This past April 29 – May 1, the American Planning Association (APA) held their annual National Planning Conference for planning professionals across the country. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the conference was transitioned to a completely virtual experience – with more than 5,000 individuals who participated.
The conference, which was given the name “NPC20 @ Home,” featured current topics presented by keynote speakers, workshop sessions, and a variety of networking opportunities and virtual happy hours for those who signed up. New this year, the APA included a program addressing the unprecedented challenges planners are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the virtual conference featured an extra day of career-focused content, held on May 6.
Carrie Conwell, Senior Environmental Planner, participated in this year’s conference and had many takeaways from her NPC20 @ Home experience. The idea that “equity” is going to play a much larger role in the future of planning and the way things are done in the public realm was a session topic Conwell found interesting, as well as the program’s final Keynote presentation, where there was a general agreement among the panel that planning would not “return to normal” until 2025. She also enjoyed the session Waste Deep: Planning for Disposal in a Pandemic and Other Disasters where speakers from the Army Corps of Engineers discussed the concept that there is always going to be waste, and offered some ways to eliminate or reduce it at the source (such as composting). “What stood out to me was the idea that 1/3 – 1/2 of all food produced is thrown away each year,” said Conwell.
Libby Horwitz, Senior Housing and Economic Planner, also participated in various sessions of this year’s virtual conference. Some major takeaways she found from the virtual sessions included evolving technology and the way consumers’ needs/habits are changing, potential legal issues due to COVID-19, planners evolving to engage with the public, and taking advantage of access to big data.
When it comes to virtual networking with other planners, Kevin Myers, Senior Urban Planner, found it helpful to hear from other planners throughout the country regarding similar topics that are dealt with on a local level. “It helps you gain a different perspective and understand that local issues are not necessarily unique. It also helps reassure best management practices, by confirming and discussing techniques that are being used in other states and cities around the county,” said Myers. A few of his favorite sessions included: Live-Work-Play-Dispatch: Designing for E-Commerce; Examining Informal and Emerging Micro-transit; From the Trenches: Abolishing Parking Minimums; and The Housing Crisis of the Housing Crisis.
Those who participated in this year’s conference will have access to the session recordings for one full year. Those who did not attend, but would like to gain access to the sessions and recordings, may purchase the NPC20 @ Home Collection online.
Photo credit: American Planning Association.