Planning Process Drama (not that kind)

Plays are typically more fun than your average town meeting, even if they’re not Broadway quality. That’s the theory behind Lisa Jo Epstein’s project in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, where she is working with a local development corporation and a theater group that she directs, Just Act. Designed to lay groundwork for “Philadelphia2035,” a major upcoming planning effort, the project combines hard data with the human element of storytelling and drama:

Faced with the double whammy of disinvestment and powerful institutions on its borders with agendas of their own, several groups of African-American activists in West Philadelphia’s Mantua neighborhood in the 1970s adopted a strategy designed to put them at the center of the conversation over the neighborhood’s future direction. The motto they adopted: “Plan or be planned for.”

One way a community can plan the future before the planners do is to understand its past. And in most communities, that past is contained not so much in the brick-and-mortar structures themselves but in the stories behind them — the people who built and lived in them, the institutions they housed and still house today, and the connections the people who know (about) them have with others in the neighborhood.

Learn more from Sandy Smith at Next City here.

Contributor: Ben Peterson, Pepperdine School of Public Policy, MPP Candidate ’16. 

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