Application (pdf)

Project Timelines

While the specifics of every project will be different, provided below is an abbreviated example of a typical timeline of a CPAT project. APA staff will work with each selected community to determine the timeline for their unique project. A more detailed timeline is included with the community application. Project timelines typically consist of three main stages:

  1. Team leader selection; site visit; finalization of project scope; and preparation for full team visit.
  2. The full team's visit (stakeholder interviews, public meetings / workshops, and preliminary findings/recommendations)
  3. Follow-up and final report

Month 1 (following official selection of community project)

  • Team leader identified. APA staff, team leader, and community contact person(s) discuss project in more detail and prepare an agenda and finalize dates for the initial site visit.
  • Community contact person begins gathering additional information and reference materials (maps, documents, newspaper articles, etc.) for the team.

Month 2

  • Team leader and APA staff make a site visit to community. Community contact person organizes a meeting during visit with stakeholders.
  • APA staff and the team leader work to identify and confirm other team members.

Month 3–4

  • The full team discusses project and works with the community contact to finalize plans for the project, including dates and logistics.
  • Team visit preparations begin. Community contact begins scheduling meetings with stakeholders and publicizes the event to community.

Month 5–6

  • Full team visits community and conducts project. The timing of the visit is dependent on a mix between the availability of the volunteer team members and the best time for the community.

Month 7–9

  • The team works to complete the final report.


Please direct questions to

Frequently Asked Questions

Visit APA's FAQ page and click on "Community Planning Assistance Teams (CPAT)" for answers to frequently asked questions about the program.

A Brief History

Community assistance is built into the professional role of a certified planner. One principle of the AICP Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct states that certified planners shall aspire to "seek social justice by working to expand choice and opportunity for all persons, recognizing a special responsibility to plan for the needs of the disadvantaged and to promote racial and economic integration." Another principle is that certified planners should aspire to "contribute time and effort to groups lacking in adequate planning resources and to voluntary professional activities."

In the early 1990s, the American Planning Association took aim at the issue of social equity in planning and development. In recognition of the key role urban and regional planners play in shaping vibrant, sustainable, and equitable communities, the APA Board of Directors established the "Community Planning Team" initiative in 1995. This resulted in a successful pro bono effort to assist an economically struggling African American community in North Carolina. AICP has continued to develop pro bono planning initiatives that provide assistance to communities in need.

In 2005, program efforts were notably increased after the tragic and devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina the Gulf Coast Region. APA immediately embarked on a number of initiatives and projects, including Planning Assistance Teams in the affected cities of Henderson Point, Mississippi, and Mandeville and Slidell in Louisiana.

APA broadened the scope of the CPAT program with its 2009 project in Buzzard Point, an area in Southwest Washington, D.C. Over the course of the visit, the team met with more than 40 neighborhood groups, government agencies, residents and other stakeholders. The team advised community leadership on a number of long-range strategies. In the fall of 2010, APA launched a national call for applications from communities. CPAT worked with the Crestdale neighborhood in Matthews, North Carolina, in July 2011. The last several years of completed projects are important landmarks in the development of the CPAT program as an ongoing effort. CPAT has become an integrated part of APA's service, outreach, and professional development activities.