(Re)Engineering Planning and Diaspora Groups

This course explores a series of planning and policy initiatives currently underway aimed at strategically leveraging the power of diaspora groups as a catalyst of sustainable growth and prosperity simultaneously for US cities and for communities in the developing world. The course is designed for students looking to become US-based planners and policy makers as well as students looking to join international development practice. 

From Brooklyn to East Los Angeles, from cities and remote regions in Asia to Central America and the Caribbean, city governments, development agencies and even businesses are adjusting their planning methods to the changing politico-economic position and social capital of many diaspora communities in the US. Nowadays, second and third generations of US-born citizens (the evolving diaspora) do not simply embrace the roots of their immigrant parents; they seek innovative ways to actively engage with these communities. 

While these second and third generations of immigrants are not part of the traditional diaspora demography that sends billions of dollars annually back home in the form of remittances, governments from the developing world and other entities are realizing that US-born children of immigrants can be catalysts of growth and prosperity in the homeland of their parents. Public and private sectors entities from the developing world are deploying a myriad of strategies with the objective of maximizing the leveraging power that diaspora groups have come to represent in the 21st century. These strategies include proactive steps that range from enacting legislation to enable dual citizenship to offering incentives to invest/partner with domestic firms. 

This trend is of equal significance to planners and policy makers in US cities as these transnational linkages have a critical impact on US communities.   

The course, while relying on academic publications, will take a practical approach by emphasizing real world examples from practice. It will:


1.            Briefly examine the historical trends that have occurred within some diaspora communities in major US cities. More specifically, it will examine how diaspora groups in communities ofcolor are evolving and maturing as a result of social, economic and political mobility in the United States. In addition to family ancestry, technology and social media haveplayed a key role in bridging the proximity of US based diaspora groups with the communities of origin of their immigrant parents.


2.            Explore planning and policy strategies being engineered, both abroad and in the US to facilitate trans-border linkages (a positive-sum game). Emphasis will be put on mechanisms that are being put in place including the use of diplomatic missions (consulates) in the United States to foster partnerships with US city agencies (Municipalities, Chambers of Commerce, Universities, Community Based Groups etc). 


3.            Address the challenges for US-based planning professionals and policy makers to keep up with the evolving trends happening with increasingly large diaspora groups in US cities. The working dynamics within groups – recently arrived groups who remit funds versus groups that are well-assimilated in the socio-economic and cultural fabric of the United States. 


4.            Challenge students to look ahead and identify innovative planning and policy solutions, including the use of technology, that may help yield more efficient trans-border synergies.