Strategic plan to take CNU to a new level

With the release of the new CNU Strategic Plan at the Philadelphia Congress, the CNU board concluded an 18-month process of evaluating the emerging challenges and existing barriers to urbanism as well as identifying the organizational methods for increasing the implementation of New Urbanism. “The strategic plan sets priorities for the next several years and positions the New Urbanism to punch through to the next level,” explains Board Chair Hank Dittmar. “Members can also read it as a road map for ways to get involved in CNU, as it reconfirms our commitment to engaging our members and chapters in practical projects to change the world.”

From the outset, the board identified CNU as a membership-based advocacy and advancement group, through which members lead reform efforts based on their experience in the field. The organization’s chief roles are providing a forum to advance the discussion and to coordinate initiatives. Board member Ellen Dunham-Jones likes how the plan gives “greater attention to the organization itself — particularly through educational media campaigns and more opportunities for member involvement in chapters and initiatives.”

Major components of the plan are:

• Establish New Urbanism at the regional scale. Devote more attention to the regional scale of the Charter in order to tackle large-scale issues such as quality of life, justice, health, transportation, education, planning, and sustainability.

• Reform standards, regulations, and professional practices that obstruct urbanism. Support member-led initiatives on transportation, comprehensive plans, fire code and emergency response standards, financing and entitlement processes, green urbanism, and affordable housing.

• Communicate New Urbanism’s accomplishments and benefits directly, through the media and through professional channels. Implement a coordinated media strategy, promote research and produce educational publications.

• Build greater capacity to develop tools and spread new urbanist principles. Foster member-led initiatives to tackle new and existing challenges, develop chapters to advance regional implementation, and build the movement by building membership.

Looking ahead, Board Vice-chair Jacky Grimshaw says that “our task is not to fail in the implementation. If we are attentive, we can take CNU many moves down the ‘court’ of urbanism.” Here’s a sample of the steps the board identified to achieve the plan’s objectives:

• Develop a set of diagrams and tools for the regional scale to complement those that already exist for the neighborhood-through-building scales of the Charter.

• Follow the CNU-ITE major thoroughfares manual by beginning a second design manual for small streets and the network.

• Develop a 2030 Community Challenge to make development patterns and transportation an essential part of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

• Use market research to raise the profile of the potential of New Urbanism.

• Research performance of street design in terms of emergency response and public safety.

• Have five chapters fully established by 2008 and improve dissemination and information gathering between chapters and the general membership.

Summing up its potential, board member Todd Zimmerman says, “The plan strikes an impressive balance between the continued refinement of the principles of the New Urbanism, and a multifaceted effort to overcome impediments to implementation of the principles at every scale from a single mixed-use building to a transect-linked region.”

For more information on the strategic plan and ways to get involved with implementation, visit