Efforts in Motion: Planning, Policy, and Equity

The 2018 National Planning Conference closed with a powerful, eloquent, and captivating keynote address by Angela Glover Blackwell, founder and CEO of PolicyLink.

She challenged us, as planners, on two fronts: first, to become champions for advancing equity in our communities, and second, to use our knowledge to take deliberate decisions that benefit vulnerable groups, including the disabled and people of color. It’s what she calls the “curb-cut effect” — by addressing the struggles of the most vulnerable, we serve the interests of our community (and broader society).

Her message was loud and clear — we have a lot of evidence about what works to make communities better. You can find her full address here.

An Equity-Focused Conference

The closing keynote also served as a capstone to an APA National Planning Conference distinctly focused on equity. As planners, we have an opportunity to make intentional decisions about how to use policy, design, and investments to achieve equity. It is a powerful lesson and only reinforces the importance of your contributions to equity and transforming the history and future of our field.

Among other activities at NPC18, planners from across the country participated in the inaugural Inclusiveness and Social Justice track. In addition, our Planning for Equity Policy Guide committee leveraged NPC18 as an opportunity to both spread the word about the policy guide effort and gather critical input from conference attendees.

If you missed it, you can still check out #APAEquity on Twitter to catch up on the conversations that took place in New Orleans.

Our committee created various opportunities to hear from everyone that attended NPC18 including hosting two facilitated discussions and connecting with participants at many of the equity-focused sessions and workshops. Many of you saw our promotional postcard and took up the call to join the conversation. Planners working across diverse sectors and communities shared their ideas about what it means to create a Planning for Equity policy guide and how it could be most useful.

Listening to what planners said reminds us of why we do this work and of the many challenges we face in not only advocating for equity, but also framing and implementing solutions.

Upcoming Work on the Policy Guide

It is our goal to ensure that the Planning for Equity Policy Guide is grounded in the value of equity and provides meaningful tools for our work as planners. We also want to ensure that our fellow planners understand the process and have additional opportunities for feedback. Here is an overview of what you can expect next.

During NPC18, our committee shared a framework document to guide the facilitated discussions. The framework provided an overview of the guide and generated significant feedback. We are hard at work reviewing and incorporating that feedback, as well as additional comments sent via email, over the course of this summer.

Your feedback will be used in two complementary documents:

  1. An updated framework document focused on key recommendations for APA and the field on building equity skills
  2. The policy guide document, which will include specific, actionable policy guidance for planning for equity

In September, the framework document will be distributed for comment, followed by its presentation and discussion in the Delegate Assembly at the APA Policy and Advocacy Conference, held September 23–25 in Washington, D.C.

We also anticipate sharing a draft of the full Policy Guide this fall and opening a comment period for members, an external review group, and the public. A final version of the policy guide will be presented for discussion and approval at NPC19’s Delegate Assembly in San Francisco.

In the meantime, APA members can pose questions, continue to share feedback, and sign up to receive updates about the Planning for Equity policy guide by sending an email to policyguide@planning.org. You can also visit and bookmark the policy guide website here.

We took a giant step towards building our Planning for Equity policy guide at the 2018 National Planning Conference in New Orleans! Thank you to everyone who joined the conversation — your questions, struggles, and stories are actively informing this iterative process.

Top image: Audience at 2018 National Planning Conference session. Photo by Riverview Photography.


About the Authors
Monica Guerra is a planner with Raimi + Associates. Her work is focused on building healthier and more equitable communities across the state. Guerra holds a PhD in City and Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley. She is a member of the APA Planning for Equity Policy Guide committee.
Miguel Vazquez, AICP, is the chair of the APA Diversity Committee and a Healthy Community Planner for the Riverside University Health System-Public Health (RUHS-PH). Vazquez is a member of the APA Planning for Equity Policy Guide committee.

June 5, 2018

By Monica Guerra, Miguel Vazquez, AICP