One often-overlooked service that regional agencies offer successfully is providing technical assistance to their members (cities and counties) on a wide variety of topics. Regional governments provide a natural forum for information sharing because their members often share similar needs and issues. As a result, the technical training can be tailored to address the most important issues facing a region.
SCAG’s Toolbox Tuesday workshops are a great example.
Toolbox Tuesdays provide a quick, one-and-a-half-hour focus on a single subject. The sessions are planned at a level that a variety of people—including elected officials, local planners, community organizations, students, and community members—can gain practical skills and knowledge on timely planning issues. Offering this training virtually and free of cost provides all local jurisdictions access to high-quality training and technical assistance.
As SCAG staff pointed out, planning is one of the only fields/professions where you are sharing work and ideas in hopes of others stealing your ideas. Toolbox Tuesday is a great example of how to build regional capacity and support member agencies on planning activities that support regional goals.
Toolbox Tuesday works because:
SCAG Invests the Prep Time.
SCAG hosts Toolbox Tuesdays monthly. There is ongoing staff time to organize sessions and topics, get speakers, prepare presentations, keep the website up-to-date, and communications support and marketing. Sessions are coordinated by presenters, moderators, and technical support staff. The surging attendance indicates SCAG’s member agencies and partners value the program.
It’s (mostly) Virtual and Free.
Toolbox Tuesday training sessions have been offered since 2017, when they were held in person. However, the series really took off when it began to transition to virtual in 2019 going fully virtual in 2020. The online format has allowed SCAG to reach a bigger and broader audience as well as tap into a wider range of presenters. The cost-free trainings and potential for AICP credits coupled with innovative planning topics help boost attendance.
Toolbox Tuesday facilitates greater collaboration between SCAG and its members. The sessions themselves aim to provide a collaborative environment for sharing best practices and tools. Sessions allow members to learn from each other about the successes and nuances of policies. As a result, trainings often equip local government planners to think beyond their traditional roles and respond to new challenges that require collaboration and public participation.
Topics are carefully curated to ensure SCAG meets the needs of its members. This year, for example, one session each quarter has an intentional equity focus. Other recent topics have included: Accessory Dwelling Units, ArcGIS Story Mapping, SB 379 Compliance. Additionally, the SCAG Local Information Services Team is available to provide personalized, one-on-one technical assistance to local cities and counties on the topics covered at Toolbox Tuesday.
And There’s that Catchy Name.
Though the catchy name adds to the program’s appeal, the substantive information in these sessions is the true attention-keeper. The Federal Highway Administration noted the program in SCAG’s recent re-certification process, saying, “The review team appreciates the continuance of this platform as an excellent opportunity for interested stakeholders to learn and discuss transportation planning related themes.”
To learn more about Toolbox Tuesday, watch previous sessions or join future a session, check out SCAG’s website.