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Writing Master Plans, From Start to Finish
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Writing Master Plans, From Start to Finish

Writing Master Plans, From Start to Finish

104 min
Credit: AICP CM

This course is approved for 1.5 AICP CM credits

Master plans are complex documents, meant to guide a community’s development for perhaps a generation. They are also moving targets—assembling lots of information, balancing conflicting positions and goals, and changing as they move through the planning process.  

In this course you’ll learn how to approach a master plan—starting with concept development and community voice, and finishing with the mechanics of organizing and expressing ideas. 

At the end of this course, you will understand the purpose of a master plan, the planners’ responsibility as a writer and advocate, how to balance stakeholders’ positions and community policies, and how to sort and present information.

In This Course

  1. Claudia Kousoulas introduces the course.
  2. What Makes a Plan? Part 1
    A master plan applies theory to political reality. It is a comprehensive look at current conditions and it is vision for the future. It strives to make abstract ideas into literal concrete. Practically, it is a synthesis of technical information from varied disciplines that will become a basis for decision-making. The planner has to manage and explain this complexity in an active political environment of limited resources and varied interests.
  3. What Makes a Plan? Part 2
    In this chapter we'll review the importance of developing expertise in planning theory, the community context of decision-making and partnerships, and the chosen topic. Expertise can ensure that even a visionary document is anchored in an achievable reality.
  4. Why Do the Plan?
    Understanding the plan's catalyst will focus research and develop ideas. Then there's the writing.
  5. Successful Plans
    Amid contentious public meetings and shifting policy positions, we'll look at what makes a successful master plan.
  6. Types of Plans
    In this chapter we'll explore different types of plans—by topic but also by context, goals, geography, and process. We'll talk about drawing boundary lines, the implications of previous policies, and working within a political process.
  7. Whose Plan Is It? Part 1
    Planners have a responsibility to ensure that the plan reflects a complete and fair community position—from developers to residents. The participation during and after—who's in the room and how they participate—is what makes a plan valid.
  8. Whose Plan Is It? Part 2
    This chapter considers how changes in time and technology have made traditional meetings less useful and how to develop outreach that has a clear purpose and communicates appropriately.
  9. Getting It Done, Part 1
    You can easily get lost in theory, politics, and data analysis; planners need a plan to get the job done. In this chapter we’ll talk about the mechanics of sorting information, writing, and finalizing a big document. We'll review techniques for meeting deadlines, keeping records, and staying organized. And we'll think about ways to manage the planning process to keep feedback from colleagues, citizens, and decision-makers focused and useful.
  10. Getting It Done, Part 2
    This chapter considers document features that help readers navigate through the ideas communicated in words, maps, and graphics.

Published 2017