2016 Annual Report: Outreach

APA's 2016 outreach activities occurred in local elementary schools and on Capitol Hill. In communities across the United States and in Central and South America. In Great Places and in places that are striving to be great with the help of APA planners and good planning practices.

National Community Planning Month

October's observance of National Community Planning Month centered on community engagement. Across the country, planners articulated for community members — and most importantly, for decision makers — how planning brings together diverse groups of people to build stronger, healthier, more just communities.

APA AmbassadorJeremy Snow and an elementary-school class in Springfield, Missouri.

For the first time, APA divisions and young planners groups joined chapters in hosting activities that ranged from networking events and live video posts on Facebook to campus wheelchair walks. Our efforts to build champions for planning among elected and volunteer leaders showed results as mayors, governors, and members of Congress showed their support for good planning on social media, via proclamations, and at public events. Federal officials and their staff were on hand for six local Great Places celebrations.

APA leveraged the energy generated by announcements of 15 Great Places in America to spread the core message of National Community Planning Month: planners and planning are essential to creating great communities that are stronger and more resilient. By integrating calls to action in all our messages, APA generated significantly greater participation from members.

APA members shared news of their chapters' Great Places designations at Planners' Day on Capitol Hill, the final day of APA's fall Policy and Advocacy Conference in Washington. APA Alaska Chapter President Lauren Driscoll met with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who congratulated her for her chapter's commitment to planning.

Land and Water Conservation Fund

APA members joined our policy and advocacy team in asking Congress to reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and to prioritize LWCF programs that direct funding to urban and economically disadvantaged communities. APA was proud to work with partners including City Parks Alliance, National Recreation and Park Association, and The Trust for Public Land. APA members took this message directly to lawmakers during Planners' Day on Capitol Hill.

Policy and advocacy staff challenged APA members to make the most of the summer congressional recess, when elected officials returned to their districts, and they responded in a big way. Advocates flocked to Twitter to share photos of their favorite urban and community park spaces.

Strategic messaging on Twitter and other social media platforms is a key element of APA's effort to inform members and engage them in planning advocacy.

Planners' Advocacy Network

Last year, more than 800 APA members joined the Planners' Advocacy Network — a free benefit for members eager to lend their voices in support of planning at the federal level. Member advocates spoke out on such issues as appropriations, funding for urban parks, reauthorizing the LWCF, and supporting place-based initiatives like the TIGER grant program.

APA members received a special congressional invitation from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) to become advocates for livable communities just in time for the 2016 presidential primaries.

Just before Election Day, APA advocacy staff unveiled the Advocate's Toolbox — a member-only resource hub filled with tips, training, and tools to help planners enhance their advocacy efforts. Later we added a recording of APA's all-time best-attended webinar (> 1,200 participants) that covered the incoming Trump administration, the 115th Congress, and what both could mean for planners and their communities. All APA members can stream it now from our website.

APA Ambassadors

More than 6,000 children, youth, and adults participated in over 100 activities conducted by APA Ambassadors. Three-quarters of Ambassador activities took place in elementary, middle, and high schools.

In 2016, the APA Ambassador program's inaugural year, member volunteers were active all around the United States. Altogether, more than 100 Ambassador programs reached over 6,000 students and other nonplanners, introducing them to the planning profession, emphasizing the positive impacts of planning in their neighborhoods, and inspiring them to take part.

Ambassadors' customized events resonate with their unique audiences and activities are as diverse as the youth and adults they engage. Ambassadors built child-sized bridges and Box Cities with elementary school students and worked with teen clubs to envision local skate parks. 

"Now I know that a profession exists that encompasses so many things that I am passionate about — the environment and the growth of cities. I applied to graduate school for urban planning after this event."

— Teen participant in a Chicago APA Ambassadors event

Kudos to all APA Ambassadors for their creativity, dedication, and service! A special shout out to the planning firm Fitzgerald & Halliday, Inc., which sponsored employee Ambassador teams in their Hartford and New York City offices.

"It's thrilling and beyond rewarding to think that it's possible that some of the kids in the sessions might go on to become the next generation of planners. To say this program left us all feeling inspired is an understatement."

— Mary Miltimore, AICP
Fitzgerald & Halliday
New York City Ambassadors team leader

Throughout the year, Ambassadors shared their experiences in the APA blog and on social media.

Habitat III

Habitat III was preceded by global summits in Vancouver (1976) and Istanbul (1996).

Months of preparation with the Global Planners Network and other partners preceded APA's participation at the United Nations Habitat III global summit in Quito, Ecuador, in October. APA took part in pre-summit meetings and drafting the summit's key document, the New Urban Agenda. APA members weighed in on the penultimate draft during the summer public comment period.

Past President Carol Rhea, FAICP, led APA's delegation to Habitat III, accompanied by Chief Executive Officer James Drinan; International Division Chair Tim Van Epp, AICP; Director of International Programs Jeff Soule, FAICP; and several other APA members. Rhea and Van Epp were panelists in a discussion sponsored by the GPN, and APA worked with local stakeholders to produce the Viva Alameda Urban Village. In the exhibit hall, APA shared display space with the GPN and other allied organizations.

APA worked with Quito residents on the Vive Alameda Urban Village Project.

Habitat III strove to further global understanding of the ramifications of unprecedented urbanization. The New Urban Agenda, a 20-year strategy to promote sustainable development of cities, towns, and rural areas, emphasizes citizen participation, transparent decision making, and data-based plans and actions. The 193 nations represented at Habitat III approved the agenda by acclimation.

APA and the APA International Division are working on guidelines and resources to help members implement the outcomes of Habitat III — strategies outlined in the New Urban Agenda — in their local communities.

See other ways APA and its members are raising awareness about and advocating for planning:

APA Ambassadors infographic by Miguel Angel Vazquez and Susan Lee Deegan