International Planning

About the Program

The International Planning program within the Northern Section seeks to educate and inform members about planning issues going on throughout the world. The program organizes planning tours to expand the horizon of our members as well as initiates collaboration with international partners. Please check out our poster Purposeful Travel Sparks Innovation.

International Planning Tours

The main objectives of the tours:

  • Explore cities with fellow travelers that share a common interest in urban planning.
  • Meet with our counterparts to understand the planning issues facing these cities, and how they are responding to urban problems and challenges.
  • Chat with university academics to learn about their urban planning programs and curriculum.
  • Create a dialog with elected officials in how they deal with planning policies affecting their municipality.
  • Understand the history of visited cities and how it has shaped the culture, social fabric, economy and physical form of these cities.
  • Enjoy the impressive architecture, arts and culture, culinary delights and sights of each city through guided tours and self-discovery.
  • Exchange U.S. urban planning knowledge and ideas with governmental planners, educators and planning organizations; establish continuing relationships for future exchange opportunities.

International Planning Collaboration

Building upon the contacts gained from the Northern Section’s International Planning Tours, our International Planning Collaboration program is off to a good start. The first collaboration is a pilot project with the Municipality of São Paulo, Mackenzie Presbyterian University in São Paulo, and the American Planning Association. Assisted by an APA National Chapter Presidents Council “micro” grant, a funding match from the Northern Section, and much appreciated pro bono work contributions from planners both in Northern California and in São Paulo.

The second collaboration is with the City of Ouro Preto, Brazil, the São Cristóvão neighborhood (more commonly referred to as Veloso), San José State University, and APA. A SJSU class of twelve students spent one week in Ouro Preto collecting data and talking to Veloso residents in January 2018. Several community workshops were conducted by APA and SJSU. The workshops generated a list of opportunities and constraints, plus a prioritized list of community needs subsequently included in a grant application the São Cristóvão Residents Association submitted to the Inter-American Foundation.

The third collaboration is with PLANRED (Chilean Planners Network) on co-sponsoring series of COVID-19 Conversations: California, Chile, and Beyond online webinars in 2020. The first was COVID-19 — Planning Issues, Questions, and Responses on Friday, May 22. Additional COVID-19 Conversations included collaborations with the APA New York Metro Chapter on July 23 and July 30 (COVID Conversations — Checking Cities in Uncertain Times), and the APA Illinois Chapter on October 29 (COVID Conversations — Planning for Equity in a Pandemic and Beyond: Insights from Illinois and Chile).

For future collaborations, we are proposing to make our program more accessible for students and emerging, young planners by arranging shorter, less expensive in-person activities when it is safe to travel again. We would like to accomplish this by refocusing our primary collaboration activities to be with entities located along or adjacent to the Pacific Rim in the Americas ― from Vancouver, Canada to Tierra del Fuego, Chile ― or around the Caribbean. This geographic focus will enable us to build upon and expand current relationships.

Purposeful Travel: A Tool Kit for Initiating International Collaboration

Purposeful international travel provides planners with fresh knowledge and adds skills to their repertoire. Most planners enjoy travel — exploring interesting places, meeting new people, and tasting different food. Many also yearn to volunteer or work professionally in other countries. Planning professionals, professors, and students—whether on a study tour, attending a conference, or working together on a project abroad—are well positioned to gain meaningful insights. This tool kit — Purposeful Travel – A Planner’s Tool Kit for Initiating International Collaboration — will assist you and your colleagues in forming international planning tours and launching international planning collaborations.

Map of the Middle East, displaying Egypt, Turkey, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and UAE

Upcoming International Tour to The Middle East

We were enthusiastic when we started planning for the seventh APA California Northern Section’s International Tour in late 2019. We had narrowed the Middle East tour down to three countries (Israel, Jordan, and Egypt) that was scheduled for October 2020. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tour was delayed for several years.

The planning for an international planning tour to the Middle East was just about to restart in late 2023. Unfortunately, this has indefinitely been put on hold due to the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas (around Gaza) that erupted months ago. In late 2024 or early 2025, we will review other locations to visit as an option if the Middle East does not seemed feasible.

Past International Tours

Urban Planning Tour to Southeast Asia

In 2017, we organized our sixth international planning tour offered to Southeast Asia. The itinerary included Singapore; Hanoi, Vietnam; Mekong Delta, Vietnam; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Bandung, Indonesia. The optional post-tour included Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

Urban Planning Tour to Eastern Europe

Twenty-seven APA colleagues embarked on a multi-country, international planning tour of Eastern Europe in June 2014. The group visited Belgrade, Serbia; Budapest, Hungary; Krakow, Poland; Tallinn, Estonia; and St. Petersburg and Moscow, Russia. Half of the group went on a pre-tour to Prague, Czech Republic.

Urban Planning Tour of Brazil

Seventeen urban planners traveled to Brazil in August 2012 on a sixteen-day tour which included meetings and workshops with local urban planners while experiencing the visual and cultural highlights of the country. The tour started in São Paulo, the largest city and the financial capital of South America.

Urban Planning Tour of India

A group of eighteen urban planners traveled to India in October 2009 on a twenty-day tour, combining meetings and discussions with local planners and architects in concert with a sampling of the cultural highlights of the country. The tour began in Delhi and ended in Mumbai, including stops in Chandigargh, Jaipur, Udaipur, and Ahmedabad.

Urban Planning Tour of China

In May and June of 2007, two groups of nineteen urban planners completed a comprehensive urban planning tour of China. Lasting seventeen (17) days, the tour began in Hong Kong and included stops in the cities of Macau, Guilin / Yangshuo, Shanghai, Suzhou, Nanjing, and Xi’an, before ending in Beijing.

Urban Planning Tour of Cuba

In October 2003, ten urban planners attended the first international tour sponsored by the Northern Section. To comply with the Treasury Department’s people-to-people educational exchange rules for travels to Cuba, our group had personal encounters with Cuban planners, architects, artists, and other locals.

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