FOR APA Board Director At Large (by Petition)
Susan Alice Wood, AICP
- 2007 – Present: Planning Project Manager II, Environmental; Regional Transportation District, Denver, CO
- 2003 – 2007: Community Planning Manager; Douglas County, CO
- 1999 – 2003: Senior Planner; Jefferson County, CO
- 1998 – 1999: Planner; Greenwood Village, CO
- 2018 – present: AICP Membership Standards Committee
- 2018 – present: APA Social Equity Task Force
- 2016 – present: Co-chair, Planning for Equity Policy Guide
- 2013 – present: APA Legislative and Policy Committee
- Additional Experience: Previous Chapter Presidents Council Executive Committee, Liaison to AICP Commission; Former APA Colorado Chapter President; Current APA Colorado Legislative Committee Chair
- Planning for Hazards Steering Committee; 2018 - present
- Water and Land Use Task Force/Alliance; Member 2013 - present
- University of Colorado at Denver; MURP
- Baylor University; BS
APA recently adopted a new mission statement, "Creating Great Communities for All," ushering in a wave of planning and planners who are focused on creating a world where there is opportunity for all. APA is positioned to be the organizational standard-bearer for this, and all planning efforts, by being intentional in setting policy; instituting programs; providing tools and education; and offering opportunity to all members.
As APA Director, Elected-at-Large, I will advocate for the following areas of focus:
Demonstrate the Value of Planning
Establish APA and its members as expert resources for planning information. By increasing the profile of planners and the profession, the value of planning and the effectiveness of planners are also increased.
To raise the profile of planning, I support the following:
- Determination to take a strong stance on good planning practices and the creation of communities for all.
- Continued emphasis on advocacy efforts at the State and National levels to support legislation that moves good planning policies forward.
- New and continuing partnerships with allied organizations to broaden our reach and increase our influence.
- Educational and research programs to provide resources for planners and to establish planning and APA as experts in matters critical to communities.
APA has taken measures to raise the profile of planning, but must remain open to new avenues for action and improvement.
Implement Policies and Actions to Move Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Forward
Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity are among the most important issues of our time. Several years ago, APA set in motion efforts to address each of these subjects. The Diversity Committee and the Social Equity Task Force were created and the Planning for Equity Policy Guide was prepared.
The Policy Guide sets policy and provides best practices for APA members and the strategies developed by the Diversity Committee and the Social Equity Task Force are focused on implementation.
To address diversity and inclusion and to move the equity needle forward, I support the following:
- Offer educational opportunities for APA members to incentivize involvement and provide a basis for understanding and knowledge.
- Encourage diversity in APA members and leadership so that our members and leaders fully represent the communities we serve.
- Implement recommended strategies presented in the Social Equity Task Force Report and the Diversity and Inclusion Strategy.
- Implement policies included in the Planning for Equity Policy Guide and provide tools for planners and talking points to use to influence decision-makers.
Planners are uniquely positioned to address the issues of equity and diversity and truly "make a difference." The next step is to implement recommendations from recent work. APA and its members are poised to be the change agents who can make a difference in creating equitable communities. The time is now; the path is clear; and next steps have been determined.
I welcome the opportunity to do my part. Thank you for considering me for the APA Board, Director-at-Large.
What do you believe is the most important member service APA provides? Why? How would you propose strengthening this and other member services?
Education is the most important member service that APA provides for two reasons.
- Education for members, which includes a robust research program to maintain cutting-edge information and data, is needed to provide planners with the information they need to stay abreast of ideas and trends; practice good planning to best benefit communities and stakeholders; and demonstrate at a high level, the value of planning and planners to the future of communities.
- Education for the public, stakeholders, and elected and appointed officials is needed to improve opportunities for meaningful community engagement; to increase knowledge and understanding of planning principles; to demonstrate the value of good planning; to advocate for planning; and to positively influence policy decisions.
To strengthen these efforts, it is important to focus on research, learning opportunities, and advocacy efforts.
- Research: At the cornerstone of education is research. APA currently has an established partnership with the academic community. Strengthening this partnership by formalizing specific research programs with individual universities would provide positive results. The desired outcome of any such effort would be to present the academic elements of cutting-edge research and demonstrate ways to apply these research outcomes in planning practice. To accommodate the variety of planner needs, it is important to encompass the broad range of planning practice. However, it is also important to focus on current and emerging issues.
- Learning opportunities: APA currently offers a good variety of online offerings including APA Learn, live events, webinars, and conferences (National Planning Conference and Policy and Advocacy Conference). Continued emphasis on these efforts, as well as Planners Advisory Service (PAS) Reports, Planning Magazine, and additional publications, is critical. To provide additional member service, APA should evaluate the feasibility and potential benefits of partnering with allied organizations to hold joint webinars or issue-focused conferences; offer reciprocal conference tracks; short courses; or other online or in-person learning opportunities.
- Advocacy Efforts: APA and its members offer expert planning knowledge and experience that is essential for the future of our communities. This information is embodied in the learning products noted above, but policies and best practices are also presented in the nearly 30 policy guides that have been prepared by the Legislative and Policy Committee and approved by members (Delegate Assembly). These policy guides are available on the APA website for all members to use. However, a more concerted effort to provide information to members on ways they can be used, is needed for full benefit. Lastly, a strong outreach effort to decision-makers, elected officials, and the public will demonstrate the value of planning.
How could APA improve and strengthen the relationship among APA and its components (AICP, Chapters, Divisions, SRC)?
