Beth Sanders winner of the 2013 Meshworkers of the Year Award, generously hosted a World Cafe event on Planning’s Transformations at this year’s CAPS Conference.  Beth is a Canadian Institute of Planners Board Member, the Past President of the Alberta Professional Planners Institute, & the President of Populus Planning Inc.

Beth believes that:

“The quality of our engagement with each other has a direct impact on our success as individuals, communities, organizations, cities, regions, nations and as a species. A community’s success, sense of identity, vision and place all turn on the quality of our conversation, our ingenuity in facing challenges, and our willingness to learn and explore with each other.”

Find out more about Beth’s work and Populus Planning Inc. Here

Posted below is Beth’s harvest from the CAPS World Cafe.

Nourishing Transformations 

By Beth Saunders from The Nest City Blog 

“Our cities are transforming, and so is the role of planners in the midst of this transformation.

Last month, I hosted a conversation at the Canadian Association of Planning Students annual conference about transformations, to give them an opportunity to dig into what they know and see. Here’s what we found.

We are transforming into organizers. We think of planning as a linear, mechanistic activity but cities don’t work that way. What’s coming is a new social habitat, so we played with this idea using a World Cafe, using these new operating principles:

  1. Create places for you and others to experiment
  2. Know and trust that the transformation never ends – it’s  a never-ending quest
  3. Cities will forever learn and adapt, and they will only learn and grow as much as we – the component parts – learn and grow
  4. Choose to swim, rather than float

So here’s what the students noticed.


What is the best stuff happening in our cities? What are we transforming into?The-best-stuff-and-what-were-transforming-into

There’s great stuff underway in our cities and we are transforming into cities that are about people. We are paying more attention to public spaces, to diversity, to our cultures. We celebrate with food and festivals. There is a shift underway, where we share more. Technology and social media are changing how we look at our cities and planners. Everything is more visible.

And we face significant challenges.


What are the challenges we face? What are our vulnerabilities?

When we resist change, we are at our most vulnerable.  We are lured by convenience. Small thinking and  lack of vision make us vulnerable. We feel the pressure to do it “right,” yet it is not possible to know what is coming. We grapple with the unknown. The choices we make matter. The leadership we create and support matters.

There is a way through.


What role do you want to play to move through these vulnerabilities?

Look at the whole. Grasp a vision and keep it in mind. It’s not about sacrifice, its about choice, and choosing to be informed and to inform. It’s about facilitating understanding, so that we can hold and consider new possibilities. Its about respecting and honouring roles and responsibilities, but also challenging them to see and pursue new possibilities. It’s about improvement.

We have no idea what we are transforming into. We just know that its underway. And we can transform into what works for us, or what does not. The only way we’ll get what we want is if we choose to engage with the transformation.

What transformations are taking place that you wish to nourish?”

– (Beth Saunders – Populus Community Planning Inc.

Connect with Beth

on Twitter @BethSanders

on Linkedin

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