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Thread: DC-area volunteer opportunities for non-planner

  1. #1

    DC-area volunteer opportunities for non-planner

    Question, in short: what kind of volunteering opportunities are there, in the DC area, in smart growth/planning/urbanism/city development, etc? Basically so I can get my head around what this means in the real world.

    Background (I know not everyone wants to read a lot of background, so I put the question up first):
    I'm not a planner by any means -- I work in business -- but after reading Jane Jacobs, which a friend had recommended to me, I realized that my somewhat incoherent interest in cities and urbanism was actually shared by other people, and after spending way too much time on this forum (ever try to explain to your boss you're too tired because you spent all night reading an online forum?) I've realized I'm very interested.

    I've started wondering how I can move beyond just being an armchair reader of blogs and books. I definitely am not planning to and am not in any position to quit my job any time soon; and at this point the thought of going back to school is still not really on the table, it's very tentative. But I figure I'm in DC, I'd like to get a sense of what opportunities are out there -- I figure maybe there are some policy-type places I could volunteer at, being in the capital and all?

    In the off chance I do decide to pursue this further, it seems to me that some relevant volunteer experience would be good for applying (right?), and if I don't end up pursuing planning, I'd still like to contribute in my spare time to the cause of urban/city development.

    FWIW, I've searched and gotten a lot of general feedback on volunteering, but I guess I'm just having difficulty figuring out where to start cold calling or emailing, and I'm trying to Google things but don't really know where to begin. (I also posted in this forum because this seemed to be where a lot of the volunteering questions were pointed.)

    Thanks so much!

  2. #2
    Apr 2009
    Interesting thread. Being in the DC area for the moment I'd love to hear about it. Did you try linkedIn? Could be a good way to connect to groups and individuals.

    I'm a big proponent of networking. If you are interested in planning in the long term, getting to know the right people should enable you to get that volunteering / job opportunity where you could interact with some important players.

    I know for example the Urban Land Institute has its HQ in DC. The National building museum might have some interesting postings (if anything they have awesome books there). Of course you got the US Housing and Development Department. A bunch of other organizations are baed in DC (the best city for NGOs and lobbies). You probably won't get a volunteering gig directly but there are lost of events, conferences and wine and cheese sort of meet ups.

    I would encourage volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. Planning is all about perspective, viewing things from all sides. They always look for people and lots of interesting, open minded and connected individuals participate.

    If you are in the DC area and can move around, I would suggest going to places, before making any calls or emails. You'be be surprised how much info you can gather by talking to the right people. Any lobby office is also a reflexion of how any company / organization works. Get a feel for the place.

  3. #3
    Apr 2011
    Washington, DC
    Coalition for Smarter Growth is always looking for more volunteers. I have interned there in the past, and volunteer there now, and they are a very active smart growth advocate (obviously, the name gives them away.)

    www.smartergrowth.net - I would suggest checking them out!

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