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It’s More Complex Than a Wedding

Read an excerpt from this article below. You can download the full article by using the link at the end of the excerpt.

We all make plans in our lives -- weddings, kitchen remodeling, and so on. We do this routinely -- create a plan, implement it, and then do what we need to carry it out.

Given that we can plan major events like these, why do we have so much trouble implementing plans for our communities?

The truth is that planning for even a small community is more challenging than planning for even an elaborate wedding. To create plans that will be implemented, we need more sophisticated decision-making and decision-management tools. Here are a few of our challenges and a brief introduction to the tools we can use to address them.

Complexity. Communities have many interdependent elements, with complex relationships to each other. We need to use tools that help us see these relationships so that we can better understand how a plan recommendation may impact the whole community. Scenario planning, for example, examines all the elements of a community and the issues affecting them, and then analyzes how these might change and interact with each other in the future.

Some regional agencies, such as the Puget Sound Regional Council, are using scenario planning, and the Federal Highway Administration promotes its use in environmental assessments. Communities using scenario planning today are often facing urgent environmental issues, where the complexity and the difficulty of predicting what will happen are obvious. But almost all communities face complex challenges.

Consider a community that has a skyrocketing diabetes rate, aging housing stock, and a lot of commercial vacancies. Instead of simply assuming that the number of residents will increase at the same rate it has for the last 30 years, wouldn’t it be more useful to think through how housing, commercial, health, and demographic trends will interact? Yes, it’s more complex. But that approach also yields more useful information for evaluating which recommendations will make the most sense.

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photo of Della RuckerDella Rucker, AICP, CEcD, is the Principal of Wise Economy Workshop, a consulting firm that assists local governments and nonprofit organizations with the information and processes for making wise planning and economic development decisions.

Rucker is also Managing Editor of EngagingCities and author of the recent book The Local Economy Revolution: What's Changed and How You Can Help -- portions of which will be serialized here on PlannersWeb.com during 2014.

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