APA organizes volunteer planning teams tailored specifically to a community's needs. Our members offer their time and expertise to people and places where additional resources are needed to reach a shared vision for their future.

CPAT: Community Planning Assistance Teams

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. CPAT projects are collaborative efforts with shared responsibilities. APA contributes the time of its staff and volunteer experts while the recipient communities cover travel costs. CPATs and communities work together throughout the process.

Attention Planners! Want to Give Back?

Experienced planning professional? Want to help a community by joining a team? Sign up now!

Submit a volunter form (doc)

Current Projects

The following projects are in various stages. Each contains up-to-date information on current activities.

Spanish Fork, Utah

Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

North Beach, Maryland

Completed Projects

All completed projects have full downloadable reports and other information about the projects. Learn more about the work CPATs have done in communities around the country.

2015

Helena, Montana

Deerfield Beach, Florida

2014

Hartsville, South Carolina

Shreveport, Louisiana

Unalaska, Alaska

Lyons, Colorado

Pine Hills, Orlando, Florida

2013

Laney Walker / Bethlehem, Augusta, Georgia

Franklin, Tennessee

La Feria, Texas

2012

Wakulla Gardens, Florida

Dubuque County, Iowa

Seven Ranches Area – Maricopa, Arizona

2011

Story County, Iowa

Crestdale — Matthews, North Carolina

APA Wants to Help Your Community!

Proposals from or inquiries about projects from communities are accepted anytime. Know of a community that needs a CPAT? E-mail them about the CPAT opportunity.

E-mail SpreadTheWord@planning.org to receive an auto-response with an outreach template.

Have a Project in Mind?

Let us Know! We're available to discuss the possibility of a CPAT helping your community.

Ready to Submit a Project Proposal?

Download the proposal form (doc)

Contact at CPAT@planning.org or 312-786-6359.

For Communities:

How do I know if my project is ready for a CPAT? CPATs offer a tremendous amount of work and expertise, but projects must be focused enough to accomplish the objectives. The timing must also be right. Is the community ready to address the issues or goals of the project? How will a CPAT build on any of your previous efforts? What do you intend to change as a result of a CPAT project? Want to discuss it? We encourage you to contact us.

Review our Community Checklist (pdf)

Lasting Positive Impacts...

"The CPAT's willingness to listen and learn, but also challenge and press is exactly what we needed in order to expand upon our success and overcome our obstacles."

—Cedric Glover, Mayor, Shreveport, Louisiana

"The CPAT helped us focus our efforts on recovery at a very challenging time..."

—Victoria Simonsen, Town Administrator, Lyons, Colorado

"[T]here's a new spirit here and a curiosity to keep on working towards the 'next big (or little) thing.' I really do attribute that greatly to the CPAT and the timing of that entire process."

—Leanne Harter, AICP, Director of Planning and Development, Story County, Iowa

"Immediate benefits included improving the community residents' spirit — their communal self-image, while also bringing recognition to the neighborhood as a place with historic and social value."

—Kathi Ingrish, AICP, Matthews, North Carolina

"This was an incredible opportunity for La Feria to have so many highly qualified professionals provide their expertise to our small community... We could never have afforded to bring this much talent without the CPAT program."

—Steve Brewer, Mayor, La Feria, Texas

Project Timeline

What's a typical timeline for a CPAT project?

Program History

The CPAT program was relaunched in 2011 and has grown significantly since that time. The practice of providing pro bono technical assistance to communities is not new to APA, however, with volunteer teams dating back to 1995.

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.