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2023: Leveraging the Planning Process to Create a Model of Engagement for Communities in Need

Innovation Fellow - 2023

Authors: Jake Parcell


Leveraging the planning process to improve the results of regulations and development for communities 
is the quintessential function of what municipal planners, consultants, and volunteer boards and 
commissions strive to accomplish. In Michigan, this process is accomplished through decades worth of 
empirical research combined with guidance from state statutes like the Michigan Planning Enabling Act 
(MPEA) (2008) and Michigan Zoning Enabling Act (MZEA) (2006). However, the process has a tendency 
to fail underserved communities that do not have the capacity to engage their population at the regional 
level. This Co-Learning Plan (CLP) seeks to create policy recommendations based on best practices and 
public feedback to leverage the planning process for the greatest impact in our overstretched communities. 

This CLP will accomplish this by creating a review of the shortcomings of planning processes and the 
problems presented to decision-makers via public meetings. Furthermore, this CLP will review the 
shortcomings on the community’s behalf, such as communication barriers, internet access, and costs. After 
this research is compiled each facet of the planning processes will be broken down into a matrix that 
highlights the best practices at each phase. This matrix will be sent out for community review, in which 
the most effective steps of the process will be highlighted and then standardized into a recommendation 
for communities to improve their planning processes.

The formal planning process can be lengthy and difficult, which includes an ample amount of public 
participation and volunteer action from start to finish. Ultimately, the results of the public input session 
of this paper focused heavily on achieving consensus, communicating effectively with difficult to reach 
populations, managing the timeframe and costs of the planning process, and helping to enable staff to 
facilitate the process. These recommendations can help local board and commission members visualize 
the planning process from start to finish and make recommendations for amending statutes that will help 
streamline planning in Michigan. This CLP is the first step towards helping communities who need ways 
to increase their capacity to utilize the planning process for the best results. This CLP received a high level 
of participation from volunteers across the state; and seeks to move forward with more outreach and 

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