Community visioning for resilient futures
Described as an “architect of public process,” Steven Ames is widely recognized for his work in community visioning and civic engagement. As founding principal of NXT Consulting Group LLC and his own private consultancy, Ames has advised the long-range planning efforts of scores of cities and regions in North America and overseas.
Ames is the author of the award-winning American Planning Association handbook, A Guide to Community Visioning, and innovator of its Oregon Model, featured in APA's Planning and Urban Design Standards. The model is inspired in part by the concept of anticipatory democracy – blending civic foresight with grassroots public participation and action.
“The Oregon Model is a ‘whole-of-community’ planning approach that links environmental sustainability with such concerns as growth management, livability, social equity, and more recently, resiliency,” he said. “One aspect of this approach is incorporation of futures research to better understand how societal trends are driving change, resulting in more strategic visions; another is monitoring and measuring planned change over time through community indicators. While the tools are constantly changing, my focus continues to be engaging people in building communities that endure and thrive.”
Ames has applied this approach over the years to help clients achieve signature outcomes, including Arizona's first-ever urban growth boundary in Flagstaff; one of the nation's first LEED-certified city halls in Hillsboro, Oregon; a vision plan for Blue Mountains, Australia, a city inside a World Heritage national park; a regional research and innovation district for Washington’s Wenatchee Valley, leveraging its agriculture, natural resource and renewable energy economies, and the largest civic conversation in the history of his hometown, Bend, Oregon.
Ames credits two professors emeriti for their guidance: Jim Crowfoot for skillfully mentoring his graduate educational experience and Donald Michael for inspiring his career in long-range community planning. “Don had a profound influence on my way of thinking about the world. His courses and insights into long-term societal change were foundational to my career development - and my life.”