Three Essential Questions for Better Planning

PAS Memo 110

By Kyle Ezell, FAICP CUD


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Planning for and with people is a complex and challenging undertaking. But the essence of planning for and with people is simple: we want our work to benefit as many people as possible, to negatively impact as few people as possible, and to include as many people as possible.

What if we as planners addressed these intentions directly across all our work by asking three essential, explicit questions?

  • Who is helped?
  • Who is harmed?
  • Who is missing?

This PAS Memo introduces these essential questions and explains how they can create a foundation for good planning practice by better defining and strengthening the "why" for any planning idea. It stresses that we should always have these questions in mind for all our work and offers ways to best ask them throughout a wide range of planning work routines. Effectively integrating these questions throughout planning practice can enhance the breadth and depth of planners' professional skills and can also create opportunities to take stronger leadership positions in community conversations around more inclusive decision-making, empowering planners to have even more valuable professional roles.


Page Count
Date Published
Feb. 1, 2022
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Author

Kyle Ezell, FAICP CUD
Kyle Ezell, EdD, FAICP CUD, is a professor of practice in city and regional planning at The Ohio State University's city and regional planning program in the Knowlton School and a senior affiliate of OSU's Drake Institute of Teaching and Learning. He served in leadership roles as an elected board member and secretary of APA Tennessee in the 1990s and was a member of the APA Ohio Board of Trustees from 2013 to 2018, serving as APA Ohio's professional development officer during the final three years of his tenure.