On April 2, City Impact Lab entered the realm of Zoom, with some 20 L.A. leaders and influencers joining us on the journey. Our guest was Will Wright, the Director of Government and Public Affairs for the Los Angeles chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA|LA).
As Los Angeles’ chief advocate for better architecture and urban design, Will helps bring together design thinkers and civic leaders to solve problems and set priorities. During our BYOB (bring-your-own-breakfast) online session, he shared his top three tactics for convening a diversity of interests and emerging with forward-moving results:
Tactic #1: Start from a position of research.
Always be learning and striving to understand the different constituencies you’re convening. Listen to a range of community groups and positions and know who’s doing what. And when everyone’s together, observe the natural flow of discussion and ideas.
Tactic #2: Keep the big picture in mind.
It’s very easy to get lost in the day-to-day conflicts, the objections one party might have to another’s point of view. And in the case of city planning, the media can stir the pot, adding extra drama. You (and those in discussion) can and will work through them if you have the same goal in sight.
Tactic #3: Assemble all the parties necessary to ensure the ecosystem of the decision-makers will survive.
This means convening the right people so that the decisions made support development that is used. enjoyed, and sustainable over the long term. Will expanded on this idea: “The quality of ideas depends on how comfortable the members of the community are with sharing their ideas. Some of the best solutions come when you put two opposing groups together.”
Here’s a snippet:
Before we broke up into small-group discussions in virtual “rooms,” Will shared his future vision for Los Angeles as a model of city planning:
“The more time we spend with each other, the more time we spend outdoors, in active mobility, reconnecting with each other, I think the rest of the nation, if not the entire world, will start to look at L.A. as perhaps a bellwether, encouraging other communities going through similar transformations.”
The attendees then broke into smaller groups to discuss the question, “What are you doing to connect with your community at a time when we can’t be together?”
Thanks to all who joined us online. Watch for the announcement of our May Virtual City Impact Lab—see you there!