NPC18 Educational Tracks / Topics

Climate Change and Resiliency

Climate change affects all areas of the country. Currently, major coastal cities are planning for sea-level rise and landlocked states are experiencing extreme weather and changing weather cycles, while droughts, floods, and seismic activity are occurring in new locations. Even communities that regularly focus on other planning issues should be aware of potential impacts from natural hazards and climate adaptation; and be ready to address those issues.

We invite proposals for this track that share lessons learned related to reducing vulnerability and increasing ability to withstand natural hazards; adapting local economies and land use policies, retrofitting buildings, maintaining water delivery and other public infrastructure, and enhancing emergency communication systems.

Topics within this track:

  • Climate Adaptation
  • Climate Resilience
  • Hazards Planning and Mitigation
  • Sea-Level Rise
  • Water Supply Management
  • Drought Resilience
  • Fire Prevention and Recovery
  • Stormwater Management

Managing Change in Communities

This track assembles a wide range of sessions on processes that are fundamental to long-range planning, touching on planning issues that concern all communities. We invite proposals that include housing and density, affordable housing, growth management, urban/rural and wildland-urban interfaces, gentrification and displacement, reurbanizing suburban communities, compatible redevelopment in older communities, revitalization, public facilities, and state and federal laws that affect regional and local planning.

Topics within this track:

  • Community Revitalization
  • Housing and Community Development
  • Gentrification and Displacement
  • Affordable Housing Trends
  • Missing Middle-Density and Workforce Housing
  • Urbanization of Suburbia
  • Cities in Transition
  • Rural Growth/Change
  • Urban Growth/Change
  • Aging Communities
  • Short Term Rentals and Governance


Transportation is changing rapidly; acquiring skills needed to keep abreast of developments in the field is critical. Meanwhile, technology and personal choices are affecting transportation planning. As urban transportation preferences evolve, transit, biking, and pedestrian travel and safety have become prime considerations impacting street design. As urban transportation preferences evolve, transit, biking and pedestrian travel and safety have become prime considerations impacting street design; 21st-century transportation planners will need to adapt to these developments. We invite proposals that consider these issues, as well as proposals that cover large transportation planning projects — including rail and airport planning — and how they are planned and executed.

Topics within this track:

  • Transit
  • Biking, Pedestrian
  • Streets and Corridors
  • Port and Intermodal Planning
  • Airports and Regional Rail
  • Intelligent Transportation Systems
  • Autonomous Vehicles
  • Shared Mobility
  • Parking Infrastructure/Reductions
  • Complete Streets

Planning and Innovative Government

Success stories of planning innovations are great to share and much appreciated by your peers. Do you have a celebrated and transferable general plan? A creative and effective zoning code or regulation? Do you have a streetscape plan, an open-space plan or an idea for implementing transportation engineering enhancements? How are planners driving innovation, transparency in government, and the use of innovative management tools and technologies? How does our profession develop leaders who embrace innovations? This track spotlights excellence in planning practice. We invite proposals that present case studies, research and innovative leadership that highlights small-town, big-city, county-level, and state-level planning. Share your story by submitting a proposal for this track.

Topics within this track:

  • Zoning, Codes, and Ordinances
  • Comprehensive Planning
  • Regional Planning
  • Small-Town and Rural Planning
  • Suburban Planning
  • State-Level Planning
  • Big-City Planning
  • Small-City Planning
  • County Planning
  • Transparent Government
  • Management Innovations

Public Health and Planning

Across the country, local governments are beginning to incorporate goals and objectives that promote public health into all types of plans, policies and processes. These plans will impact how people make choices about where to live, how to get around, and how to access healthy foods and physical activity. The plans will affect everything from clean air and water to social equity. We invite proposals that address these topics as well as environmental justice, parks, open space, and greenways.

Topics within this track:

  • Food Systems
  • Land Use Planning for Healthy Aging
  • Active Living
  • Planning Policies for Healthy Communities
  • Safe Routes to Schools
  • Innovative Partnerships for Healthy Communities
  • Health Equity

Urban Design and Preservation

People embrace communities of lasting value that reflect historic preservation, cultural resources, community character, and exceptional urban design. Communities built on principles of interrelated patterns of land use, transportation, and urban form foster some of the most desirable characteristics of human habitation: neighborliness, sustainability, and economic efficiency. We invite proposals that address urban design, public art, historic preservation, and new urbanism.

