Game Changing: Local Planners Rising to Meet Global Challenges

By Jill Sterrett, FAICP & Laura Benjamin

We are at a critical turning point in how we define the future of our state and our nation. With the recent recession and a paralyzed Congress, many significant national issues have largely been ignored, compelling us to step-up and take action.

As a profession, urban planning engages the public and decision-makers to define and achieve the future they desire. It is our job to make the choices clear and consequences of those choices understood. Planners in the Pacific Northwest are seeking ways to make far-reaching and fundamental social change on a variety of major issues, in short: Game Changing!

The Game Changing Initiative started over four years ago as Fellows from the Oregon and Washington chapters of APA met to discuss what we could give back to our profession.  Focusing on the mega-issues of the economic recession, polarized politics, and climate change, we initiated a joint effort to engage our members at the local level in these emerging global challenges. Planners from across the Pacific Northwest have been meeting to discuss these complex and enormous “wicked problems” facing our region and the nation in order to chart a course to the year 2050. Through the initial launch with a symposium of 60 regional leaders, various conference sessions in both states, and a Daniel Burnham Big Ideas Forum, sponsored by national APA, we have engaged hundreds of our members in this process. 

Washington APA’s Big Ideas for Washington’s Future represents the outcome of these discussions for Washington. In Oregon, the 2050 Alliance involving multiple professional organizations is the latest iteration of their efforts.  Their website is:  

The Big Ideas effort is divided into ten work groups:

  1. Address Climate Change
  2. Enhance Regional Decision-Making
  3. Restore and Protect Eco-Systems
  4. Link Health & Urban Planning
  5. Increase Local Government Capacity
  6. Support Economic Development
  7. Foster Social Equity
  8. Support Sustainable Agriculture
  9. Build Social Capital
  10. Rebuild Infrastructure

These ten working groups are helping to move this effort from ideas into action, by providing a variety of work products including models for practicing planners, education programs for the public and elected officials, legislative proposals, and partnerships with other organizations. 

Planners from across Washington state have put in countless hours to craft and refine actionable tools and resources for planners, elected officials, and the general public. We are sharing these tools with planners across the country, as part of our contribution to the National Conference. These tools and resources will soon be available on our new website –

Please stop by the Washington Chapter booth at the National Planning Conference in Seattle to learn more.




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