How do we build a stronger movement?

Lynn Richards, Thursday, February 18, 2016

With CNU’s twenty-fifth birthday just around the corner, I’m reminded of Margaret Mead, who said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” Isn’t this what CNU has accomplished over the past 23 years?

I’ve said before that I believe we, as a movement, are at a tipping point.  Cities are cool again, and the public is demanding more choice in where and how they live, work, play, and get around. Instead of asking, “Why do this?” local decision makers are asking, “How do we do this?”

We need to position CNU to help answer that call. How can we harness the power of CNU members, aka “the swarm?” How can we build and expand the scope of our work and resources? Most importantly, how can we get more tools and information in the hands of the folks who need it? 

These are the issues that we sought to address in CNU’s 2016-2018 Strategic Plan. For over 18 months, we solicited input from the full range of CNU supporters: members, partners, founders, funders, friends, and advisors. The result is a vision for CNU’s next three years that acknowledges our unique role in the placemaking movement, identifies key areas where we can increase our impact, and commits to significantly scaling up New Urbanist principles, strategies, and approaches. 

From 2016-2018, the plan identifies three key areas for CNU to build on its strengths:

  • Empowering cities and towns
  • Changing policies and standards
  • Building strategic partnerships

These three areas are intertwined, and they’re designed to bridge the gap between the Charter for the New Urbanism and the current state of the placemaking movement. Each key area represents a major opportunity to expand our impact, leverage new resources, and spread New Urbanism to more communities. Ultimately, it all ties back to building places people love—sustainable, equitable, beautiful communities that offer health and prosperity to all residents and businesses. 

So, how are we making this plan a reality?

Last month, we launched Public Square: A CNU Journal, a publication with original reporting, analysis, debate, and tools guided by Editor-In-Chief Rob Steuteville. We’re also working with partners across the country on initiatives like HUD financing rules (The Unintended Consequences of Housing Finance), newly updated fire codes, Build a Better Burb, and reports and resources, like the forthcoming Practitioner’s Guide for Implementing Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) in Multimodal Thoroughfare Design, developed in collaboration with the Federal Highway Administration, the Institute for Transportation Engineers, and the National Association of City Transportation Officials

Meanwhile, we’re working to accelerate the efforts of our members. Later this month we’re helping members to host a climate roundtable, and in the next several months we will revive the CNU Councils beginning in March, support the upcoming City Building Exchange in New Orleans, hold four legacy charrettes in the Detroit area, and scale up R John Anderson’s incredibly popular developer boot camps—a runaway success in their first year.

Finally, we’ve opened registration for CNU 24 in Detroit, which will be (we hope) a totally unique Congress experience built to transform how our members think about and approach their work at home.

With this strategic plan guiding our efforts and investments, CNU will be in its strongest position ever as the organization turns 25. Together, we’ll enter our second quarter-century with our reach broadened, our impact deepened, and our capacity to create change strengthened like never before. 

CNU is about creating lasting change—and baby, we’re just catching our second wind.  

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