What We Do
czb has extensive experience providing clients with concise and actionable plans that help residents and policymakers understand and shape their markets and their communities by addressing fundamental opportunities and challenges.
- Asking the right questions
To us, asking the right question is a matter of having the right data. We use a mixed method, quantitative and qualitative approach.
Facts matter. That’s why we insist on rigorous quantitative analysis in every project. We use publicly available source and data we collect ourselves via proprietary methods.
But we also know that feelings matter. So we design planning processes that tap into the views and opinions of the citizens and leaders who know a community best. What are the unrealized hopes and fears? Where is the community’s emotion focused? What do the numbers fail to tell us?
At its core, we think that urban planning is really the lost art of urban truth telling. The truth is a story that we learn through our research and distill into a narrative that is easy to understand. Too many planning processes fail to dig deep to find out what is really going on, and therefore miss the chance to truly inform. Likewise, too many resulting planning documents are dry technical reports for technocrats instead of citizen planners, and therefore miss the chance to truly inspire.
It is almost never the case that a community facing a difficult challenge has access to an easy answer. It is almost always the case that achieving the goals a city or town has for itself requires behavioral change. When business as usual isn’t working, we can help you figure out why. Where is the community stuck? Where are the places where a community won’t compromise? Where are the leadership holes? What can a community do that it is not presently doing?1. Quantitative and Qualitative Work2. Figuring Out The Story, and Telling It3. Locating The Adaptive Challenge
- Building while designing
We don’t believe in planning for its own sake. Our planning projects spur action before the plan goes to print.
Our mixed method approach, combined with intensive steering committee work, helps us get to the heart of community issues quickly. And the sooner we all get there, the sooner we start working on addressing them.
We work with the community to determine what can be done in a realistic timeframe, given current resources. If a soon-to be-recommended program or project comes with a lot of zeroes, we start talking about it early and often. If a challenge or opportunity seems too big to tackle, or there seem to be too many to tackle, we help you frame your hard choices during the planning process, not after.
Ultimately, a plan is about making choices. We will ask your community to make choices through meaningful exercises, which will shape the content of the final plan. Which priorities are “must haves?” Which are “nice to haves?” Who will put their money where their mouths are? Will government pay for what it says it wants? Will the private sector do its part?1. Early Hunches Tested Often2. Real Numbers and Real Problems3. Meaningful Give/Get Work
- Growing the capacity to implement
What happens after the plan is finished? Who carries it forward? To czb, these are the most important questions. So our processes are designed with these questions in mind.
We’re not here to tell you what to do. After all, when our work is done, we will depart and you’ll be in charge of making the change the community says it wants. That’s why we rely on a representative steering committee of people who have skin in the game. By the time a plan or strategy is adopted, the committee is a group of champions for the work that comes next.
Where most planning consultants ask stakeholders to list their values on ﬂip charts, or to give feedback using the latest app, czb facilitates a genuine dialogue in the community designed to bring to the surface the values a community holds dear, the priorities a community believes require action, and the principles on which actions should be based.
In our experience, the most actionable and durable plans are relatively short and simple, and they revolve around the three components that we think are critical to the success.
Core Values: These are the characteristics or aspirations at the core of a community -- what people are willing to fight for the most to preserve or achieve.
Planning Principles: These are the standards that should be used to help a community evaluate its choices -- to make critical decisions when the predictable and unpredictable occur.
Priorities: These are the three to five focal points that demand concerted energy and attention over the planning horizon -- and that should be approached in ways that align with the community's values and planning principles.1. Reliance on a Steering Committee2. Real Public Engagement3. Values, Principles, Priorities