Wicked Webinar: Neighborhoods First: Community Action for Equitable City Planning

The post is based on a webinar sponsored by the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy at Florida State University.

A Wicked Webinar panel discussion on community engagement, moderated by Dr. Tisha Holmes (FSU Department of Urban and Regional Planning) and leaders from the Providence Neighborhood Association (PNA).

Community-based action research is working at the local and the neighborhood level, often in partnership with community groups and their partners to co-produce research that integrates the community knowledge in order to develop locally appropriate interventions and solutions that can inform broader decision-making and planning processes. It is generally a way to democratize who generates knowledge and shares power and agency with communities in the production and reproduction of knowledge.

Planning has a tradition of emphasizing partnerships and collaboration to shape plans and policy and decision-making through things like negotiation, and collaboration, and consensus-building, as well as integrating those plans through coordination and cooperation. So when we discuss promoting collaborative or equitable planning and engagement, we’re aspiring to move from informing or consulting with the community to collaboration and empowerment. But what we talk about in theory isn’t always what comes to fruition in practice. Obstacles, such as competing interests, navigating conflict, continually seeking solutions, maintaining trust in the process all make it difficult to attain the ultimate goal of cultivating empowerment and collaboration within the community. Moreover, polarization within the community and growing inequality also make it difficult to promote collaboration. So, planners become more important than ever to address these injustices and advocate for restorative outcomes.

In her most recent publication with Dr. Jackson and Dr. McCreary, Dr. Holmes interrogates how to negotiate mutually beneficial relationships between college students, and city planners within historically marginalized Black neighborhoods. Students collected survey data as well as conducted interviews to piece together an oral history of these culturally rich neighborhoods to better understand the work and intentionality that goes into neighborhood collaboration. Through reflexivity, we can better center community needs and equity through the process of urban and regional planning.

As communities of color are mobilizing to envision new futures for their neighborhoods, the pathways communities can take to engage with the city planning process vary. The panel discusses the process of building community capacity for engagement , the possibilities and limitations of community partnerships, and the prospects for sustaining community engagement during and after a global pandemic.

Walter McDonald III (PNA President), Rahni Wright (PNA Past President), Leslie Harris (PNA Past President), Monet Moore and Dr. Vanessa Byrd offer insights into community mobilization strategies that can be transferable to other neighborhoods.

The importance of neighborhood first community action planning is illustrated through the wonderful work being done by The Providence Neighborhood Association. The Providence Neighborhood Association (PNA) engaged the city planning process in 2002. Prior to 2002, the PNA began as a neighborhood crime watch. In 1998, the PNA shifted from being a neighborhood watch to an association. As an association, the PNA would be better able to address other issues in the community by engaging more with government entities, such as the Tallahassee Police Department and Parks and Recreation. In 2002, the PNA applied to be a part of a community-planning program called the “Neighborhood Renaissance Plan.” In participating in this process, they were given a comprehensive plan for the neighborhood that was approved and adopted by the PNA. The goals of the PNA at the time were to create a community center and to increase home ownership within the neighborhood. The plan became more fully integrated in 2004. The work done by the Providence Neighborhood Association shows the power of mobilization and the importance of listening to community needs when engaging in city planning.

The post is based on a webinar sponsored by the College of Social Sciences and Public Policy at Florida State University.

Dr. Holmes is an assistant professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at Florida State University. You can learn more about Dr. Holmes’s research here. You can connect with Dr. Holmes on LinkedIn.

The feature image is from Pexels.

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