The planning process involves the creation of a number of working groups with different levels of specificity. As you begin to assemble each, it is important to make it clear to potential members what kinds of input will be sought at each, and what time commitments will be necessary. Generally, Steering Committees will meet for 1-2 hours each month over the course of the two year planning process, Action Teams will meet for at least 2 hours each month for the 10-month Strategize phase, and Technical Advisory Groups will meet as needed. For most organizations, if they choose to be involved in multiple groups, they will want to send different staff to each both to ensure the right expertise is represented and to avoid burnout.
The Steering Committee is an advisory group comprised of community stakeholders that oversee the planning process. Steering Committees should represent a diverse array of organizations to ensure that many stakeholder perspectives are represented. They play a vital role in creating plans with impact and longevity. Committee members will review the results of public engagements to set the vision and goals of the plan, review the work of the Action Teams, support plan adoption and make a commitment to working toward implementation. The Committee is expected to participate in the full planning process, represent their organizations and themselves, and report back to the community throughout the planning process. The Committee is comprised of organizations with designated representatives attending the meetings and serving as a liaison between the planning process and the organization / stakeholder group they represent. They are expected to bring their knowledge of their organization and are not expected to be experts on all things related to the project area, its history, and its
community members. Representatives from government agencies are
an essential part of the Steering Committee and ensure that public
investments can align with community priorities.
Major institutions such as museums, universities, hospitals, research, and philanthropic organizations.
Public departments and authorities with interests in the area (e.g., DOMI, URA, PWSA, DPW, PAAC, HACP, utilities, etc.). Staff should only be on the Steering Committee for RCO-led processes or where the agency is a significant property owner. Otherwise, they belong on the staff team.
Non-profits with expertise in the topics of the plan.
Community and social services, religious institutions and/or ministeriums.
Identify key elected official for membership on the Steering Committee and include others as stakeholders.
Key developers and large property owners should be considered, but their role balanced with other stakeholder perspectives.
CDCs, CBOs, other non-profits that focus on community advocacy and development.
Schools, students, supportive services.
Senior centers, programs, supportive services.
Individuals who are community leaders but don’t fit into other categories.
Foundations and other funding organizations with an interest in the plan area.
Identify the relevant organizations for each of the organization types in the table above. This list could be quite long, but try to get it down to no more than 30-40 groups and identify one contact at each.
Schedule one-on-one meetings with each stakeholder. Let them know you are initiating a neighborhood planning process and are interested in understanding their experiences with past planning projects, what role (if any) they would like their organization to play, what needs their organization would have from the planning process, and what resources their organization can bring both to the planning process and to implementation. Make sure organizations understand what is expected of them as full participants in the planning process. Based on these interviews, you may identify additional stakeholders.
Once you have spoken to all potential members, start to assemble a draft Steering Committee of up to 30 members and review your draft committee with the relevant elected officials. Be careful not to over or underrepresent any interests. Each organization should have only one person on the Steering Committee at a time, although it may be advisable for organizations to send different representatives based on the topics to be discussed.
The Visualize phase calls for the Steering Committee to form subcommittees called “Action Teams”. Action Teams are work groups that develop the plan’s policies, projects, programs, and partnerships for each chapter of the plan: Community, Development, Mobility, and Infrastructure. They are led by relevant public agency staff and a member of a Steering Committee with expertise on that topic. Action Team meetings are open to the public and any interested stakeholder is welcome to attend. It’s important that those involved with Action Teams plan on attending the monthly meetings for the full year the Action Team meets. This allows the participant to help identify the issues to address as well as the solutions. Additional members include government agencies and topic-focused non-profits with expertise on the topic.
to realize the Vision Statement and Goals developed by the Steering Committee
or conduct research and public engagement events to fully understand topics
proposed actions for the plan and identify resources needed to implement them
draft actions to the Steering Committee and incorporate their feedback
proposals to the general public and incorporate their feedback
the policies, projects, programs, and partnerships as part of the drafting of the plan
While anyone should be allowed to attend Action Team meetings, aim to keep group membership a manageable size to create an interactive and productive environment, and avoid adding more members late in the process who have not been involved in problem identification and research stages. For City-led planning processes, Action Teams will be facilitated by public agencies and partner staff as noted below. RCO-led processes should incorporate staff from these agencies into their Action Teams. Action Team facilitators should be prepared for overlapping topic matters during the course of the meetings and ensure these ideas are discussed with one another. For example, arts, culture, accessibility, the environment, and sustainability will be discussed by multiple Action Teams in varying ways. These ideas should be communicated to the other Action Team facilitators so that draft proposed actions incorporate these ideas.
The list of topics Actions Teams need to cover is extensive and some individual topics may warrant more detailed conversations and with different people outside the full Action Team. In these instances, Technical Advisory Groups (TAGs) will be used to engage specific stakeholders on the topic in separate, more focused conversations. For example, in some areas, Energy System Planning may involve a large group of facilities staff from different institutions and organizations who need to work together with appropriate expert staff to develop a strategy for improving both generation and distribution of energy. The work of these groups should be reported back to the related Action Teams, incorporated into the plan content, and more detailed outputs included as appendices to the plan.
Too often, important groups in our city have been left out of planning processes. The Public Engagement Guide identifies a number of ‘hard to reach’ groups based on demographics, ability, or other aspects of their identity. Overcoming disadvantages starts with including these groups in all aspects of the planning process.
As you establish your Steering Committee, it’s important to think about the full spectrum of diversity in a community whether that be resident, employee, and student, or race, ability, or gender identity. Look at the demographics of your neighborhood (or the city more broadly if neighborhood-level data doesn’t exist) to understand who makes up your area. If you invite an organization to participate, ask them to consider these demographics in selecting the individual they choose to represent them. While this person is not expected to represent both the stakeholder group and that aspect of their identity, they will bring the added benefit their inherent lived experience to the planning process.
The role of the Steering Committee in advising the planning process does not occur in a vacuum. Steering Committee members represent stakeholder groups and are expected to engage those groups throughout the planning process. While the Steering Committee may be involved in developing the plan’s vision statement and goals, a larger public process should also be used to inform these high-level elements of the plan.
Second, the Neighborhood Plan Guide specifically charges the Action Teams with the development of policies, projects, programs, and partnerships because anyone can be involved in the co-creation process. Action Teams should be as representative as possible and conduct targeted outreach to gather insight from underrepresented groups. The Public Engagement Guide recommends that demographics be surveyed for all public engagement activities and gaps addressed on an ongoing basis.
It is possible that a fully inclusive and representative process results in proposals that inadvertently have negative impacts on certain groups. To overcome this concern, invite experts on equity and diversity to assess your work periodically throughout the planning process. Logical steps in the planning process are briefly included below:
After the Action Teams have identified issues and problems to address to ensure the issues of hard to reach groups are not being ignored.
When Action Teams are finalizing their proposals so that unintended impacts can be considered and overcome before the plan content is finalized.
To ensure transparency and validate these efforts, publish these assessments and the changes that are made as an outcome of their recommendations.
Your feedback helps us improve the Neighborhood Plan Guide experience for all users. Please describe your issue in as much detail as possible.