Urban and regional planning
YOUR WORK AS A PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER:
The influx of rural migrants to urban areas has created severe strains on the fledgling infrastructures of developing nations and has resulted in congestion, pollution, unemployment, lack of housing, and deteriorating transport. As a Peace Corps Volunteer in urban planning, you work closely with local planners and administrators. You may provide technical assistance to address issues such as: housing, potable water systems, sewage disposal, zoning, and land-use controls. You may also assist in developing accurate data for decision makers, conducting a community assessment, analyzing resources, and providing alternate models if applicable. Other Peace Corps projects that improve the quality of life include self-help housing, infrastructure planning, economic development, municipal management, and urban community development. The exact goals of your project will vary according to the type of project, your qualifications, and the location of your assignment. In collaboration with local government officials and community leaders, your responsibilities may include:
- assisting in creating initiatives for local economic development;
- assisting in developing appropriate environmental planning regulations;
- conducting a community assessment to identify strengths and needs;
- conducting land-use planning and zoning studies;
- assisting in planning and implementing affordable services that ensure safe drinking water, sanitation systems, and solid waste management;
- determining how to use available energy resources and preparing proposals with relevant supporting data.
In addition to your primary duties, you coordinate other activities depending on community interests and skills. For example, you may teach English to your co-workers or help create income-generating projects with a women’s group or with youth who are considered at risk. Urban planning is new to many developing countries. It is vital that you understand not only the myriad of technical problems, but also the cultural views and social and political context in which you operate. Your assignment may have little or no established structure or schedule. You continually define your role in response to the needs of the local people. Your creativity, flexibility, self-motivation, and self-discipline may be vigorously challenged as you establish credibility and adapt to your new environment. You need to have a variety of organizational, communication, and consensus-building skills and an ability to formulate action plans to help deal with complex problems and scarce resources. You must also keep in mind that your role is that of an advisor so that the organization will continue to sustain itself even after your departure. Your can-do attitude and your willingness to work with your hosts to find appropriate solutions will help people to help themselves.
EXAMPLES OF PEACE CORPS PROJECTS
Since regaining its independence in 1991, Lithuania has been experiencing an economic and political transformation. Peace Corps Small Enterprise Development Volunteers collaborate with the Ministry of Economics to aid in the transition to a market economy. Volunteers provide support to Lithuania’s privatization efforts and help create regional economic development plans. They also conduct workshops to: encourage more efficient local and regional governmental planning; provide hands-on financial and management assistance to local governmental entities; provide organizational development expertise to non-governmental organizations; provide training in the development of brochures, informational booklets, and other materials on industrial development, social services; and serve as a resource to other business Volunteers. Volunteers help counterparts develop a long-term sustainable capacity to continue to provide similar services even after their departure.
Rapid urbanization is causing a shortage of skilled human resources, funds for basic services, and an alienation of the vast majority of grassroots constituents. Peace Corps Volunteers are assigned to municipal/city or provincial governments and responsibilities include: general public administration (budget preparation and planning); research on local government laws and legal advocacy; physical planning (land-use, zoning regulations, road/transport systems, water works and sewage, low-income housing); pollution control (environmental impact assessment, solid waste management, research on environmental laws); networking with non-governmental organizations; and community consultation on public interest issues.
The Peace Corps’ Urban Environmental Management project encourages grass-roots initiatives for community-based urban services. Volunteers work as part of a team of at least four members, including two Volunteers and two Ivoirian colleagues. Their work combines planning, engineering, and construction with environmental/health education and serves to reinforce existing infrastructure or services while teaching the population about health hazards. Volunteers focus on the organization and development of municipal sanitation systems: low-cost and no-cost erosion control, latrines, road maintenance, and garbage collection systems.
QUALIFICATIONS FOR PEACE CORPS ASSIGNMENTS IN URBAN AND REGIONAL PLANNING INCLUDE:
A. BA/BS or MA/MS Urban/Regional Planning, OR B. MA/MS Public Administration or Public Policy with Urban Planning emphasis, OR C. BA/BS Architecture, Urban Studies or Geography AND one year Urban Planning experience, OR D. BA/BS any discipline with five years professional experience (3 years directly related to urban planning).