How This Future Planner Will Practice Embedded Planning

In a time where housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable due to the back to the city movement, Jonathan Pacheco Bell’s #EmbeddedPlanning practice should become standard in the urban planning field. It’s important for the community to have relationships with the planners who are shaping the city’s future.

In my own city (Norfolk, Virginia), I know who the mayor is, who the city council members are, and who the school board members are for my designated ward. I’m sure many of my neighbors can say the same. These public officials have been on TV, featured in news articles, and have a social media presence. Why isn’t it the same for city planners?

The public servants who impact our neighborhoods should be present in the community. Norfolk, Virginia has a lot of change coming, our city is growing and revitalizing. This change has a direct impact on many communities, and some feel that they don’t have a voice. What attracted me to the urban planning field was the opportunity to apply my sociology major in a meaningful way to create more equitable cities, and real change. Planners can’t, and shouldn’t, create change without including the residents who actually live here.

Once I become a planner, I don’t want to be glued to a desk. Nor should I be. In order to make a positive impact on my community, I need to be present. To be an embedded planner, I need to be constantly interacting with residents in the community in which I work. Yes, that means attending community meetings. But it also goes above that. Embedded planners should go beyond what the job requires. Be present at community events, and contribute to neighborhood relationship building. Be a familiar face in the community. Social media plays an important role here! Having a strong social media presence makes you more available and approachable. We can’t wait for community members to come to us, we have to go to them. Many of my city’s council members are present on social media, it’s time for planners to do the same.

Planners are public servants, above all tasked with planning for the greater good and creating equitable cities. To accomplish this, it’s necessary to be embedded in the communities that we’re planning. The more planners that adopt this embedded planning practice, the greater impact planning will have.