Topics within this track:

  • Urban Design
  • New Urbanism
  • Historic Preservation
  • Creative Placemaking
  • Cultural Planning
  • Public Art

Planning Careers

Wherever they are in their planning careers, planners continue to explore new career paths and specializations of interest. This track assists planners by helping them make important career decisions (i.e. whether to pursue public- vs. private-sector employment) and ethical determinations. Sessions within this track bring planners together to share experiences and knowledge essential to their professional development. We invite proposals that share stories addressing planners' diverse work experiences and challenges.

Topics within this track:

  • Moving into Management
  • Ethics
  • Design Skills
  • Federal Planning
  • Private Practice Planning
  • Planning and Law
  • Planner Advocates or Educators
  • Planning Education for K-12
  • Discrimination in Hiring; Glass Ceilings
  • Work Places that Support Family Life

Technology and Big Data

Planners have access to more data sets and analysis tools than ever before. With this abundance of data and tools it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Amid the growing number of choices, how do planners determine which data and tools best advance their community's goals? Planners need knowledge and skills to use increasingly sophisticated tools and complex data, we invite proposals that will explore these new planning concepts and technologies.

Topics within this track:

  • Technology
  • Use of Big Data in Planning
  • Planning Methods
  • Software Innovations for Planners
  • Smart Cities
  • Open Data

Planning, Economic Development and the Economy

While local economies are greatly influenced by national and state policy environments, communities face challenges in finding the best local economic development choices. Many planners are eager to learn about successful local and regional efforts to support job creation, workforce development and economic activity that maintains or enhances quality of life. These examples are very valuable to other planners. This track invites proposals to share lessons related to economic development and planning.

Topics within this track:

  • Economic Development
  • Finance Tools
  • Disruptive Economic Development
  • Zoning to Support Micro-Economic Development
  • Shared Economy

Successful Messaging for Public Engagement

A successful, well-considered, transparent planning process is essential for a sound outcome. How can planners engage with the community through open and transparent communication that is reliable and trustworthy, using both traditional methods and social media tools to achieve measured results? How can planners use new and existing tools to engage traditionally underrepresented groups and disadvantaged populations? What are the best tools for public engagement, and what new tools are emerging? What leadership skills can planners use to engage community members? What should planners learn from the communities they engage? We invite proposals that address these questions.

Topics within this track:

  • Public Participation
  • Roles for Social Media
  • Public Response Metrics
  • Public Engagement Tool
  • Advocacy

Development and the Natural Environment

Through citizen engagement, plan making, capital improvements, development review, and other planning actions, planners promote fiscally sound investments and decisions that protect and restore the natural environment, conserve resources, and build more sustainable communities in both rural and urban areas. Proposals within this track will highlight local, regional, and national efforts to balance the needs of people with the long-term viability of the environments in which they live. Sessions will also explore how plans and regulations impact the equitable distribution of the benefits associated with ecosystem services.

Topics within this track:

  • Water Quality
  • Air Quality
  • Energy Conservation
  • Environmental Justice
  • Environmental Regulations
  • Brownfields
  • Green Infrastructure
  • Wildland-Urban Interface
  • Parks, Open Spaces and Greenways

Planning for Inclusiveness and Social Justice

How can planners best foster socially equitable and just communities? In what ways can the profession engage resident groups and other constituencies that have historically been under-represented in planning processes? How do we learn from community-led planning and citizen planners? How do issues of race, gender, age, ability, and sexual orientation impact planning? How can we better recruit, educate, and support planners who reflect the diversity of the communities they serve?

We invite proposals that discuss efforts to foster diversity and equity within communities and the institutions of planning. Sessions within this track may emphasize issues of particular concern to minority communities (e.g. gentrification, environmental justice), examine aspects of any planning context (while including a thoughtful focus on questions of equity, diversity, and/or justice), or focus on the concerns and special circumstances of planners with specific demographic characteristics or abilities.

Topics within this track:

  • Planning for Inclusive Communities
  • Planning for Diverse Populations
  • Religious Land Uses
  • Planning for Youth and the Aged
  • Accessibility and Other Special Health Needs
  • Homelessness, Poverty
  • Immigrants and Refugees
  • Redlining, Greenlining, and Gentrification
  • Environmental Justice
  • Inclusive Public Participation and Public Involvement
  • Learning from Other Professions