What is UrbanPlan (UP)?
UrbanPlan is a realistic, engaging, and academically demanding classroom-based curriculum. It helps participants learn about the fundamental forces that drive development under our economic and political system. UP provides a concrete example of how our market economy clashes and collaborates with our representative democracy to create the built environment. Concepts such as risk vs. reward, markets, capital, interest groups, politics, regulation and trade-offs, are all explored in depth. This understanding provides the foundation for all meaningful land use conversations, enabling a more civil and sophisticated dialogue among stakeholders at the local level—where the real land use decisions are made.
This curriculum can be delivered to high school students, university students, public officials and community organizations.
Why does ULI have a program like UP and how does it relate to the ULI mission?
Education is a big component of ULI’s mission to provide leadership in responsible land use and the creation of thriving, sustainable communities worldwide. This mission goes hand in hand with UP‘s commitment to developing a citizenry more educated about the challenges and complexities of land use decisions so that together we can create better communities.
Is this program unique to Philadelphia?
No, this program is a national ULI initiative run in both ULI Americas and ULI Europe. UrbanPlan has reached over 53,000 high school and university students in the United States & Canada alone since 2003 across 30+ cities. ULI Philadelphia will be launching its pilot program in March 2020 at the University of Pennsylvania and is currently exploring opportunities for all three models.
What are the benefits for students or public officials who participate in the UP Program?
For high school and university students, UP provides participants with a sophisticated, real life understanding of core content issues in economics and government. In response to an RFP about a fictious urban infill development site, students are asked to take all the complexities of the real world, integrate them into the facts of the case and create a clear vision and presentation of information. It also encourages students to explore:
- Critical thinking
- Problem solving
- Conflict resolution
- Interpersonal skills and team building
- Quantitative analysis
- Time management and organizational skills
Student development proposals are evaluated by a mock “City Council” comprised of volunteers who will select the winning development. Small prizes, such as gift cards, are awarded to the winners.
For public officials, UP convenes public sector decision makers for a dialogue about the decisions and trade-offs that shape development in our communities through a similar RFP process. Participants gain a better understanding of the following fundamental principles:
- The trade-offs at play in the development process
- The political and financial risk in the development process and the time frames involved
- The unique policy pressures that affect the public and private sector roles and how to leverage public/private partnerships
Public official proposals will be evaluated by a Selection Committee, comprised of member volunteers, who ask challenging questions to garner thoughtful justifications for project decisions. There are slight nuances between the high school/university and the public officials models, but the overall objective is to create a more informed dialogue around land use decisions.
Why should I volunteer? What do volunteers gain from participating in UP?
UrbanPlan volunteers embrace the ULI mission to educate tomorrow’s community leaders, public officials, and land use professionals. UrbanPlan allows ULI members to be an agent of change in their community through a fun and rewarding opportunity. It is also a chance to connect with other land use professionals.
What qualifications are recommended to become a UP volunteer?
- 5+ years of professional experience in the real estate and land use planning industries
- Flexible schedule that allows 1-15 hours of program participation in addition to a one-day training
- Current ULI membership or otherwise will be expected to join ULI prior to the program launch
- The patience to question through the Socratic method rather than advice or coach
- Ability to assume and maintain the “city council member” role and not to lapse into academic advisor/design charrette jury behavior.
How do I become a volunteer?
If you are land use professional who wants to volunteer and have the experience necessary to participate in the classroom, you can fill out our online application. If selected, you will attend a full day training and be expected to participate in UrbanPlan programming for 1-15 hours a year.
Due to high demand, applications will be reviewed by ULI Philadelphia’s member lead UrbanPlan Committee based on responses and qualifications. If you are qualified to participate and not selected to be part of the first training, your application will automatically be considered for future trainings, which will be held approximately twice a year to support an ongoing set of programs.
What is the volunteer training? What will I learn? Why do I have to attend?
All UrbanPlan volunteers are required to attend a full day training with a national ULI instructor to gain in depth understanding of the learn the dynamics of UP in a simulation. The training also allows volunteers to gain perspective on the participant’s viewpoint, understand the teacher’s role & objectives, and learn to be an effective volunteer “facilitator” and “city council member”, including use of the Socratic method to challenge participants.
Volunteers are asked to conduct about 4-5 hours of preparation ahead of the training, including reading through the UP handbook and answering the same homework questions the participants (students) are tasked with.
What are the dates of those opportunities and how much do I have to commit to?
ULI Philadelphia currently has two opportunities available for volunteers:
- 4-week program at the University of Pennsylvania with graduate students (February-March 2020); program will be run on Wednesdays from approximately 12 – 4 pm
- Tentative one day City Council workshop (March 2020)
Volunteers are asked to commit a minimum of 1 hour during one or both of those programs, with an opportunity to volunteer as many as 10+ hours depending on schedule availability. ULI PHL is working on confirming a high school volunteer opportunity for Fall 2020. All volunteers trained in February will be eligible for this program and there will be an additional training held in Summer 2020 for those not accepted.
What are the volunteer opportunities?
As a “Facilitator”: Through Socratic interaction, volunteers challenge the students to think more critically about the UrbanPlan issues and the specific responsibilities of their designated “roles” (financial analyst, marketing director, site planner, city liaison, and neighborhood liaison).
As a “Presenter”: UP volunteers engage in interactive discussions with students about their own work projects or specific professional challenges. Through thoughtful questioning, the presenter helps students relate these issues and decisions to struggles the students are experiencing in UrbanPlan.
As “City Council”: UP volunteers hear student presentations, challenge the students’ proposals as would happen in an actual city council hearing, and award the development contract to the winning development team.
As a “Team Advisor”: UP volunteers are required to manage data entry into the financial model and guide the team throughout the daylong exercise. This opportunity is only available for the Public Officials program and requires 1 per team.
Where can I find out more about UP?
Contact Kelly Cary at Kelly.Cary@uli.org, 215-845-8997 if you have additional questions.