Minority Planning Summit

The final day of the 2004 National Planning Conference in Washington, D.C., began with a first-of-its-kind Minority Planning Summit. Sponsored by the Membership Committee of the APA Board of Directors, the purpose of the summit was to develop an actionable strategy for increasing the diversity of APA's membership, opportunities, products, and services.

Although a diverse membership has long been an APA goal, minority membership levels have historically been low. A study prepared by the New York Metro Chapter in 2000 provides some insight into the issue, as do the results of the 2002 APA membership survey. These studies offered the following key points:

  • Minority members are less likely to feel that APA is meeting their needs.
  • The profession is overrepresented by Caucasian planners and is not keeping pace with the increasing diversity of the general population.
  • Increasing the diversity of APA membership will require targeted efforts on the part of the organization.

The summit, which was open to all APA conference attendees as well as the general public, was years in the making. Mitchell Silver, AICP, former member of the APA Board of Directors, spearheaded the effort and more than 100 individuals participated in this event. APA leadership and staff were also present.

Opening remarks by Silver; APA Executive Director Paul Farmer, AICP; and AICP Commissioner Chandra Foreman, AICP, set the stage for discussion. A brief presentation highlighted the disparity between the demographics of APA membership and those of the general U.S. population. Silver then discussed some of the APA's recent efforts, noting the creation of the Indigenous Planning Division during this conference.

Former AICP Commissioner, now AICP President, Sue Schwartz, FAICP, highlighted past and current AICP initiatives aimed at improving diversity. She also discussed the earlier results of a study is underway to examine the AICP exam pass rates of planners of color. That study was completed and released in 2005.

Summit participants were asked to discuss and comment on three pre-selected questions:

  1. Why do you believe people of color are not choosing planning as a profession and/or not joining APA?
  2. What type of programs and services should be offered by APA to serve the needs of people of color?
  3. What type of planning issues or stories should APA cover, which would be of interest to people of color?

Facilitators at each table were responsible for keeping the discussion on track and ensuring the major outcomes were recorded for further study and action. Each question was discussed for approximately 30 minutes, with three to five tables reporting out at the end of each discussion session. Near the end of the facilitated discussion, Mary Kay Peck, AICP, former President of APA, thanked the participants for their valuable input and reaffirmed APA's commitment to diversity.

The summit concluded with a remarks session open to all. General comments and suggestions from the summit included:

  • Expand campus outreach and scholarship opportunities for planning students.
  • Implement diversity leadership training.
  • Develop technical assistance programs for low-income communities.
  • Create a network of APA divisions to promote the issue of diversity.
  • Expand APA's smart growth information to include issues on equity.
  • Develop mentoring programs for students and young professionals of color.