Image by Ted Eytan licensed under Creative Commons.

Recently a reader emailed us to ask how they could become more engaged in the local urban planning community:

I'm a DC resident who has recently become interested in a career in urban planning. As I've begun researching grad schools, I've realized I need to become more plugged in to community dialogues that relate to urban planning. To that effect, your site has been an extremely valuable resource for me.

Can you recommend ways for me to become more plugged in? Any neighborhood listservs, community councils, or volunteer organizations that have an urban planning focus would be of great interest to me.

Great question! Here's what a few of our contributors suggest:

Editorial Board member Joanne Tang says,

I have a background in public administration and policy, and found GGWash through those circles. I then started noticing that GGWash people would go to the same events.

To get more academic conversions, I suggest going to lectures and events at university urban planning and policy departments. Businesses like SOM and Gensler have free events, too. I went to the Kerner Commission at 50 conference in March because it was free and local, and it was focused heavily on civil rights with a nexus to housing and transit.

For truly community-based conversation, go to all kinds of local government meetings and National Capital Planning Commission meetings. They’re long and sometimes tedious, but I find that you can observe the types of community input present (or not present) and what kinds of comments residents make. Community meetings have helped me see what my community neighbors (who live very differently since they’re in duplexes and I’m in a condo building) see as a priority.

For casual conversation, there’s GGWash’s happy hours where you can just talk to people and get involved as a contributor. Free events are a good bridge to say, TranspoCamp.

Contributor Alex Baca recommends,

Learning how and why stuff works the way that it does is really important but is, more often than not, complicated. I usually recommend that people go to as many public meetings as they can stand to get more involved, but sometimes why an ANC is addressing something doesn't make any sense. You should still go to as many public meetings as you can stand.

I still think that reading is the best. I've plugged my crazy reading list before and I have a section for Washington, DC that I refer people to quite frequently. Just read everything you possibly can about the place that you are living in.

Also volunteer—for GGWash, for CSG, for WABA, for Casey Trees, for Anacostia Watershed Society, for other orgs that I am not thinking of at this moment but that definitely need your time and resources.

Overall, just keep asking “why?” about things and figure out the answers, whether through Googling or asking someone else or whatever. There's always a reason and, if you don't like the reason, you can get involved to change it.

Contributor Elizabeth Whitton adds,

Check out events at the National Building Museum and some of the professional associations that are based in DC, such as the American Institute of Architects, US Green Building Council, American Society of Landscape Architects, and the American Planning Association, especially any time they offer more localized programming.

Finally, get more involved with GGWash! Editorial Board member Dan Malouff says,

Write for GGWash! Seriously. The GGWash contributor list is a networking and educational dream, and writing stories for us forces you to hone your thought processes and skills, helps you build a portfolio of work, and puts your name out there. Obviously write only what you'd want a potential future employer/school to see, but don't underestimate GGWash itself as a resource.

Another group to check out is Young Professionals in Transportation (YPT). GGWash readers: What do you suggest? Please let us know in the comments below!

Julie Strupp is Greater Greater Washington's Managing Editor. She's a journalist committed to building inclusive, equitable communities and finding solutions. Previously she's written for DCist, Washingtonian, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, and others. You can usually find her sparring with her judo club, pedaling around the city, or chatting with her neighbors on her Columbia Heights stoop.