Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Technology's City Building Laboratory

My latest article for the Ontario Planning Journal.

This one deals with my preliminary explorations about community building issues related to the cutting edge waterfront project being developed by Google's Sidewalk Labs in Toronto

Friday, July 28, 2017

Keeping Great Company - Top 100 Planning Blogs

It was a pleasant surprise to receive an email notice that CivicBlogger had been selected as one of the TOP 100 Planning Blogs by Feedspot.

When I started CivicBlogger in 2008, this type of media platform was not common in the world of urban planning. In fact, CivicBlogger predates most of the others on this list of extraordinary blogs.  I don't know if my work influenced any of the others that followed and are consistently adding to the vibrancy of the online discussions relating to urban planning and community building. But I do know that I have been in turn influenced by their work. I encourage everyone to take some time and explore the blogs on this list, because in these online publications there is much to learn, admire, and be inspired by.

In the end, it's not always about being first, success comes from the company you keep. That relates to blogging, professional development, business and team building, and employee management. With that in mind, here are three principles that can help you with the goal of keeping great company and driving your success.

Always recruit up: Put aside your ego and find people with more success that you and whose vision compliments your team's; being a successful leader does not mean you always have to be the most skilled in the room, seeing the skills in others and bringing them together is far more valuable.
Play at work: Find ways of integrating play into your work; it's an inherently effective way of learning and builds passion for what you are doing.
Share & pollinate:  Be open with your ideas, and more importantly about struggles and failures; you'll find that the feedback will be valuable and the self-reflection you go through will boost your creativity for new iterations or projects.

So go out and have fun running with the best, and be sure to tell us all about your journey.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Power of Place

In this Municipal World article I provide a basic overview of the place-based structure I use in my work.
While it's just the "tip of the iceberg" of my Power of Place structure, I describe a number of items that anyone can take action on right away in their community building activities.


Work at Play

In this article for the Ontario Planning Journal I briefly discuss the importance and value of play in our professional planning work.

Podcasting for Urban Planning

My regular article for the Ontario Planning Journal; this time discussing the potential of podcasting for urban planning. Also happy to give a shout out to the Strong Towns podcast, easily the best I have found.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

3D Printing the Future

As technology changes urban planners and others that work with communities to influence their future need to work harder to keep up-to-date.  This is because many of the citizens and communities we work for/with are often adopting these tools at a faster rate then we as professionals do.

If you are alert to the changes and think about how they can be integrated into your work, you may see that they often are just adaptations of things we are already familiar will. 

In this article for the Ontario Planning Journal I discuss the use of 3D printing for urban design, how it can better connect us with citizens, and how it taps into communication methods of the past.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Planning for the Public Realm

Here is the latest animated explainer video I created for the Ontario Professional Planners Institute.  This one deals with the very complex subject of the public realm.

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Impact of Development Form on ROI for Municipalities

Here is the recently published Municipal World article I write on the impact form of development has on municipal tax ROI.  This is based on research I have been doing with planner John Douglas RPP, MCIP.

Animated Video for OPPI

Below is an animated video I created for the Ontario Professional Planners Institute.  It provides a short 4 min overview of the history and work of OPPI.

Ontario Professional Planners Institute from Robert Voigt on Vimeo.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Emotional Compass for Success

Here is a post that I originally published on LinkedIn a few weeks ago.  It should be helpful for people both professionally and personally, in terms of how they improve and progress toward achieving their goals.  Enjoy.

11 days into 2016 and the initial excitement and trepidation that comes for many with entering a new year has now passed.  Countless resolutions have already been left behind by people who are instead choosing to continue a familiar journey along a well worn path over a new one.  However, there are still many more that are continuing their commitment to positive change.  

Below is a diagram from the Facebook page of Mindful Schools in California.  They are an organization that provides online and in-person courses for adults to learn mindfulness and use it with youth.  They presented this colourful chart as a tool for adults to improve communication about emotions with young children.  It broadens and connects vocabulary with the nuances of emotions and their diversity.  

The reason I am including this here, is that I also see it as a tool for adults to become more aware of their own emotional states.  This awareness is important because it lets us identify the visceral feelings that often dictate our life’s direction, and the eventual outcomes of our goals. 

The magic of invention, creative thinking, and success happens at the edges of things.  When one area of your life or your skills crosses another, or when a tangential interest or goal makes you stretch in a new direction and leads to reinvention or full-circle rediscovery of something familiar.  On these edges is where inspiration makes itself known, and where success begins.  But to have the ability to see it, and take positive action requires awareness.  This awareness, unfortunately is often overrun by doubt, worry, and any number of other negative feelings.  

For success, we need to move toward greater awakening to experiences without judgement or “reactionary” emotional direction; an overall enlightening and empowering mental/emotional state.  To do this we need to be able to identify those emotions that are holding us back, as well as those that are positive in our lives.  This is where the wheel comes in.  

We can use the wheel to help provide clarity.  By being able to find a descriptive word of our emotional state on it, and seeing what its basic root emotion is (at the centre), we can better determine “where” we are, and where our emotional compass is pointing.  This can in turn allow those of us that have not abandoned our dreams and goals to assess ourselves and make necessary changes. 

