Friday, September 17, 2010

Social Change

Following up from a post from yesterday about Planning in a Recession, led me to think more about being apart of a greater social change. As planners, we have the potential to have a moderate impact on the communities we serve through regulating land management. When development dries up, our impact on the community lessens which conversely limits our activity and our creativity to solve new challenges. Now we can always go back and figure out old existing problems that never got resolved but in an election cycle no one wants to tip the apple cart and take on something in that may or may not be able to be solved.

The limits of local government planning led me to think about establishing my own private planning practice where I could be as creative as I wanted to be in exploring new planning techniques and measures across the country and even the world. I could target specific communities and build up local Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), start Community Development Corporations (CDCs) and form a consensus with all local PTA’s and community advisory groups to affect the most social change to any given community. That would be a dream job for any planner…that would require a lot of funding, time, money, dedicated community leaders, dough, active citizens, moolah, political will, greenbacks, a great campaign, dead presidents…and a lot of education to everyone involved.

The one unexpected feature about planning that I did not expect was that planners spend a lot of time educating the public. When I first started planning I thought this job was all about having great campaigns that we would have to pitch to the public to implement our planning theories. Which is partly true, you can have a great planning theory but if you fail to present it correctly, the idea and theory will go nowhere. But even before we get to planning theories and research methods, the public expects us as experts to impart our knowledge of zoning, land use and sustainability to them. In my opinion, the amount of social change occurs when you have a community that is fully educated about the process and instruments of change. Education has the greatest impact on social change.

And wanting to be a facilitator in social change has sparked the idea of being a teacher. When I first started this journey in wanting to change my environment, I wanted to be an architect. I dedicated myself to that, I worked various internships, went away to school to be an architect. But then I came to a self-realization. All of my proposed design models I was creating would not greatly impact the people I saw outside my design studio window, in North Philadelphia, if my models were built. So I changed my career path to city planning which seemed to encompass everything about cities and creating holistic solutions. This recession in planning has now led me to another self-realization. The greatest impact I can have on a neighborhood in bringing real social change is through education.

Now I don’t know if this means being a full time teacher. I think there other creative outlets I could tap into. I would still very much like to be apart of city planning but for me there has to be a better way of impacting communities than writing tedious community plans and reviewing variances. I don’t know what that way is as of yet or how long the journey to fulfill this new path might take but I’ll be sure to talk about it in this blog. If there are any educators out there, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for reading.

1 comment:

Greg Whitt said...

Maybe you can do some volunteer work, or partner with some non-profit organizations. A friend of mine has a non-profit ( that, among other things, has established young professionals come in to teach children about different types of jobs. I can get you a meeting with him, so that you can discuss different ways to use your experience to help young people and perhaps create a new generation of planners.