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What is Equity Planning?

Updated: Jan 29, 2021

This blog post was written by Annalise Bennett, NDC planning intern.

There are many different planning philosophies, but the two that resonate the most with me are advocacy and equity planning. Though they involve a slightly different approach, they both aspire to reduce inequalities and dedicate resources and services to underrepresented and marginalized groups.

Advocacy planning was conceptualized in the 1960s and 70s by planner Paul Davidoff and his wife Linda Stone Davidoff.

There was a significant lack of representation of minorities in the planning profession and Davidoff felt that greater inclusion could be achieved through specifically reaching out to these underrepresented groups and advocating for their needs and desires. This was especially important as most planners at the time, and still today, were white and middle-class. These advocacy planners became interpreters for the communities, and eventually “advocacy” positions began being created in city government agencies in the 1970s in some major cities—including Cleveland.

Paul Davidoff

Cleveland is also where modern equity planning was born through renowned planner Norm Krumholz.

Krumholz came to Cleveland in 1969 as city planning director under the first Black mayor of a large American city, Carl Stokes. Despite the milestone of having a black mayor, there was still a great deal of racial inequity in Cleveland; Krumholz witnessed massive inequalities between black and white residents regarding poverty, unemployment, property abandonment, and crime, among many other issues, and tried to strive towards making the city more equitable. He urged local government institutions to give priority attention to creating greater opportunity for areas with little.

Norm Krumholz and Carl Stokes.

Both of these planning theories focus on bridging the gaps; advocacy planning magnifies the voices of groups that would otherwise go unheard, while equity planning advocates for policies and services that will reduce inequalities between marginalized, low-income areas and wealthier areas with far more opportunity.

I believe that planners have an important duty to act as a link between the community and local government. We must do everything in our power to make sure the needs of the community can be met. And that means all members of the community, not just those with the most wealth and power.

While planners often feel they don’t have much power, they do have the power to ensure the most underrepresented members of the community are actually listened to and valued during the planning process.


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