Teach em how to fish and they'll give us better cities, or something
October 23, 2009 7:34 PM   Subscribe

Calling all planners, public admin. types, adult education gurus and other smarty pants: I need to develop a training program or at least a strategy for developing a training program for further planning on the local level, put the hard parts.

Our office is charged with further the planning efforts of local (state and county) governments. We laid out the elements needed to successfully developing and implementing a comprehensive plan and then audited it to analyze our gaps. Then we looked at other agencies and they have similar gaps.

How can we train people in the areas of administrative capacity and what we are generally calling "community will" (political will, advocacy, etc.)?

Like, how to read a site plan submitted by developers, how should staff and appointed/elected officals communicate effectively, can a circuit rider type planner work, how would you develop a program like that, how do you do code enforcement with out a dedicated staff member. For the last one, its things like making politically difficult decsions, gaining consensus, or just plain how to implement your plan (what ever that may mean).

I know I am putting a lot of info out there, I don't want to box in the answers here. So have you attended or created training on items similar to these? Are you aware of awesome (perferably free) web based training/podcasts that touch on these issues. Feel free to throw in any new ideas that you see staff or officials messing up all the time. Thank you!
posted by stormygrey to Law & Government (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should add that we have multiple platforms available for this education. We have 30 min-1.5 hour lecture/workshop sessions, we have full day conference, 2-3 day conferences, and web-based modules. So lots of different kinds of ideas could work.
posted by stormygrey at 7:35 PM on October 23, 2009

I think this is a good question, and I feel sorry that it debuted late on Friday evening. If you don't get a lot of great answers, please repost.

I also think more information is needed. You ask how to "train people," but I'm really unclea what people? Council or advisory board members? Experienced members or incoming members? The general public? The media? Who needs this information, and why do they need it? What are they going to do with it?

It's really hard to answer without describing who needs the training and why.
posted by Miko at 8:57 PM on October 23, 2009

Response by poster: Our primary audience will be planning staff or staff who are not planners but do planning kinds of things, regional commission staff (I don't know if other states have RCs, until recently they were Regional Development Centers) and planning commissioners. This info will also help inform the content and layout of future web revisions.
posted by stormygrey at 9:04 PM on October 23, 2009

Will they be paid for their time and will it be a job expectation, or will they be expected to volunteer out of their own interest, or because a mentor has encouraged them? In other words, will this be free-choice learning, or will it grow from a legitimate expectation that they'll need to spend their time on this, which is mutually understood by them and by their supervisors/constituents?
posted by Miko at 9:07 PM on October 23, 2009

Response by poster: Oh, I guess why is important too, primarily because we want to help eliminate the roadblocks that have traditionally held cities back from actually implementing the plan they come up with. There is lots of info out there on how to do plans, what is planning, quality growth, etc. but this crucial mplementation is sorely lacking. We already do a lot of training and we contract with the RCs to do a lot of planning. We want our money to do as much as it can, so we are developing training to help acheive that goal.
posted by stormygrey at 9:07 PM on October 23, 2009

Response by poster: For local government staff/elected officials it will probably be tied to a little grant money or maybe a certificate program like the WaterWise community program or the City of Ethics program with a nice sign they can post. This only appeals to those communities who already to some degree have their act together and are motivated to be "better".

For the RC staff the contract money hinges on them completing a curriculum we mandate.

For anyone else, it will be free learning or a conference session they just happen to wander into that seems nifty.
posted by stormygrey at 9:11 PM on October 23, 2009

I am working on something like this now. We are working with content experts for the content, educational designers for the curricula, and then we will make it online for busy people and face to face for those who can raise funds to bring in trainers etc.

You want to look into train the trainer strategies, work-based learning, capacity building. It is not cheap to develop these kind of programmes. Sorry I can't help more with specifics, but your first step is to consult an educator. In some ways, the content is somewhat secondary to choosing the right methods.
posted by wingless_angel at 1:25 AM on October 24, 2009

I'm going to agree with wingless_angel - for the type of material you are designing and the audience needs to reach, you'll want to work with a professional consultant who can do instructional design. The first step might be to draft an RFP capturing all the information you've listed here: inception of project, purpose and goals, intended audience(s), intended outcomes. Define all those as clearly as you can, and then do some research on places to distribute the RFP. You may want to use the ADDIE model (assess, design, develop, instruct, evaluate) - in which you first spend sufficient time assessing purpose and needs and audience, so that your work will not be in vain.

I love the of creating an online lesson. No, that won't be cheap.

If you're trying to do something more grassroots, I am sure you could offer a one-day teach-in on some of these topics. I've participated in a number of local economic development 'summits' and skills workshops and networking workshops in which some of this sort of content was covered. Those are much cheaper on the surface, but there are costs that lie in the time it takes staff to develop and deliver these programs. If you are going to do it once or twice in every municipality or county you cover, that becomes a massive job - that's why the 'train the trainer' model wingless_angel suggests may come in handy. Consider having one or two representatives from each constituent group attend a one-or-two day program, with a built-in expectation that they'll take the info back to their own group and teach it there. Be sure to build in a follow-up or reporting requirement, so that you will be sure they did that, and will also have a means of counting the total number of participants.
posted by Miko at 7:46 AM on October 24, 2009

Response by poster: I am very proficient at the education aspects, I have specialized in adult education for around a decade now. There are points of online learning that I need to brush up on, but for the most part I am most comfortable with the parts ya'll are uncomfortable with. I came to planning by way of historic preservation and before that museum education, so I'm ok there.

Its the capacity building skill set, that epherema that planners know are stumbling blocks, but don't have the voice to overcome sometimes.
posted by stormygrey at 8:32 AM on October 24, 2009

OK, still not sure I get exactly what you're looking for. You're looking for ways to teach people to overcome public apathy/opposition to planning projects?

Do you know about the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies? They are an amazing organization that deals with locally based economic development, including planning. They might at least have recommendations on training, or references to trainers, for you. At the very least it might be a place to identify some leads for you - this question is really specific for AskMe and not hitting too many people's specialty knowledge areas.
posted by Miko at 5:27 PM on October 24, 2009

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