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Citizen Planning School to help transform ideas into action

Downtown Buffalo

View of Downtown Buffalo from the harbor 

Published April 9, 2014

This spring, concerned regional citizens can gain practical skills to mobilize their ideas into community action by enrolling in the Citizen Planning School, a free resource being offered by the School of Architecture and Planning.

“It’s about extending planning to all members of our community as a tool for change.”
Robert Shibley, Dean
School of Architecture and Planning

Open to any resident of Erie or Niagara counties, the Citizen Planning School is sponsored by the architecture school through One Region Forward, a federally funded, collaborative planning effort to develop a roadmap for sustainable development in the bi-county region.

“The Citizen Planning School responds to increasing interest among citizens to get involved in the decisions being made about the future of the region. It’s about extending planning to all members of our community as a tool for change,” says Robert Shibley, dean of the architecture school and director of the UB Regional Institute and Urban Design Project, which is playing a lead role in the One Region Forward planning effort.

Community members can pursue two levels of training.

The “Citizen Planner” program offers training in key planning issues and techniques over four sessions taught by local practitioners and experts.

Citizens who want to advance a specific project or idea can enroll in the advanced “Champion for Change” track. In addition to the four core sessions, “Champion for Change” students attend post-session workshops and receive targeted technical assistance to organize community projects for action.

Registration is open through March 31, but space is limited. Sessions will take place between April and June.

The Citizen Planning School is modeled around the principles of sustainable development, including increasing transportation access, improving food access and planning for a green economy.

Upon completion of the program, community members receive a Citizen Planning Toolkit and are invited to attend an Action Summit in fall 2014. Those in the “Champion for Change” program will have the opportunity to present their community action project at the summit.

“We have talked to thousands of citizens from across Erie and Niagara counties as part of the One Region Forward effort,” says Bart Roberts, research assistant professor at the UB Regional Institute and manager of the One Region Forward effort for the School of Architecture and Planning. “Those conversations have shown just how knowledgeable and engaged our public is today. The Citizen Planning School hopes to build on that and offer more specific information and resources to help citizens be agents for change in their local community and to implement the emerging vision of One Region Forward.”

Funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, One Region Forward combines research and planning action with public engagement. Project stakeholders have traversed the region over the past year to engage community members in the plan and collect public input on their vision for the region’s future, particularly on issues of land use, climate action planning, housing and neighborhood development, food access and transportation.

The effort, which builds on related planning efforts in the region, is led by dozens of regional partners, including the Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, Erie and Niagara counties, the city of Buffalo and the city of Niagara Falls.