Over time, APA has worked toward "One APA" by establishing seats for a member from each component on individual leadership boards (for example, the AICP President sits on the APA Board of Directors) and by having joint leadership meetings that include representatives from each component, AICP, Chapters, Divisions, and SRC so that they receive consistent messaging and have the opportunity to share ideas. This has proven to be a great way to provide cross-pollination at the leadership level and provides an avenue for shared information to be disseminated to members. However, additional work is needed to strengthen the relationships so that all members benefit.
First and foremost, an effort to provide information on the organizational structure of APA and the role of each component is needed. While members generally know that APA has State Chapters and Divisions, as well as a governing body for AICP, SRC is probably less recognized and the role of each component and how they fit together is something most members have not likely considered. APA's strength is in its members who belong to Chapters, Divisions, Student Chapters, or are AICP-certified. To receive full benefits of APA membership, knowing the structure and depth of APA and the resources offered by each component is needed.
Past efforts such as establishing a Chapter-Division Task Force to determine ways to collaborate, yielded a list of potential ways the two components can work together. Further, individual efforts such as the one made by the APA Colorado Chapter and the Transportation Division to hold a joint work session at the APA Colorado State Conference in 2017 should be collected and documented so that they can be used to create a more formalized approach to establishing and strengthening component relationships. These examples need to extend beyond Chapters and Divisions to also include the AICP Commission and SRC. Beyond documentation, a more formalized approach could include incorporating methodologies into governing documents such as Chapter Minimum Performance Standards; the APA Development Plan; and more.
In summary, good work has been done in leadership, but more documentation of individual efforts and a formalized approach to establish and strengthen component relationships is needed for the greater membership.
Now that the Planning for Equity Policy Guide has been adopted, how should APA use this guide to shape itself organizationally?
The Planning for Equity Policy Guide establishes equity policies for APA members, leadership, Chapters, Divisions, SRC, and Interest Groups. As such, it sets the benchmark for policies and good planning practices to create equitable communities. The Guide also presents the historical context and role of planning in regard to equity and it demonstrates why planning for equity is critical to address the disparities and inequities we see today in many communities across the Country.
Two ways for APA to use the Guide to shape itself organizationally are discussed here. One is focused on implementation of best practices and member education to individually improve our equity I.Q. and influence the actions of decision-makers. Another is to look inwardly to evaluate and consider ways that APA can instill an "Equity-in-All Policies" approach organizationally.
Best Practices and Member Education
The policies and practices presented on cross-cutting and topical areas within the guide provide the tools that planners and the profession of planning can implement to increase access to opportunity and move the equity needle forward. Continued emphasis on equity by APA in publications, webinars, online learning tools, and at conferences and events will underscore the importance of equity; increase APA's equity expertise; and establish planning and planners as equity leaders. An organization comprised of members who are knowledgeable and motivated to implement principles of equity will be poised to influence the profession and make a difference.
An "Equity-in-All-Policies" Approach Organizationally
During preparation of the Guide, the authors took an introspective look at APA, the organization, and prepared a Planning for Equity Policy Framework that outlined ideas and actions that APA could carry out through leadership, components, committees, and task forces. Some of these efforts are already underway such as consideration of a requirement for CM credits for equity in the same way credits are required for Ethics and Law. Additional recommended actions that are included in this document commit to hiring policies that would meet diversity and equity principles; implement equitable vendor and contract selection processes; fund educational scholarships to increase diversity and inclusion; support research efforts to advance social equity; develop a more diverse leadership development program; require candidates to address equity and inclusion in their candidate statements; ensure that leadership receives cultural competency training; require APA to monitor and report information on membership diversity to the APA components; form partnerships with organizations who advocate for equity; utilize the APA ambassadors program to train volunteers to work with minority and low-income communities; actively assist universities in recruiting students from low-income or ethnically-diverse groups; and a number of others that target lower registration costs for the National Planning Conference and a variety of educational opportunities and advocacy efforts.
What is the biggest challenge facing the planning profession, and how should APA address it?
The biggest challenge facing the planning profession is the need to demonstrate the value of planning. On one hand, planners have an ongoing challenge to demonstrate the value of planning to the public, elected officials, stakeholders, and the greater community. On the other, planners have to find ways to be effective in an atmosphere where there is often a general mistrust of government. This presents additional challenges for planners who work in the public sector. APA has considerable educational resources to assist planners and several avenues of action are below.
Education and Resources
- Provide training and resources so that members can utilize the latest tools, development examples, engagement techniques, changing regulatory climate, and more. By maintaining current, up-to-date knowledge, planners will be better equipped to provide service and added value to stakeholders and clients.
- Determine a marketing approach or campaign to provide education about planning and to highlight planning's positive results.
- Increase planner awareness of the potential for mistrust and encourage conducting their work in a manner that is open to stakeholder input and one that can pass the test of scrutiny.
- Exercise principles of authentic and meaningful community engagement so that voices are heard; input recorded; and actions are taken accordingly.
- Encourage planners to be the best they can be and to avail themselves of educational opportunities so that they can pass along cutting-edge practices to their communities.
Form Non-Traditional Partnerships
- Collaborate with unlikely partners such as industry, financial firms, or the development community to demonstrate goals that intersect.
- Engage with more likely partners such as environmental groups, and non-profits to demonstrate desirable results that occur from complementary efforts.
In summary, by educating the public, elected officials, and legislators we demonstrate that planning for our communities, including provision of infrastructure and services, is of critical importance. It is incumbent upon us and APA to demonstrate that planning is multi-faceted and is predicated upon the need for a balanced, holistic approach that considers all stakeholders, all perspectives, all factors, and all outcomes. Transparency will build trust, which provides the pathway to teach the value of planning.