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April 16, 2012

Scenario planning: This year's model

     At the American Planning Association National Planning Conference in LA the past few days, planners, elected officials and many others have been wrestling with the right language to resonate with the public, invoking terms such as "resilience" and "strength," and "prosperity." At the foundation of this discussion is the task of identifying what America's top concerns actually are as they look at the future of their communities.
    The team that put together Opening Access to Scenario Planning Tools believes they have something to offer, to foster better public participation in planning. Right now, there are several mostly proprietary scenario planning tools for visioning exercises, and they can be complex. A better and ultimately open-source ecosystem of tools could result in what Ken Synder from Placematters called "durable buy-in." Standardizing data inputs, customizing tools for particular regions, and making the process more transparent can help build trust in the planning process. Ultimately, it's also suppose to make it fun.  "We're probably not too far from having people look at scenarios on their phones," said Frank Hebbert from OpenPlans.
    Team members led by Jim Holway, director of Western Lands and Communities at the Sonoran Institute, encouarged planners to visit www.scenarioplanningtools.org, which is envisioned as a "switchboard" and clearinghouse where a community of planners and software developers will work on improving scenario planning tools and exchanging best practices on their use.

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