Michael Brown’s 2016 ULI Fall Meeting Blog
I was ecstatic to learn in September that the Rose Center for Public Leadership would provide the opportunity for me to attend my first ULI global meeting in Dallas, Texas. Being one of 140 employees at the Montgomery County Planning Department competing for limited funding for professional conferences, the Rose Center scholarship guaranteed my attendance at the ULI Fall Meeting from October 24 to 27. Because this was my first meeting, I did not know what to expect. However, based on previous participation at local ULI Washington events, I was certain that I would not be disappointed.
The session “Urban Plan for Public Officials” was the best introduction to the week. This exercise involved public sector planners and officials role-playing as a development team responding to a request for proposals from the fictional Yorktown Redevelopment Agency. Well-organized and executed, the session provided me with a broader perspective of private developer’s risks and introduced me to new public sector friends. I’m currently garnering support to bring the activity to the Montgomery County Planning Department.
As a first-time visitor to Dallas, I appreciated the many opportunities to explore the city outside the confines of the convention halls. With my first session being located off-site, I was introduced to the Dallas Arts District and its collection of public art, open spaces, architecture and streetscapes. That first evening ended with a reception at the exceptional Klyde Warren Park built above the freeway nestled between the Arts District and Uptown Dallas. There, I enjoyed touring the park, meeting other attendees and cementing newly formed professional relationships.
The sessions and panels were thoughtful and inspiring. One of my key take-aways was from the session, “Rethinking Community Engagement.” In his introduction, Dan Pitera, Director of the Detroit Collaborative Design Center, spoke eloquently about the two major approaches to community engagement: transactional and transformational. Our planning department executes many community engagement plans every year, yet we often struggle with to create strategies that are meaningful to both the process and participants. Dan’s words, “work through transactional to move to transformational,” created a moment of epiphany that has already begun to reshape my approach to these efforts.
I’m also grateful to the Rose Center for providing the venue to connect with many of the invited speakers and other public sector attendees. I spoke with Mr. Pitera individually at two other Rose Center-sponsored events to discuss his work in more detail. We exchanged contact information and have continued our conversation via email. Now that I am back at the Montgomery County Planning Department, I am applying many of the lessons learned from the conference and looking forward to more fruitful experiences with the Rose Center in the future.