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Sustainable Communities Learning Network by PlaceMatters

The National Sustainable Communities Learning Network connects a community of people working to develop more sustainable, prosperous and equitable communities and regions. Organizations that have received technical assistance or grants from the federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are eligible to participate in the Learning Network and receive other capacity building services. PlaceMatters is part of a team of expert non-profit organizations, led by the Institute for Sustainable Communities, that provides capacity building assistance to members of the Learning Network.

PlaceMatters provides resources to the entire Learning Network (over 100 local and regional governments) via webinars, print resources, and office hours. We also link communities to one another for peer learning, and provide direct assistance to selected communities. Our assistance is focused specifically on broadening and improving community engagement and integrating informed decision-making into local and regional planning. Informed decision-making includes the use of data, analyses, and visualizations to illuminate past trends, current conditions, changes over time, and the potential outcomes that may result from specific decisions or external influences (e.g., scenario planning).

Community engagement and informed decision-making are mutually supportive: the process of collecting and analyzing data offers opportunities for meaningfully engaging community members early in the decision-making process; tools for visualizing and exploring data help community members better understand key issues, opportunities, and trade-offs; and well-informed community members are able to participate more effectively in the decision-making process.

As a Capacity Building Intermediary for the Learning Network, PlaceMatters’ specific objectives include:

  • Build the capacity of communities and regions to integrate scenario planning and community engagement
  • Assist communities in selecting and deploying the most effective tools and techniques for scenario planning and community engagement
  • Support peer-to-peer learning by developing case studies of how communities have effectively deployed tools and techniques for scenario planning and community engagement
  • Assist communities in incorporating data related to economic resilience, housing, transit, TOD, natural hazards, social equity and other key topics into decision-making
  • Encourage the continued use of scenario planning and community engagement tools to support implementation after the grant-funding period
  • Develop or improve open-source tools that grantees can use for scenario planning and community engagement