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  • Great Lakes Urban

Board Member Spotlight: Meet Chris Schock

Meet our Board Member, Chris Schock! With a background as a planner, economic director, and community development director, Chris brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the organization.

Can you tell us a little about yourself, Chris?

Currently, I live abroad in southern Spain after retiring from the trenches of public service. I’m pleased to serve on the Great Lakes Urban board because I realized many of the grassroots efforts of community groups, foundations, chambers, churches, and neighborhood activists and the efforts of municipalities are often occurring like ships in the night. I spent over 25 years as a planner, economic developer, and community development director in 7 US States including as the Director of Planning, Community and Economic Development for Wausau, Wisconsin, Executive Director of the Clinton County, Ohio Regional Planning Commission and held roles with the Los Angeles Housing Department, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements, and remains an expert consultant to US FEMA- and of course one of the biggest challenges to aligning efforts are the silos that exist between economic development, urban planning and community development folks.

I was originally called to the vocation of planning and community development work having grown up in Cleveland, Ohio in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and wondering about the ‘why’ of the realities of the rustbelt. A better appreciation of the tenets of ABCD would have been instrumental in helping to address the cataclysmic and multidimensional impacts of the rustbelt economic adjustment. Having witnessed it for 18 years, it’s what drew me to get a Master of Science in Development Economics from the London School of Economics in the United Kingdom along with Bachelor and Master degrees in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Cincinnati.

You’ve been involved in a lot of good work on behalf of multiple cities and counties. Tell us, what’s uniquely important about the mission of Great Lakes Urban?

Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) driven efforts are especially timely for 2 primary reasons: 1. grassroots neighborhood level programs are the most valuable in breaking down divisive politics; and 2. an increased recognition that poor physical planning and a lack of social connectedness have real public health costs.

Finally, Chris, what would you say to other planners, developers and community leaders about the value of our CommunityWorks framework? The planning profession today certainly acknowledges the importance of quality citizen participation and community listening, but programs using Asset Based Community Development methodologies take those efforts further- empowering local neighbors to take responsibility for addressing change. The CommunityWorks framework is a four phase, step-by-step process that has proven effective in our home communities in West Michigan for more than a decade. Any city, but especially those grappling with significant change, be it rustbelt style disinvestment or sunbelt style influxes of new development will benefit from implementing the CommunityWorks framework at the neighborhood level to increase social connectivity. Investing in a better connected neighborhood is the best and proven way to determine what physical improvements are most valuable, how to define meaningful economic development, and improve mental and public health. And while the profession also acknowledges that implementation is key to plan success, the fact is, there are already many grassroots leaders and neighborhood activists, and business leaders who planners and elected leaders need to empower through the public planning process. A planning office should be looking to identify and empower up and coming community leaders and fostering neighborhood institutions and efforts.

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