Class experiment- What comes to mind when we think of a planner?

What Does A Planner Do Wordle

What does a Planner do? Last week I gave a presentation (next blog post) and at the beginning I was curious of what my other classmates, future planners, think honestly of what a planner is or what they actually do. I thought it would be great to see it in a collage form in real time, so I decided to use Wordle.net. Despite some technological challenges, I now have the Wordle and have had some time to soak in what ideas and words came to people’s minds when asked to only give one word. I wonder how the results would have differed if I increased more words, or allowed the students to write sentences. What would happen if I filled a room with non-planners, like community members and stakeholders, and asked them the same question- how would their word answers differ?

When I look at this word collage, I see words that could be synonymous with each other such as: mediates, facilitates, liaison, and organize. Though all of these words have their own unique meaning, I see how they all work together especially in the role of the planner. A liaison often interacts with the public and private institutions to organize and facilitate events and people to come together. A planner also mediates between stakeholders and community members, as well as between public and private organizations- or even within them!

Words like complexity, integrate, and multidisciplinary encompass the everyday planner because so many tasks are given to us in hopes that we can make sense of all of the pieces and put them (or most of them) neatly together in a nicely presentable plan. Planners are having to listen to a myriad of ideas from all backgrounds, and often try to incorporate them into a crafted plan, especially if public participation is prioritized as part of the planning process. A surprising word, choreography, though striking at first, reminds me of Jane Jacob’s street performance and ballet of the sidewalk. Planners must remember the unique interactions that occur in their own niches and locations, and how there is no “cure-all” plan that can be adapted to any city or neighborhood. Each plan needs to remember the individual dances and social interactions that occur, and how they come together to present a beautiful collective ballet. Here is a great site of her many famous quotes for reference! https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/17285.Jane_Jacobs

Equity stands out to me personally because I believe that many planners throughout history have advised groups not for the benefit of the whole, but of the planner’s individual interests and benefit. So many initiatives and plans have been proposed but often failed because they did not consider the people they would impact and the people that were in charge of implementing the plan. Often planners forget just who they are planning for, and for what? The context of the situations and justices (or injustices) at play must be considered, especially when people are entrusting you with advising their decisions for a better present and future. Though we do not always succeed in this, planners should strive to be fair, listen to all sides, and make judgement calls or plans with equity as the foundation.

So readers, what do you think a planner does? Give me anything that comes to mind! And then feel free to comment on what should a planner do? I think this is a very insightful conversation that needs to be had more often, especially to bridge the gap between the people of the public and the planner.

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A spark that lights the candle.

This post serves to be not only my first ever post to my first ever blog, but also attempts to explain just what this blog is meant for and why I am starting it. As a new regional planner in graduate school, I have quite a varied background. In undergrad I varied my studies between social justice, policy, anthropology, environmental sciences, and community organizing. Since leaving undergrad, I have seen my roll in social scenarios to usually serve as a connector, either of networking people to other important people or to resources and information that I find worth sharing. I’m a person that believes that everything is connected in some sort of fashion, ultimately why I have chosen planning as the field I not only want to study but pursue in my professional career.

Since I am almost finished with my first semester of grad school, I needed an outlet where I could start posting the interesting tidbits of information I am finding- along with the numerous amounts of papers, websites, blogs, images, maps, etc. that I not only find interesting but also relevant to planners and those with a planning mindset. I’ve always enjoyed my somehow endowed role as a connector, and so I want to share what I have learned with others, in hopes that my blog can be a resource with a set of tools that can arm every planner’s “knowledge toolbox”. The mindfulness is relative in that it will be my conscious duty to make sure that what I do post is current, relevant (no posts on recipes-that’s for another blog), and that anything posted as “historical” is also accurate.

On the topic of mindfulness, I also have been incorporating the practice of mindfulness in my daily life…baby steps. Many studies have said that over time, Mindfulness Practice can help reduce the body’s reaction to stress triggers while also helping with focus and memory of daily tasks. This is a journey I started a while ago, but now full swing into grad school I find becomes more useful and enjoyable to explore each day. Often times when beginning something new that requires being “in the moment” like in mindfulness practice, yoga, or even writing this blog post, it is usually difficult to get started. Getting in the zone, or “in the moment” takes time and lots of practice, and so one has to get comfortable with being uncomfortable- a phrase I heard back in my undergrad years that has stuck with me. This uncomfortable state of unfamiliarity when starting something new or what we have decided is “hard” can be unsettling and is often the source for why many of us procrastinate and doubt our abilities.

I was reminded of this message this past weekend while at a symposium discussing the relevance of constructing a community design center in Holyoke, MA. In a series of presentations given by local community members and college professors, a lot was discussed without much resolution- just a greater understanding of what to consider was the major takeaway. One Anthropology professor at UMass Amherst, Jonathan Sosa, was giving a presentation on the necessary use of ethnographical social mapping when considering how to work within a community. I hadn’t considered using ethnography as a way to socially map a city, especially in the planning field; needless to say since my roots are in Anthropology this resonated with me and I am excited to make this a part of my engagement strategies with communities in future planning practices.

Holyoke has a strained history with the local colleges, as many have used the struggling city more like a testing lab for surveys of project ideas without often much community participation or real implementation. Sosa mentioned that in any sort of work that involves collaboration with disadvantaged population groups, there can be a tension that is felt but unspoken. Planners, social workers, and other community workers can often be seen as know-alls and experts, and often carry some degree of higher education. He discussed that it is important to recognize and be aware of your privileges when entering any social situation, and to use the uncomfortable feelings in a productive manner to reach greater understanding about yourself and the other group you may be interacting with. He coined it “productive discomfort”.

I left there charged to engage deeper with this “productive discomfort” more in my daily life. I also left feeling extremely motivated to finally start this blog since I felt that I finally had the right title that would serve best to articulate what in fact this blog would be dedicated to. I hope you are inspired after this post in some way- whether that is to consider sipping your coffee mindfully, listening to someone else mindfully, or the fact that there will be significant content on here that you are excited to read!