“We’re one big region and all connected.” That’s how one participant described the Community Leadership Institute (CLI). The TPB trained community leaders at CLI 16 across three consecutive Thursday nights. Community leaders from across the region gathered to learn about the transportation planning process and how they can become involved in the decision-making process within their communities and across the region.
Representing communities from across the region, participants learned about the TPB and transportation planning, got to know people from different parts of the region and with different interests, and got to play some fun educational games. On the final night, one person said she was sad that it was over.
Each session included presentations and interactive discussions or games. The idea was to help community leaders learn about transportation planning in our region and to put themselves in other people’s shoes, whether agency staff working to fix traffic problems and account for future growth or imagining a future with a million more people and a million more jobs. Where should they go? How can we connect them? How can we pay for it?
“This is the most diverse group I’ve ever been a part of. It speaks to the diversity of the region.” – Gabriel Goldberg
At the end of the three sessions, participants reflected on the program and what they thought about it. On the first night, community leaders got to play the role of agency staff. They heard testimony from the public and learned about a fictitious local plan. Then they formed groups to learn what each agency’s position might be on the scenario. Finally, they worked together to find a way to come to consensus across agencies and perspectives.
Reflecting on the exercise, they said they found the scenario very complex. It wasn’t easy to work on a plan with different agency goals. The role-playing game helped them see how different agencies may approach planning and how different interest groups play a role.
On the second night, small groups learned about how complex the transportation planning process is. They learned about how long it takes, what’s involved, and how regular people have advocated for projects in the past. These presentations launched them into what TPB staff like to call, “the map game.”
For the map game, participants got to imagine our region growing. They chose where to put jobs and housing and then how to connect all those people and jobs. Here’s the spoiler, after they imagined their utopian transportation system, reality set in and each group had to figure out how to pay for everything.
These games gave participants a new perspective into how complex it is to make decisions for the region’s transportation system. While it allowed them to think big, it also provided a dose of reality to rethink their big ideas.
For the final session, participants learned about the region’s long-range transportation plan, Visualize 2045. They learned about what’s in it and took a deep dive into the aspirational element and the seven initiatives.
After choosing which initiatives they most wanted to discuss, the community leaders talked about ideas they had for projects or programs in their communities that could fit into the initiatives. They also talked about how they could convince others in their communities to get those projects done.
Finally, board member Neil Harris from Gaithersburg talked with the group about his experiences serving on the board. As a CLI graduate, he had been able to better understand the realities of transportation planning so that when he must make decisions, he has a better understanding of the context.
Overall participants said they enjoyed the program. It helped them “think regionally, and act locally.” It introduced them to people from different walks of life who represent different parts of the region and exposed them to a diversity of people and ideas.
Vincent Fusaro said the program exposed him to different layers of complexities that, “I may not have considered earlier.”
Others said they felt a greater sense of regionalism, “I felt more connected to the region at large beyond my community,” Maria Cecilia Pinto de Moura explained.
If you’re interested in learning more about the CLI visit: mwcog.org/cli
We will be recruiting for another session and look forward to meeting more community leaders soon.
Photos by Kaushambi Shah and Bryan Hayes.