When it came time for Austin, Texas to update its comprehensive plan, they chose to engage their community and use citizen-generated input to get a diverse cross-section of opinions on their community's strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities.
Imagine Austin is a comprehensive engagement and planning process, designed to help the city update its Comprehensive Plan with input and participation from as many residents as possible.
Phase 1: Before the Plan. Over an approximately four-week period, an initial exercise was conducted to scope and prepare the organizational design and Public Participation Plan, which addresses roles and responsibilities and venues for public outreach and involvement. Immediately after the planning process began, staff began public engagement, presenting and explaining the Plan to the people of Austin by going out to public events and launching a Speakers Bureau.
Phase 2: Designing the Process. The Vision and Plan Framework phase includes the plan's Community Forum Series, built around the following three questions.
A second community forum series was held to assess Austin's current conditions and anticipated growth. Participants engaged in a chip exercise, working in small groups to identify where growth should go across Austin and see the sustainability and financial implications of the alternatives. The choices made become the Plan Framework, which lays out in general terms what must change for Austin to move into a sustainable future.
Phase 3: Vision and Plan Framework. The Draft Comprehensive Plan defines specific strategies and actions to implement the plan framework. The Plan will address the elements required by Austin's City Charter and interrelationships between the City's land use, environment, economy, culture, and other critical elements. A fourth and final community forum series will be held for the people of Austin to review the plan and identify priorities for implementation.
Phase 4: The Comprehensive Plan. The City planned a major Imagine Austin release party, attracting more than 600 people to celebrate the launch of the plan and give input on implementation steps via the Imagine Austin Priorities Survey.