Empathy, Equity, and You: Stories, Skills, and Practices

Course Details

Decades of research indicate that the most valuable skills for planners, especially for planners with long-term leadership aspirations, are the so-called “soft skills” of communication, listening, and relationship management. Increasingly, planning scholars and practitioners recognize that a rational, technical, objective approach to planning is unrealistic at best and possibly misguided. In reality, all planners — all people, in fact — think and act based on complicated interactions between emotions, thoughts, physical sensations, and relationships with the world around them. Yet, survey responses indicate a large majority of planners learn to manage the emotional dimensions of serving the public through trial and error on the job. In contrast, professional schools in fields as diverse as business and social work have put emotional and social intelligence at the center of their curricula for graduate study and professional development.

This online session will introduce practitioners to a few key concepts around empathy and compassion, as well as exercises that they can use to begin building their capacities in this area. Panelists will also offer some concrete tools to help build skills (e.g., active and deep listening, compassion, empathy, belonging, care, cultural humility, etc.) that support planners in honoring their own identities (and stories) in the work while also respecting and valuing the varied identities, stories, and experiences of community. These skills require intentionality, care, and a lifelong commitment.

This kick-off session marks the beginning of a series on building empathy and compassion skills for planners. Following this session, there will be an in-person training at the 2024 National Planning Conference in Minneapolis and a virtual training in the Summer of 2024. Stay tuned for further details.

Learning Outcomes

  • Articulate (even if only to yourself) how your own identities, thoughts, feelings, and body are shaped by a career dedicated to serving the public's interests;
  • Reflect on and engage with the challenges associated with fostering and facilitating relationships in diverse communities;
  • Identify two practical activities planners can use to practice empathy and create opportunities for connection.