Equity, Engagement, Community: Empathy Ain't Enough

if a community planning effort is to be judged by the degree to which all voices are heard, then anything short of a big turnout is going to feel like failure. Ben Brown talks equitable engagement, and aligning promises with implementation.

1 minute read

May 24, 2016, 10:00 AM PDT

By Hazel Borys

"So you’ve finally aligned the stars to get something important done in your community. Maybe’s it a corridor plan that nods to the needs of pedestrians, bikers and transit riders, as well as car drivers. Maybe it’s an ambitious mixed-use master plan for your downtown. Or a revamped zoning code to enable the development and redevelopment everybody seems to want."

"You’re about to wrap things up with a meeting to remind folks of how far you’ve come, how all the meetings and workshops and interim stakeholder check-ins informed the ideas that emerged. You invite questions. And here comes the most predictable one:"

“'I look around this room, and I see the usual faces. White faces. Comfortable middle-class people. But our community also includes lots of people who aren’t here. Who are historically left out of the conversation. Where are they? How can we say we have a community plan when their voices haven’t been heard?'”

Brown goes on to discuss the return on investment of time, money, trust. If you're a group that's been historically left out of the outcomes, you're going to opt out of the conversations.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016 in PlaceShakers

Large blank mall building with only two cars in large parking lot.

Pennsylvania Mall Conversion Bill Passes House

If passed, the bill would promote the adaptive reuse of defunct commercial buildings.

April 18, 2024 - Central Penn Business Journal

Aerial view of Oakland, California with bay in background

California Exodus: Population Drops Below 39 Million

Never mind the 40 million that demographers predicted the Golden State would reach by 2018. The state's population dipped below 39 million to 38.965 million last July, according to Census data released in March, the lowest since 2015.

April 11, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

A view straight down LaSalle Street, lined by high-rise buildings with an El line running horizontally over the street.

Chicago to Turn High-Rise Offices into Housing

Four commercial buildings in the Chicago Loop have been approved for redevelopment into housing in a bid to revitalize the city’s downtown post-pandemic.

April 10, 2024 - Chicago Construction News

Purple jacaranda trees in bloom in Los Angeles with tall white Art Deco buildings in background.

LA County Releases Draft Community Forest Management Plan

LA County's Chief Sustainability Office just released the discussion draft of Room to Grow, the first Community Forest Management Plan for the county.

April 21 - Los Angeles County Chief Sustainability Office

Aerial view of downtown Seattle, Washington at dusk.

Seattle Downtown Plan Expands Permitted Uses

The Downtown Activation Plan shifts from Euclidean to form-based zoning to encourage more commercial development.

April 21 - Governing

Large water pipe with brown water pouring out into dirt ditch.

Southern Water Infrastructure at Risk From Climate Impacts

A water main breaks somewhere in the United States every two minutes, according to an estimate from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

April 21 - The Conversation

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.