Urban Planning is getting a lot of attention within the Millennial generation right now. A couple weeks ago I wrote part one of this series to provide a tiny glimpse as to what Urban Planning is and why it matters, especially to humanitarian efforts. This week I hope to provide a better context so that you can learn more about this incredible field and discover ways that you can be involved now.

There are several reasons Millennials and Urban Planning mesh well yet I believe a primary one is our renewed interest in the physical. In response to technological developments and globalization our generation seeks to live in a way that is tangible. We’re drawn to antiques, vintage clothes, vinyl, farmers markets and film photography. Our emphasis on the physical in addition to the cause mentality we’re so well known for offers the perfect recipe for us to seek to solve problems using physical structure.

Community development, a facet in Urban Planning, has become so popular in the last few years because we recognize that sustainability matters, we’re fighting the “e” word (entitled), and we recognize that while our social media is fun, we need face to face interactions with the people we live and work with. All of these things matter to us and we want them to operate seamlessly. Community development takes a cause and turns it into a house or neighborhood you live and work in every minute of every day.

Several months ago, I ran across a longform buzzfeed article {embed:http://www.buzzfeed.com/drewphilp/why-i-bought-a-house-in-detroit-for-500 } written by Drew Phillip. After college Drew moved to Detroit, Michigan and bought a $500 house he planned to fix up. It was cheap, and he wanted to be part of saving Detroit. The article is fascinating in many ways but what I was most moved by was the perspective he displays. He points out extremely well that the young people who desire to move into neighborhoods like his don’t understand how hard it will be. For many of those young people, redeeming the hood one house at a time is a trend.

One organization that is also aware of this trend and is fighting it in Orlando and here in Atlanta is the Polis Institute. The Polis Institute operates under the reasoning that giving without receiving actually robs the recipient of dignity and both from a true relationship. The Polis institute teaches and trains organizations to open themselves up to a true relationship with the communities they serve in a way that instills hope, not a victim, survivor, or superiority mentality.

These kinds of initiatives are quietly happening in many communities. In Chattanooga, TN The Glass House Collective  operates as a community development initiative that invites its neighbors to get to know one another through events, projects, art and input. One of the Glass House Collective’s catchphrases is “We’re here because we love it here.” They aren’t there to fix the neighborhood. They aren’t there because they have to be. They’re there because that neighborhood matters to them and they want to love one another within their community.

A city is ultimately a compilation of people living especially close together. It’s easy to drive home, park in the garage, walk inside your house and never see the faces of the people living directly next door. Within Urban Planning there are several creative ways restructuring the design of streets, apartments and homes could make it easier to connect with your neighbors. However, you can be part of changing your town or city now. Here are a few steps you could take:

Get to know your neighbors

If cities are a compilation of lots of people in close proximity then change should begin with people. You taking the small step to actually love your neighbor could change your neighborhood, and city but first it will change you and your neighbor by creating a real relationship. Say hello. Introduce yourself if you haven’t already. Enjoy your front yard or common space more often.

Learn about problems in your area

This could be as little as learning that your neighbor needs help painting their fence, help mowing their lawn, raking their leaves, or shoveling their driveway (if you’re from my neck of the woods). It could also be as big as learning there are rezoning propositions that would allow for better public transit. In any case these issues affect you, your home, and your community. Have the courage to see a need and step into that need, even if you can just be an advocate.

Study Urban Planning

If discussing changing communities, cities and the world through design, architecture, and engineering is exciting to you or you enjoy problem solving and critical thinking, you’re not alone! MIT  has an excellent program designed specifically for Urban Planning and many other universities are developing programs of their own. Pursuing a degree in Architecture or Civil Engineering at most schools will get you where you need to go. Honestly though, a great place to start is just by taking some time to follow any research they might be producing. You can also read about the projects different firms like SASAKI  have on display on their blog and website (It’s a lot of fun).
Special thanks to Michael Olson for some great resources!

Image used courtesy under Creative Commons License courtesy of Jason Jenkins: http://ow.ly/zKu7A