What is planning?

It doesn’t take much time for people to respond to me with, “What is a planner?” after telling them why I am in graduate school. Specifically, my graduate program is Community and Regional Planning, with a focus on the environment and international development. It’s not something we grow up wanting to do, except for one individual I’ll keep nameless. Not only do we not want to do it, but we practically don’t know it exists. Of course, just about everything in our lives is directly affected by planning, as well as other factors.

I found this article in a recent issue of Planning to help explain what I am studying to do.

Born of architecture, engineering, and landscape architecture, planning has emerged over the last 100 years as the one, unique profession that takes a comprehensive view of the natural, built, and social environments. But to win support for helping to make great communities, we need to do a much better job of communicating the value and relevance of planning to the American people.

We can begin by asking and answering four basic questions….ready?

What is planning? Planning is the profession that helps communities make positive changes. Planning involves looking into the future and working with people to ensure that they are offered choices about where and how they will work and live. Planning determines a course of action for achieving a desired outcome.

What do planners do? Planners are “enablers” and change agents. We take the long view, the more comprehensive view, in addressing problems. Planners bring citizens and decision makers together, helping many different groups to play a meaningful role in the dialog. We help people to make informed decisions. We broker change.

Who are America’s planners? With our specialized education, skills, and experience, combined with our comprehensive perspective, we are uniquely qualified to help communities make better choices. America’s planners work for local jurisdictions, state and regional agencies, consulting forms, businesses of all kinds, and nonprofit organizations.

Thousands of volunteer planners are appointed or elected to various boards and commissions, where they are responsible for recommending a course of action or making decisions that affect a community’s future.

Planners are men and women of all backgrounds, with a common objective-facilitating change. They recognize that change must be compatible with what communities value-historic and natural resources, low-cost housing, and so on. That recognition makes the practice of planning a real balancing act.

How is planning relevant to me, my community, my country? Planning is relevant because change happens! You can either be affected by it or you can influence it. I believe that planning is relevant to all citizens who care about improving the places where they live and work.

Planning is about creating outcomes: a better commute, housing choice, clean water, historic preservation. It is about creating safe and interesting places people care about and use. Working to achieve these outcomes and sharing this information with others-locally, regionally, and internationally-is important and relevant to us all

Siegel, David M. 2007. “Viewpoint.” Planning (February), 78.