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The 21st Century Comprehensive Plan

Uncover the emerging and valuable qualities of the 21st century comprehensive plan that can be used to define visions for the future, including robust community engagement, crosscutting themes, and an accountable implementation program.

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Course Info

  • Duration 7 video lessons (64 Mins)
  • Published Published
  • Trending Trending
  • 4.26
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Browse Course Chapters

  • Chapter Locked
    Chapter Duration 6 mins
  • Chapter Locked
    A Brief History of the Comprehensive Plan
    Chapter Duration 6 mins
  • Chapter Locked
    Key Themes
    Chapter Duration 6 mins
  • Chapter Locked
    The Planning Process
    Chapter Duration 14 mins
  • Chapter Locked
    The Substance of the Plan
    Chapter Duration 12 mins
  • Chapter Locked
    Implementation and Beyond
    Chapter Duration 13 mins
  • Chapter Locked
    The Comprehensive Plan of the Future
    Chapter Duration 5 mins

What You Will Learn

  • Trace the evolution of the comprehensive plan from its historic roots to the present day.
  • Discover the role of the comprehensive plan in addressing critical 21st century challenges, such as sustainability, resilience, and equity.
  • Apply systems thinking to comprehensive planning practice.
  • Understand the elements of the planning process and authentic community engagement.
  • Delve into the substantive contents of the plan and how they relate to the planning process.
  • Understand the requirements for effective plan implementation.
  • Explore key directions for the future of comprehensive planning practice.

Course Description

Planning practice is changing dramatically to address the pressing need for more sustainable, resilient, and equitable communities. As the leading policy document guiding the long-range development of local jurisdictions in the United States, the comprehensive plan has a key role to play in this transition. The typical 20th century comprehensive plan used a top-down planning process, focused on physical development, was organized around siloed elements, and provided limited direction for implementation.

The emerging 21st century model uses robust community engagement to identify shared values and a vision for the future; addresses a broad array of topics such as climate change, public health, and green infrastructure; is organized around crosscutting themes tied to community priorities; and defines an accountable program for implementation.

This course explores the evolution, theory, and practice of comprehensive planning. It begins with an overview of the purpose and importance of the comprehensive plan, its historic development, and the current state of comprehensive planning practice. It then covers the planning process, the substantive contents of the plan, and what is involved in effective implementation. Leading examples of contemporary plans are used throughout the course to illustrate how the comprehensive plan can make a real difference for communities.

Learn these skills

  • Civic Engagement
  • Economic Development
  • Plan Making
  • Resilience Planning
  • Site Planning
  • Urbanism
  • Zoning Codes


This course is approved for 1 AICP CM credit.


This course is 1 LU.

Meet Your Instructor

David Rouse

David Rouse

David is a consultant, educator, and author with over 40 years of experience in urban and regional planning and design.

Meet Instructor

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