City of Lancaster Citizen Planning Committee - Connect The Dots Insights
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City of Lancaster Citizen Planning Committee


The City of Lancaster, PA

Executive Summary:

Connect the Dots worked with the City of Lancaster to design and execute an innovative and inclusive approach to their Comprehensive Plan Update through the development of a Citizens’ Planning Committee. Through data-driven analysis and community input, CtD worked with the City to recruit a diverse group representative of all Lancaster’s citizens, including historically underrepresented groups.

CtD then facilitated a “Planning Bootcamp” training series that educated members on planning principles, the distinct components of a Comprehensive Plan, and the necessary information to be able to succeed in their newly established roles. The City included the Committee in critical decision-making, such as the selection of the planning consultant team, and most have remained strong allies and proponents of the Comprehensive Plan as it has progressed.

Purpose and Scope:

In order to build a successful Comprehensive Plan Update, the City of Lancaster, PA determined the need for a more inclusive and meaningful method to engage with citizens and amplify marginalized voices. A core way the City chose to embark on this was to bring citizens to the decision-making table to guide the planning and engagement process.

Connect the Dots was contracted to help create and maintain a coalition of citizens truly representative of the City’s growing diversity. This included developing the concept and operations, building capacity of the citizen members through planning, engagement, and DEI education, as well as facilitating monthly intentionally designed workshop sessions to enable the CPC to feed into the planning process.

Service Performed:

Connect the Dots supported the building and maintaining of the CPC via the following deliverables:

  • Using a workshop model, CtD helped identify a structure in terms of backgrounds and representation to shape how to select and develop the CPC.
  • After building out a list of about 50 nominees, the members were selected to be representative of varying race, age, ethnicity, both homeowners and renters, different neighborhoods of the city, income levels, sexual orientation, refugee, immigrant groups and more.
  • Ahead of the Comprehensive Planning process starting and ahead of the consultant being chosen, CTD then provided capacity building for the new Committee through a series of educational and interactive workshops to build participants’ understanding of current planning trends, their own roles, and responsibilities, how to select a planning firm, issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion, components of a comprehensive plan, and the basics of community engagement.
  • CtD then worked with the City and CPC to develop and execute a model for the CPC participants to be a part of the decision-making process on choosing a Comprehensive Plan planning consultant.
  • Upon the launch of the Comprehensive Plan process, CtD led the design and facilitation of monthly CPC workshop sessions. These were intentionally designed as safe and interactive spaces to enable the CPC members to provide tangible input at key decision making points throughout the comprehensive planning process.

Project Outcomes:

Connect the Dots helped Lancaster City to successfully deliver the Citizens Planning Committee, an innovative engagement technique that is now being shared across other regions.

  • People reached and engaged: 20+ members of the Citizens Planning Committee.
  • Participants became a close-knit group over time, and support each other and the City.
  • Committee members felt empowered to lead engagement in the Comprehensive Planning process, with many hosting their own small community conversations and helping on pop-ups and outreach.
  • Participants are now even more active in their community and feel like they have a real voice and knowledge of planning; they are ambassadors to Lancaster City with many offering support beyond their tenure.