Our Work

Smart Growth in Action: Fundamental Principles

Accomplish goals and strategies for smart growth through coalitions with stakeholders and engagement of the public.

We’ve all heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Similarly, it takes community involvement and collaboration to make good planning decisions for the future of a town. Community forums and other means of outreach can provide neighbors, stakeholders and planning professionals an opportunity to address concerns and fears in the planning and implementation process.

Public participation has long been part of the planning process, but effective public engagement is not always easy to achieve. However, this process is important for many reasons. For instance, it gives residents an opportunity to learn about what their neighbors envision for their community. It provides a pathway to understanding and appreciating other people’s values. It can also result in a more responsive government, one that is accountable and transparent to citizens, and that in turn creates a higher level of confidence and trust.

How do we achieve broad public engagement? Often, holding a meeting is not enough to capture the diverse groups that are impacted by the planning process. Reaching out to the underrepresented, providing child care during meetings and visiting local businesses are a few ways to incorporate diverse ideas and information and this will lay the groundwork for quality outcomes.

There are many tools for public engagement. Design charrettes and visual preference surveys are useful because they provide a range of design and visual elements, which can be helpful for people who are not familiar with planning concepts. Focus groups, surveys and community visioning are also great tools to encourage residents and stakeholders to share their visions and ideas for the future of their community.

The most critical piece is to understand your community and then design the public process around the needs of the residents and stakeholders. Work on ways to make public engagement as open a process as possible and collaborate with organizations that have access to diverse groups. To learn more about public engagement, and the tools that can be utilized, visit our Community Planning Toolbox section.