One Region Forward creates new Citizen Planning School

On March 25, 2014

People from all over Erie and Niagara Counties will have the opportunity to champion an idea for community change.

UB's Regional Institute (UBRI), a subset of UB's School of Architecture and Planning, is offering a new program to teach Buffalo residents how to create sustainable developments in the two-county region. One Region Forward, a local initiative in conjunction with UBRI, created the Citizen Planning School, which is not limited to UB students, to prepare people who want to impart change for their communities.

The first track goes from April to June and transitions into the advanced second track that ends in August. Participants from the second track have the opportunity to present their community change project at the Sustainability Action Summit in the fall.

"It's small-scale actions that happen over and over again and start to be a matter of routine that are about how we take care of the city and region where we live," said Robert Shibley, director of the UBRI and dean of the School of Architecture and Planning. "And how in taking care of it, it takes care of us."

The goal is to foster citizens who have these sustainable ideas and to point them in the direction of other agencies that have the capacity to fund them, according to Bart Roberts, a project manager for One Region Forward.

The Citizen Planning School is split between two consecutive tracks - starting with the "Citizen Planners" track and advancing to the "Champion for Change" track.

The first part of the program will begin with basic training that teaches students the skills and knowledge necessary in planning change in a community.

The four-session track will also include lectures by multiple experts speaking on different fields. The topics discussed will include climate change, food system security, housing, transportation and land use.

The Citizen Planners that apply to be Champions for Change will go through a selection process to be accepted into the second half of the program. Here, members will actually start planning their project proposals.

The champions will be provided with additional services by staff from UBRI on how to prepare and deliver their content at the Sustainability Action Summit.

"They will go through an additional module, where we will help them take the planning tools they learned in the Citizen Planning School, apply them to their own project idea [and] help them come up with the starter for a project plan," said Cristina Delgado, a project manager and a graduate student in the architecture program.

Delgado, along with other project managers, will be in charge of that section of the Champion for Change track.

Roberts hopes the program will reach "many quarters of our region."

He will be one of the experts speaking at the four sessions of the Citizen Planning track. He will discuss trends that have had a large impact on our past and what the future will look like if we continue to follow them.

One Region Forward launched in 2013 and grew out of a collaborative effort of multiple groups.

UBRI is a part of One Region Forward through a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Shibley hopes to eventually offer a course in sustainability annually for the planners that participate in the program. He is proud to be involved in the development of One Region Forward.

"It's our mission," Shibley said. "We are in Buffalo and in this region for a purpose."

The deadline to sign up for the Citizen Planning School and to be a Champion for Change is March 31.



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