BUFFALO NIAGARA REGION, N.Y. – In recognition of the broad based, community-driven effort that shaped One Region Forward, the American Planning Association (APA) awarded the initiative the National Planning Achievement Award for Public Outreach at the APA’s national conference in Phoenix. One Region Forward was one of fifteen awardees recognized for 2016.
Robert G. Shibley, Dean of the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning and Bart Roberts, associate director of research at the University at Buffalo Regional Institute (UBRI), accepted the award on behalf of the region. Dean Shibley serves as the Co-Chair of the One Region Forward Implementation Council, while Bart Roberts directs UBRI’s support for One Region Forward that includes planning, research, community engagement and plan development.
Noting that the “traditional public meeting is dead,” Bart Roberts, project director for One Region Forward and UBRI’s associate director of research, said public engagement has been a focal point of the effort.
“We tested, adapted and invented all sorts of engagement techniques designed to involve people who typically don’t show up to community meetings,” said Roberts.
“As we move the plan into action, that engagement lives on through the thousands of citizen participants, through the Citizen Planning School that teaches the plan to local leaders and everyday citizens, and through the implementation council birthed out of this process,” Roberts added.
The Citizen Planning School, housed within UB’s School of Architecture and Planning, is one of many ways One Region Forward has actively engaged residents in the process. The academy brings together members of the community to help them implement ideas for sustainable initiatives in their neighborhood.
The school has trained more than 300 citizens and 25 people through “Champions for Change,” an advanced program of the Citizen Planning School that offers more in-depth training and one-one-one support.
Other public outreach highlights included:
- The “Text It Forward” text message survey campaign, which solicited feedback on a range of topics, from public transportation to land use, vacancy and food access.
- Games and interactive activities while tabling at area ethnic and neighborhood festivals in an effort to engage people who don’t typically get involved in planning.
- Online forums designed to educate the public about key issues, such as the connection between sprawl and housing vacancy.
- The national recognition for One Region Forward follows a series of planning honors presented to Western New York projects, many of which have been guided and supported by the UB School of Architecture and Planning, over the past decade.
“Western New York again has shown itself to be a national leader in planning and place-making rooted in the values and vision of our community,” said Robert Shibley, dean of UB’s School of Architecture and Planning.
“One Region Forward took community-based planning to a new level through inspired coalition-building and a set of programs and tools that will continue to educate, engage and inspire citizen-driven planning.”