I suggest that this is a simple, practical and effective tool for improving awareness of (often subconscious) personal emotional states.  We can use it periodically to “check in” with ourselves in times of reflection, and to make sure that our emotional compass is pointing to the destination we seek.  This way, by the time 2017 rolls around we will be well practiced, be more mindful, and prepared for our next set of stretch goals on our journeys to make grand dreams come true.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

What ROI is Your Town Planning and Designing For?

The assumptions many communities have that unquestioningly link growth with community prosperity need to be re-examined, recalibrated, and retooled.  This is because unfortunately, the form of development that this growth takes and that we encourage and regulate, can have significant negative impacts on the tax revenues of communities.  The wealth that they are seeking is not being generated, instead they are unknowing creating a financial burden that far outweighs benefits.  Yet almost all communities are unaware of this relationship and its results. 

The article below is one I recently wrote that explores how this process of enlightenment can begin, what is involved, and most importantly why every community needs to take action. 

Community Health Requires a Good Public Realm

Here is an article I had the pleasure of co-authoring with fellow planner Loretta Ryan on the conections between placemaking, the public realm and community health.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

What's Old is New Again - Progressive Planning Approach

There have been many influences on my work over the years.  I had the benefit of one of my first positions in a planning department working for Larry Beasley in the Major Developments Group of Central Area Planning for the City of Vancouver.  Since those early days I have worked with, been mentored, and developed friendships with many other truly outstanding people in my chosen profession.

Below I am listing some of these individuals as a way of recognizing their contribution to my work:  Krista Voigt, Stanley King, Dan Burden, Mark Holland, Adam Bienenstock, Chuck Marohn, Dr. Harold Nelson, Roger Brooks, Rob Spanier, Andrew Angus, Kim Wingrove, Peter Kenyon, and John O'Cal.   I started this blog post three years ago, and it sat in my draft box since then.  I finally have come to complete it today.

From the influences of these wonderful people and my own experimentation and experiences I have developed my own personal structure for community planning and economic development.  It is an integrated approach that can most easily be presented in the illustration below.  I have had many different drawings of this, but this is the most recent.  I will post more about the various components of this hierarchy in the future:

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

12 Strategies for Re-Energizing Your Community

Recently Municipal World published an excellent book for people working on community building and revitalization, 12 Strategies

This book features a carefully-selected collection of strategies, case studies and best practices.  Each section was written by experts in a variety of fields and brings together diverse perspectives. 

The book will help leaders identify potential opportunities and to inspire new ways of thinking about local challenges.  I'm pleased to have been included in this collection and look forward to bringing these concepts to the communities I work with.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Drone's Eye View - American Planning Association

Here is an article that was recently published in the journal of the American Planning Association.  I was asked to participate to describe my use of drones in my professional planning practice. 

The Walkability Factor

Here is an article that I was asked to participate in from the Toronto Sun.  It speaks to the "walkability factor" in the preferences of condo purchases. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Town Hall Meetings Aren't the Only Option

Here is a video of the recent Idea Bombing event we held in Pentanguishene.

This format brings together food, music, hands-on activities and fun so that citizens are more engaged and open to discussion.

My presentation ranged from Strong Towns perspectives, to Asset Based Community Development, to Healthy Community Design, and Placemaking Based Economic Development.  This Idea Bombing event also included guest speakers Chad Ballantyne of the Creative Space, and Michael McCreesh of Ontario By Bike.  Together we provided participants with effective strategies for becoming the change agents and creativity catalysts that our communities need now to bring them into a future of success.

Time Lapse of Idea Bombing in Penetanguishene from Robert Voigt on Vimeo.

Idea Bombing International - Australia to Ontario

Last year I was able to bring John O'Callaghan of Idea Bombing Sydney, to the Ontario Professional Planners Institute's Symposium as a virtual special guest speaker.  He has done some great work in Australia, and it was a pleasure to feature this with my fellow professional planners.

Being inspired by John and seeing a close relationship with the types of events and citizen engagement techniques I had used in my practice for many years, my wife Krista and I started Idea Bombing Ontario in 2013 -  We contacted John to get his blessing on our venture, and have held over 6 events since.

Below is the message John sent for the participants at OPPI.  We can all learn from his work, and hopefully creative and effective citizen engagement will become commonplace repertoire for professional planners soon.

Idea Bombing Ontario - John O'Cal from Robert Voigt on Vimeo.

CBC Spark - When Urban Planners and Guerrilla Urbanists Get Together

I recently had the pleasure of being on CBC's show SPARK.  The discussion covered the growing process of guerilla, or tactical urbanism and how people are using it to improve their communities.

The challenge is for professional planners who need to find their “place” in this changing world of DIY community improvements and activism. There is huge potential for communities that decide to focus on this more progressive and interactive direction for their planning, urban design, and economic development; however, not many planning practitioners have direct experience in taking these ideas from theory and move them through policy development, programming, and implementation.

I have had the opportunity to be involved in a number of tactical urbanism projects, and also in advising communities on how to harness this approach for their benefit.  It is always a pleasure when working with communities that chose to take action to direct their future in partnership with their citizens and with “hands-on” approaches.  As more people participate and see the positive effects of their actions tactical urbanism will have to become part of the repertoires of professional planners if they want to keep up with the citizens they are planning for.

You can listen to the broadcast HERE.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Serious Game of Tactical Urbanism

It is a great honour to be published again in Municipal World.  MW has been in print for 125 years (since 1891).  Here is a copy of my article "The Serious Game of Tactical Urbanism".  It provides a good overview of the subject and some excellent examples from across North America.