gray-iconEquitable Participation and Community Ownership

Objective 1 – Engage and include a diverse group of individuals, groups, and communities from across the region through implementation
Objective 2 – Build a culture of effective citizen planning by increasing capacity of groups and leaders, especially in underserved communities
Objective 3 – Ensure equity in implementation priority, site selection, and resource allocation


Regional Context
Just as communities around the country are joining together to address economic, housing, transportation, and quality of life issues on a regional level, incorporating equity into such planning is taking on greater urgency. At the federal level, initiatives such as the Partnership for Sustainable Communities are strongly encouraging local governments move from good intentions to action. The Greenprint has sought to incorporate unprecedented levels of community engagement in the planning process through a variety of outreach tools. Organizations are also advocating for system changes to increase public participation and influence in decision making. Achieving equity means communities most affected by future decisions are invited to participate in the planning process as a full partner in decision making. It is especially important to engage and involve community members that historically have not been adequately represented in planning, such as representatives of low-income, minority, disability, limited English proficiency, and rural communities. All affected community members should have equal access to participate in planning, regardless of their race, age, income, ability, digital access, or other difference. The chart below illustrates a continuum of progress in public involvement, beginning the process of informing the public to decision making by the public.

social equity tableA number of factors have elevated the need for increased participation and ownership of planning efforts. These factors include: the region’s high concentrations of disadvantaged populations in impoverished areas,
high numbers of social and economic disparities, environmental injustices, and low participation in planning initiatives historically due to disenfranchisement.

Objectives associated with Equitable Participation and Community Ownership recognize a process of achieving equity in planning involves public awareness and input of initiatives, building community capacity to advocate for positions and participate in decision making, and ensuring equity in plan implementation so benefits accrue to all communities, not just a few.


Proposed Outcomes
The achievement of the objectives outlined in this section is expected to result in the following outcomes:
• Reduced social and economic disparities for underserved populations
• Equal opportunity for public participation in planning decisions
• Increased public participation and decision making from traditionally underrepresented populations
• Increased access to information, opportunities for engagement, and capacity for community planning
• Equal access to public investments across all communities
• Greater community ownership by residents, enabling planning to respond to regional and community needs
• Improvement in social, economic, and environmental conditions in economically and socially depressed areas.

Social equity is not accomplished through community engagement and community partnerships alone, although those can be important tools. True social equity requires full participation in decision making. In addition, achieving social equity often requires capacity building for community members so their participation is meaningful and relevant, and they are an equal partner in decision making with other stakeholders and planning professionals. Education and capacity building can also benefit government planners and administrators to provide them with tools to help grow their relationships with the public.


Objective 1 – Engage and include a diverse group of individuals, groups, and communities from across the region through implementation

2.1.1 Create an outreach and advocacy toolkit to inform individuals of the value of the Greenprint plan
2.1.2 Engage new and existing communities, issue-based groups, and regional recreation groups in education and implementation efforts
2.1.3 Provide education, information, capacity, and outreach resources in a variety of formats accessible to all
2.1.4 Collect information assessing skills, business interests, and community interests from residents of traditionally underserved communities to influence planning and economic development
2.1.5 Include traditionally underrepresented people (urban, suburban, and rural) in future planning and community engagement activities

Public engagement for the Greenprint plan took many forms. An online strategy was developed using surveys and a map-based, idea sourcing tool called U Map It. Five region-wide meetings were held to generate public input early in the visioning phase and then prior to the development of the final plan draft. Over the course of a year in between, over 20 community meetings and over 40 appearances on community organization agendas were conducted.

The public outreach process generated a significant amount of input for the Greenprint, but it also demonstrated some practices work better than others in engaging a large and diverse number of participants from communities across the region.

The community engagement practice of the Greenprint that yielded the greatest amount of participation was appearing on community association agendas, prepared with a 10- to 30-minute presentation and feedback exercise. This strategy was successful in generating input from various communities across the region. In addition, two open house sessions at North End Terminal and American Way Transit Center were successful in getting information to large numbers of individuals who were not aware of the Greenprint. The success of going to where people are should not be a surprise, and should be a guide for future planning efforts. However, due to time afforded these practices are only successful in capturing a limited amount of input.

This strategy can be valuable in the process of continuing awareness for the Greenprint and other planning initiatives. Continuing the process of grassroots outreach and awareness for the Greenprint can serve to influence demand for plan implementation by the public. Supporters of the Greenprint should be empowered by an outreach and advocacy toolkit in order to help
community supporters continue to engage individuals on the effort.


