Highlights From NPC18

by Tanya Zwahlen

Last week, Sue and I joined 5,700 of our fellow planners in New Orleans for the 2018 National Planning Conference (NPC18). It was great to be in The Big Easy, and over the course of four days, we caught up, connected with and contributed to the national discussion around public engagement in planning. I also had the opportunity to engage youth from New Orleans in some city planning work. Here are the highlights, beginning with my cat dress and blue nail polish.

On Sunday, April 22nd, Sue and I facilitated an hour long session called “Essential Tools for Successful Public Engagement” to over 200 planners. It was an honor to have been selected to lead a session, and we used the time to share stories and insights from our practice and to talk about ways to combat the emotions and biases that people bring to public engagement processes.

​We also had participants try some of our favorite methods like live polling and cardstorming. Sue and I were so busy presenting and facilitating that we only got pictures of the cardstorming (below), but we live streamed the session and you can check that out here.

On Monday afternoon, I visited the Westbank Unit of the Boys and Girls Club of Southern Louisiana with a group of about 20 planners. We facilitated 10 planning exercises with 100 kids during their after school program. This workshop was definitely the highlight of my trip. It was organized and led by Youth Engagement Planning (YEP), which is a non-profit organization focused on educating young people in grades K-12 by introducing them to urban planning and civic engagement, and creating opportunities for youth to have meaningful participation in advocating for change in their communities and the built environment.

I really enjoyed playing Legos with a group of four 11 year old boys. We built cities and they told me about themselves and we talked to them about all the things you can do in the field of city planning. They also introduced me to a toy that I had never heard of, called a beyblade (“like Beyonce”).

Both last year and this year, the APA National Conference has been a transformative experience. The next conference in San Francisco feels far away in both time and space, but it’s likely that I’ll have a hard time staying away. Until then, I will be listening to the recordings of sessions that I missed on APA’s web site, using new tools I was exposed to at the conference and on YEP’s web site, and tracking down a beyblade for my ten year old son.
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