The primary purpose of the program is to use law and negotiation theory to help local leaders understand that solutions to complex and persistent problems are more likely to be reached through authentic collaborative initiatives than the typical adversarial process. To increase the effectiveness of each program, it is taught on a “train-the-trainer” model so that participants are empowered to share what they experienced with others. As a result, it encourages the creation of leadership networks, initiates and supports grassroots regionalism, creates opportunities for civic engagement and fosters intentionally sustainable communities.
The curriculum is designed to make the following “tipping points”
This four-day program, taught over eight weeks, has two substantive components: land use law and negotiation theory applied to community decision making. Each day of training has three activities: lecture, discussion or role-play and social networking. Leaders are contacted in between each day of training to evaluate the program and provide comments for the upcoming sessions. The final day of the program ends with a graduation ceremony where leaders get a plaque commemorating their participation. After each program, the Land Use Law Center provides post-graduate assistance through community workshops, research reports, e-newsletter, or conferences.
For each program, a steering committee is formed to identify appropriate leaders for the program. The committee uses the following criteria to decide if someone is appropriate: experience and knowledge regarding land use and community issues; will be active in the community for a meaningful period; reasonable in approach to community problems, and; respected among interest groups in the community.
When leaders are identified as candidates, they are contacted by phone informing them of the opportunity and sent an application. All contacts with the candidates acknowledge their status as a leader in the community and seek input on the issues they face. The goal is to identify opinion leaders in the community and demonstrate to them that these four days will help them be more effective leaders.
New patterns of development, new building design, local environmental laws and new subdivision layouts that offer alternatives to sprawl are “innovations” that improve on the land use system. When innovations are adopted and a community improves on the pattern of land development, other communities only benefit if they learn about, and act, on the new approach. Helping communities learn about and implement local innovations is the foundation of the LULA training program.
The mechanism by which these innovations “diffuse” from one community to another was thoroughly addressed by the sociologist Everret M. Rodgers. Rodgers instructs us that diffusion is the process by which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system. “Most individuals evaluate an innovation, not on the basis of scientific research by experts, but through the subjective evaluations of near-peers who have adopted the innovation. These near-peers thus serve as social models, whose innovation behavior tends to be imitated by others in their system.”
Rodgers identifies three major components for the diffusion of innovation to take place:
These “early adopters” and “champions of change” are the types of leaders who should be targeted for participation in a LULA.
Starting in 2004, the Center created the Gaining Ground internet database and e-newsletter to improve leaders’ access to local innovations. Through training and research, the Center learns of local innovations and adds them to the internet database (www.landuse.law.pace.edu). When an innovation is unique and regionally relevant, it is featured in the e-newsletter and circulated to local leaders. Leaders can sign up for the newsletter by visiting the Center’s home page at www.law.pace.edu/landuse. The library and e-newsletter have created a positive feedback loop providing local leaders with several access points to information about other communities and the lessons of the LULA.
The LULA is for all those who care about their community. It takes very busy local leaders, deals with the challenges they are facing, and helps them to be more effective leaders when confronting issues related to growth.
Carol Ash Palisades Interstate Park Commission
Graduates of several programs in one community teamed up to save a critical environmental resource while committing the local government to provide much-needed affordable housing.
Over 84% of the participants ranked the program as excellent or very good.
For more information on LULA in Connecticut, visit the sister site.