Objective 2 – Build a culture of effective citizen planning by increasing capacity of groups and leaders, especially in underserved communities

2.2.1 Institutionalize social equity into the planning process, participation, and potential impacts
2.2.2 Assess existing resources that can be utilized for training, organizational development, and engagement programs
2.2.3 Engage youth in activities to help them become participants in public planning and community initiatives
2.2.4 Develop a fair housing coalition of organizations to collaboratively address fair housing advocacy, education, training, investigation, and enforcement
2.2.5 Form a regional equity council to assess ongoing outreach and inform and involve individuals of implementation
2.2.6 Form local councils to bridge between the people and the regional council to communicate opportunities, concerns, and decisions related to implementation
2.2.7 Establish a strong working relationship between government and regional equity council to build understanding, trust, and common action
2.2.8 Assess available communication channels such as faith-based organizations, community groups, community centers, and libraries for disseminating information to individuals regarding planning initiatives

Public participation in many planning initiatives in the region has been low, especially among disadvantaged populations who often have much at stake regarding land use, transportation, and neighborhoods. At the same time, residents are engaging with each other through less formal channels to undertake projects to improve their communities, from planning to fundraising to implementation. From painting a mural in the Klondike Smokey City neighborhood in Memphis to the redevelopment of an old fire station to a community center in Northaven, members of the public clearly want to play a role in influencing their neighborhoods.

If government and residents come together in a spirit of partnership, with the goal of shared decision-making, plans that truly respond to community needs can emerge. In order to enable this partnership, greater resources should be made available to the public. As part of the capacity building program for the Greenprint, two educational guides were developed: Planning and Your Community, intended to guide community residents through the planning and public participation process, and A Student’s Introduction to City Planning in the Mid-South, intended to educate high school students on the fundamentals of city planning. These guides can be found in the Resources Menu.

In addition, putting data and maps into the hands of residents can help facilitate a stronger partnership between government and the public. The Greenprint web mapping tool and data geoportal are a beginning point in the Mid-South. A peer example is the Metro Atlanta Equity Atlas (MAEA), a comprehensive mapping project using GIS, data, and narrative to tell the story of spatial justice in Metro Atlanta. The MAEA provides regional stakeholders with an up-to-date, accessible, data-rich resource capable of informing the larger debate on how to create a more fair and equitable region. The MAEA consists of eight chapters covering indicators that comprise a sustainable region: population and demographics, housing, jobs and economic development, education, health, transportation, environment, and public safety.

A data tool, called the Livability Dashboard, is under development in the Mid-South and will expand the data tools from the Greenprint into a tool similar to the MAEA. The purpose of the Livability Dashboard is to provide a data tool of community indicators to facilitate community visioning, assist decision making, and connect neighborhoods to community resources such as nonprofits.


Objective 3 – Ensure equity in implementation priority, site selection, and resource allocation

2.3.1 Identify and prioritize investments in green and social infrastructure where there are
critical gaps
2.3.2 Ensure the needs of each community are accurately represented throughout the
planning and implementation process
2.3.3 Ensure implementation does not displace people, community assets, or community
2.3.4 Identify and reduce language, education, transportation, time, and technological
2.3.5 Provide information in English and Spanish while maintaining sensitivity to other native
languages in specific communities
2.3.6 Develop metrics and monitor progress of equitable investment and geographic impact
for new and improved green spaces

The process of plan implementation should ensure equity in how benefits are experienced by the region, just as planning seeks equitable participation. By incorporating social equity as one of the primary layers of the Concept Map, the plan has a greater opportunity to ensure implementation will achieve the greatest level of geographic and demographic equity at full completion. However, resource allocation over the course of the next 25 years should seek to equally distribute benefits of the Greenprint in each phase of implementation.

Assembling a regional equity council recommended in Objective 2.2 can help to ensure implementation funds are allocated equitably, so all communities benefit from the Greenprint. But the council and decision makers should also be sensitive to ensure implementation does not displace people, community assets, or community problems as a result. Understanding impacts on housing, health, environment, and redevelopment on the front end can help decision-makers make public investments that are more likely to result in greater opportunity and housing choice for the region’s residents or positive health outcomes for residents.

Building off of implementation of the Greenprint, the region should consider integration of equity factors in other public investment decisions such as transportation, libraries, parks, community centers, and schools over time. For example, equity factors might include race, income, disability status, and limited English proficiency, population density, age and condition of existing infrastructure, economic impact, and consistency with Greenprint priorities. Factors should also consider the possibility of negative impact of public investment decisions, so traditionally underrepresented communities are not harmed by investment, such as a road project that reduces walkability or community cohesion. Use of these factors should result in new and desirable investment focused in underserved areas. Entities such as Metropolitan Planning Organizations are encouraged to adopt and use these factors if they are not in conflict with rating and selection criteria required by outside funding agencies and programs.

Social equit meeting