Big Ideas Initiative Wrap Up!

I’m very pleased to announce the successful conclusion of the APA Initiative: Ten Big Ideas for Washington’s Future!

The Ten Big Ideas Initiative, an outgrowth of the Game Changing Initiative is designed to bring about far-reaching and fundamental change on a variety of issues. Topics include addressing climate change, rebuilding our infrastructure, restoring and protecting our ecosystems, supporting economic development and supporting sustainable agriculture.

This month, The Washington Planner will describe the conclusion of the program and the resources available to planners on our website:

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While much of our work was completed by April 2015 for the National Planning Conference, a cadre of dedicated planners and allied professionals continued to work over the past 6 months. The results of their efforts include a series of discussion briefs on climate change and a series of short videos.

Rock Island Dam, Columbia River, Washington

The climate change discussion briefs identify the issues and define actions that planners can take at the local level on mitigation (reducing CO2) and adaptation (preparing for the impacts of climate change). These briefs were prepared in collaboration with the Department of Commerce. All briefs are available on both the APA website and the Commerce website. The topics include:

Resilient Washington - Each of these Discussion Briefs describes climate change adaptation and/or mitigation strategies for local governments in Washington State

Part 1: Planning Approaches for Resilience

  • Planning For Climate Change
  • Preparing Vulnerability Assessments
  • Addressing Climate Change Impacts through Disaster Planning

Part 2: Strategies for Planning Resilient Communities

  • Reducing Energy Demand and Supporting Alternative Energy 
  • Creating Compact Communities 
  • Mobility  
  • Ecosystem Health and Ecosystem Services
  • Encouraging Green Building Practices  
  • Climate Effects and Social Equity  
  • Public Health
  • Climate Effects on Food Production and Agriculture  

Part 3: Preparing for Climate-Related Events

  • Extreme Weather Events
  • Disaster Preparedness
  • Emergency Management
  • Fires Hazards
  • Flooding 
  • Sea Level Rise 

Courtesy of Pacific Northwest National Library


The videos were prepared as “conversation starters” for planners to use with their elected officials, planning commissions, and the public. Each video introduces the topic and describes what actions other communities are taking. We hope they will provide a basis for action in your community.

The video topics include:

  • Adaptive Planning for Climate Resilience This 9-minute video provides an overview of the science of climate change and highlights actions being taken by three communities in Washington
  • Regional Collaboration This 6-minute video highlights actions that small communities are taking to collaborate for effective action
  • Building Social Capital This 6-minute video describes current research on social capital and how you can build more connections in your community through planning processes and urban design
  • Investing in Community Equity This 7-minute video provides information on how to use community workforce agreements on major infrastructure projects to benefit your community
  • Green Stormwater Infrastructure This 8-minute video provides information on how to use low impact development systems for stormwater management
  • Planning for Healthy Communities This 7-minute video highlights health challenges that planners can address and actions that 3 communities are taking to create healthy communities
  • Planning for the New Reality  Two videos (2 minutes and 18 minutes) were prepared from Mitch Silver’s address to the 2013 APA Washington conference. These videos cover socio-economic trends that are important for communities to consider in planning for the future
  • Inclusive Growth This 8-minute video describes actions that 3 communities in Washington are doing to foster social equity and affordable housing in their area


Over the past four years, planners in our region have been meeting to discuss the complex and enormous challenges facing the Pacific Northwest and chart a course to the year 2050. These challenges include:

  • The economic recession, with a “new normal” slow growth for years to come;
  • Increasing economic inequities and demographic changes that undermine shared values and a strong middle class;
  • Accelerating degradation of our natural resources resulting from population growth and unsustainable rates of consumption; and
  • Global climate change that will further stress natural systems and cause severe effects on our communities.

Ten Big Idea for Washington’s Future

Through a series of seminars, workshops, and task force meetings, hundreds of planners across the state have been involved in these discussions and in defining the most critical issues we need to address. From that effort, we developed Ten Big Ideas for Washington’s Future, endorsed by the APA Washington chapter board.  

Bullitt Center Photo by Lloyd Alter

This initiative covered ten topic areas as described below:

  1. Address Climate Change – Step up to address climate change mitigation and adaptation at State, regional and local levels
  2. Enhance Regional Decision-making – Strengthen regional decision-making to address regional problems
  3. Restore and Protect Eco-Systems – Restore and protect healthy natural systems and incorporate the value of ecosystem services in decision-making.
  4. Link Health & Urban Planning – Plan communities to combat the growing epidemic of obesity
  5. Increase Local Government Capacity –Provide local governments the capacity to do the job and educate the public on local fiscal constraints
  6. Support Economic Development – Empower sustainable economic development and incentivize local business growth
  7. Foster Social Equity – Incorporate issues of mental health, displacement, and affordable housing in planning for local communities
  8. Support Sustainable Agriculture – Address sustainable agriculture and healthy food systems in both rural and urban areas
  9. Build Social Capital – Build social capital by increasing civic engagement, supporting a culture of education and fostering leadership and entrepreneurship.
  10. Rebuild Infrastructure – Plan and fund updates to infrastructure (water, roads, transport, energy, storm-water, communications) to create sustainable, smart, and energy-efficient systems.

For 2014 and 2015, each of the Ten Big Ideas became the focus of a Working Group, comprised of planners, allied professionals, and experts in the field, who defined and developed approaches to respond to the challenge. The results of their work include resource guides, policy documents, and information documents directed toward planners working in our state. These are now posted on the Big Ideas website.


The success of this effort would not have been possible without the contributions of literally hundreds of planners from every region of our state. Many of the key players are named on the APA website in the “join us” section, along with their e-mails.

A few people, who were critically important at every step of the way and were active in multiple roles, deserve special recognition here:

  • John Owen, for his insights, wide vision, and creativity,
  • Laura Hudson for her versatility in dealing with many topics and her dedication in seeing the process through to the end,
  • Lyn Keenan and Nicole Faghin for their tireless work on the climate change working group and video,
  • Rachel Miller her work leading the social equity working group and video,
  • Julie Bassuk for her work leading the public health working group and video,
  • Yonn Dierwechter for his work leading the regional governance working group and video, and
  • Laura Benjamin, for coordinating the website and communications throughout.

Check it out!

Please check out the results of our work, give us feedback, and make use of the products in your work. You can find it at the Big Ideas section of the APA website:

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