Lean, Efficient, Effective, An Interview
ACP Visioning+Planning is closing after 16 years. Founder and Principal Gianni Longo has established a new organization Gianni Longo, Inc. to continue his work. In this interview he responds to questions from staff about the transition.
How is the new firm different?
Gianni Longo, Inc. is both similar to and different from ACP. My commitment to public engagement is unchanged. What is different is how I go about it.
Over the years I have observed how public engagement has become increasingly stodgy, time consuming, and costly. Part of the reason for that has been its success. Whereas before it was a choice that communities choose to exercise, it has now become a necessity. And that is a good trend. But success has led to processes that are uniform and homogenized, filled with redundant checks and balances that slow things. The economy is also changed. Few communities can today afford the leisurely and lengthy efforts of the past
What I am working with now is a lean and streamlined process that retain legitimacy and is defensible but does not take months to be implemented and focuses on strategic solutions rather than comprehensive ones. Our work in Imagine Lubbock Together, in Lubbock, Texas is a good example of that: short, efficient, and strategically to the point.
To accomplish that level of extensive engagement and efficiency requires a strict collaboration with the client. It requires more time designing a process but less implementing it. In Lubbock we designed and implemented the process with the community. The result was a fresh and creative approach attractive to the consultant and the community.
In the past you emphasized the link between physical environment and public engagement. Does that link remain?
Yes of course. I am an architect by training and I am profoundly interested in the physical reality of our cities. I love cities, which is why I am in this business. Whatever the essence of a city is—beautiful, friendly, soothing, debasing, destructive, dystopian, etc.— we see and perceive that essence through its public places, its public realm. So in no way can planning for a community, or a region, occur without dealing with and affecting place. We seem to have forgotten that truth and the bad results are all around us.
I will continue to operate with the expectation that the visions and plans I conduct will help create great places.
Will you continue to focus on regional visions and plans?
This has been a slow evolution, for me personally and for the planning practice in general. I have gone from working almost exclusively with cities to working almost exclusively with regions. The reason for that is that regions are the cities of today and that most of the big issues of place, environment, economy, and health are really regional issues.
I will continue in this journey because I believe that community engagement and visioning can have their biggest impact in regions. It is there that building consensus is the only way to address growth, economic development, transportation, and quality of life issues and to make a real difference.