The Open Planning Tools Group (OPTG) was formed in 2010 to bring together academics, practitioners, and tool developers to advance tools and techniques within scenario planning. Since then, the group has grown to encompass a broader range of planning tools and applications, including civic engagement, fiscal impacts modeling, and others. The OPTG’s primary activities include:

  • Annual Symposium: Each November, OPTG members gather in a different city for two days of collaborative work sessions and large group plenary presentations. Previous cities have included Denver (2010), Salt Lake City (2011), Portland (2012), Sacramento (2013) and Silver Spring, MD (2014). This year’s Symposium will be held in Austin, TX and the University of Texas at Austin.
  • Bimonthly Calls: The OPTG hosts a call every other month (on the 4th Tuesday) for members discuss current projects. The general format is to have a content rich presentation for the first 1/2 hour and group updates and logistics for the second 1/2 hour.
  • Google Group: Our google group is the primary means of communication among members, and is open to anyone to participate in. You can sign-up here to join the mailing list and get updates on calls, symposium and general info regarding the group.


Provide a forum and support to those engaged in developing and using tools to enhance community involvement in the planning process and community decision- making. Pursue collaborative activities to advance these tools through education and advances in technology.

Guiding Principles

  1. Innovation. The development of planning tools using new computer and telecommunications technology can improve planning; and sharing information among those developing and using these tools can improve the technology for their mutual gain. The OPTG is dedicated to a dynamic process of honest evaluation and continuous improvement.
  2. Improved practice. Planning tools can improve the quality of decisions made about strategic and long range plans because they use models based in science and incorporate community values in transparent ways.
  3. Improved governance. The use of planning tools in community engagement can improve the quality of public involvement and improve the access to and transparency of decisions being made about the future.
  4. Openness. Fostering collaboration among the developers and users of planning tools in an open environment will improve the quality of those tools and the manner in which they are used.
  5. Interoperability. Increasing the ability of different planning tools to work together will increase the value of all planning tools and provide a greater service to end users.
  6. Complexity. Planning tools have the ability to take complex, interconnected issues and make them easier to understand and act upon.
  7. Adaptability. Planning tools have the potential to anticipate and evaluate many options allowing communities to better adapt to change.
  8. Inclusivity. Planning tools should and can incorporate issues that are not always well understood or valued in planning, such as climate change, equity, health, and economic well-being.
  9. Guidance. Providing information on various planning tools in order to distinguish those that help at different stages of the planning process so that users can choose among types of planning tools wisely.
  10. Education & Awareness. Fostering the widespread dissemination of planning tools by increasing awareness of the existence and capacity of the tools and by providing illustrations of how these tools can be used and how to best integrate them into ongoing practice. Also developing educational materials and curriculum for both methods and applied courses in scenario planning and other planning tools.
  11. Learning. Embracing the opportunity to both learn from other disciplines that will have insights and approaches we should adopt and the opportunity to bring multiple disciplines together to solve problems.
  12. Fostering the “ecosystem.” By bringing together a critical mass of developers and users and then opening it up to others we foster opportunities for innovation and creativity at a much larger scale and faster pace.

Supporting Organizations

This website and the larger effort around open planning tools is supported by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, in partnership with PlaceMatters.

About the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy is a leading resource for key issues concerning the use, regulation, and taxation of land. Providing high-quality education and research, the Institute strives to improve public dialogue and decisions about land policy. As a private operating foundation whose origins date to 1946, the Institute seeks to inform decision making through education, research, policy evaluation, demonstration projects, and the dissemination of information, policy analysis, and data through our publications, website, and other media. By bringing together scholars, practitioners, public officials, policy makers, journalists, and citizens, the Lincoln Institute integrates theory and practice and provides a nonpartisan forum for multi-disciplinary perspectives on public policy concerning land, both in the United States and internationally.

About the PlaceMatters PlaceMatters is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping communities find creative local solutions for thriving, equitable, and resilient places. Through research, projects, and training, we advance public engagement, community planning, and informed decision-making. We promote the appropriate use of technology to make planning more engaging, help people understand complex ideas and options, and produce more intelligent processes and plans. With twelve years of experience working at a variety of scales (statewide, regional, local, corridor, site-level), and on a wide range of issues (transportation, land use, housing, economic development, energy, environment, social equity), our core expertise is in designing and supporting effective decision-making processes.