The KLA Team was out in force at the American Planning Association’s National Planning Conference in San Francisco last week where 6,400 people shared incredible energy and inspiring ideas. They also cleaned out our supply of "Planners Don't Suck...Plastic" reusable straws and "Bringing Cool Back" KLA t-shirts!
If you missed the action, APA has a summary of the highlights -- including photos and video -- from each day: Saturday live blog, Sunday live blog, Monday live blog, Tuesday live blog or you can check out the APA Facebook feed.
We tried to capture some of what moved us at #NPC19:
- One Word: Equity. Ask anyone who went to the National Planning Conference to cite the one word they heard more than any other, and we’re guessing 9 out of 10 say “equity.” From the Plan4Equity Forum to the Delegate Assembly approving an Equity Policy Guide (which now goes to the APA Board of Directors for approval) to countless sessions that addressed equity, including the Planning for Inclusiveness and Social Justice track.
- Beyond the Usual Suspects. Speaking of equity, “Beyond the Usual Suspects” was the name of Kim’s Tech Zone presentation and a concept that resonated in our discussions with attendees. Heads nodded in agreement when we talk about needing to reach beyond the choir and to truly embrace equitable engagement. You can download the handout from the session, "4 Key Steps for Effective Equitable Engagement."
- Keep the Conversation Going. That same conversation at #NPC19 about the usual suspects would often flow into one about how you keep everyone engaged once the planning process is complete. Indeed, that was KLA’s theme at NPC back in New Orleans in 2018 where we got so much positive feedback that we’ve spent a considerable amount of time over the past year refining our Community Dashboard and developing new products and services to help local governments do just that.
Case in point is our KLA Communications Boot Camp, part of which is the new Social Media and Communications Calendar to help local government staff be more strategic and efficient with their communications. Other Boot Camp resources include Website Content that Works, Write Winning Blog Posts and The Power of Video.
- Are You Searchable? Another head-nodder was the notion that we spend a tremendous amount of resources creating plans that all too often end up as a pdf document. Search engines can’t find the plan, and people don’t want to download it -- much less read the whole thing. If you’re proud of that big, beautiful plan and you want-slash-need people to see at least key parts of it, a pdf simply won’t do. We developed our KLA Community Dashboard with that in mind. Check it out here or see a live example with the San Antonio Sustainability Dashboard.
- Proud of our People. A huge round of applause for KLA clients the City of Boston and the City of Indianapolis, who were honored at the annual APA Awards Luncheon. Indianapolis was awarded a Gold National Planning Achievement Award for Public Outreach for their People’s Planning Academy, and Boston received a Gold National Planning Achievement Award for Resilience for their Climate Ready Boston Report. And hats off to the Sustainable Communities Division award winners, we were happy to cheer you on at the reception.
- Playing the Guessing Game. The Exhibit Hall was crowded the last night of the conference for the Happy Hour, and many of those folks ended up at the KLA booth playing “Name That City” guessing game. We handed people a sheet with 4 photos of KLA client cities, and they had to guess all 4 (there was a “cheat sheet” list of our clients) to win a t-shirt. We stumped a lot of people, but it led to plenty of laughter, teasing and *engagement.* Which got us thinking about how our clients could use the Bingo model as an icebreaker or other activity at community events -- “Name that Street” or “Name that Landmark.”
- Sharing the Stage with Clients. Kim and Angela joined Wayne Feiden of Northampton, MA, and Brad Beaubian of Indianapolis, IN, on the panel "Building Resilience through Strong Social Networks." It was an interactive session where the audience answered poll questions to drive the conversation which drew on Northampton and Indy's experiences partnering with local groups and individuals that serve disenfranchised populations -- people who aren't "the choir." Both of these KLA clients leveraged those relationships as they developed their community resilience plans.
- Opening Keynote Brings Crowd to Tears. Vijay Gupta delivered a powerful opening address (through both music and words) that left everyone on their feet -- and many with tears on theirs cheeks. Bookmarking his remarks with musical performances on the violin, Gupta then shared with attendees his journey as founder and Artistic Director of Street Symphony, a non-profit organization where he shares in music and conversation with homeless and incarcerated individuals located in Los Angeles’ Skid Row. Street Symphony empowers community members and spreads healing throughout the community and fosters a “shift to true, mutual engagement.”
- Leaving Inspired. When Brett Culp created a film with true stories of people who were inspired to be heroes because of their love of Batman, he wanted to spread its message far and wide, but not through traditional means. He decided to let people around the country screen the movie for free at their local theaters and donate all ticket sales to a charity of their choice. This caught on like wildfire and the effort succeeded in raising over $100,000 for charities. In addition to his success story, Brett shared stories of both leadership and personal failings that connected with the audience and helped attendees understand that the work they do everyday as planners is heroic and important to the communities they serve. We left #NPC19 with the powerful truth: “Real leadership is inviting people on a mission to do something extraordinary together.”
- So Much to Learn and Share. Here are a couple of takeaways from some of the best sessions we attended:
- Beyond Vulnerability: Innovative Adaptation Planning
- Used “Flood Mobile” that brought food to older people in the community to start conversations
- How Food Shapes Our Cities
- #DYK Iowa ranks 3rd in the US for total agricultural production yet more than 80% of all food consumed there is imported -- with most of it traveling 1,200 miles or more?
- #DYK millenials are willing to pay 10% more for hyper local food?
- Food is often what people say makes cities great and what distinguishes them -- it’s a driver of cultural expression
- Abandoned parking lots are often perfect for vertical farming
- Check out AGLANTA and their Grows-a-Lot program
- Also check out Square Roots
- Handling Climate Change Adaptation Pushback
- Instead of talking about climate change, talk about the impacts people are already seeing locally; hurricanes, flooding, wildfires, heat, kind tides.
- Integrating Climate Science into Local Planning
- The problem is not lack of climate data, it’s the lack of ability to analyze all the data
- Check out the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning ON TO 2050 plan
- Let’s Talk About Privilege
- We were part of a cool equity “ice breaker” where everyone had a sheet of paper on their seats, some of which were green. Those with green papers wrote their names, crumpled the paper up and threw it toward a table on one side of the room. Obviously some people were closer to the table than others and had better access. And then other people didn’t have green papers to start with.
- Empowering Youth Voices through Art/Design
- Best ideas included: online games, community mural, pop up events, virtual reality, photo hunt (take pics of what you like about the community and put together in collage via Canva), minecraft to design parks, include drawings from kids in your final documents, mobile learning trucks to go through communities, and have youth produce videos.
PHEW! We learned a ton -- and then some -- and met some incredible people shaping the future of our communities -- and our world. And we're ready to do it again next year in Houston! Here are some parting shots with our clients.