Sustainability scientist's work with Navajo Nation recognized for innovative community planning

ASU faculty standing with members of Navajo Nation displaying awardThe Arizona Chapter of the American Planning Association recently held their annual conference, during which members from Arizona State University’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning were recognized for their project with the Navajo Nation’s Dilkon Chapter. David Pijawka, professor of planning and senior sustainability scientist with the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, has a long history of working with indigenous communities to ensure Native culture, customs and traditions are considered in community planning. Pijawka and Jonathan Davis, a geography PhD student, recently worked alongside the Dilkon Chapter to successfully complete a community land-use plan. It is for this outstanding work that Pijawka, Davis and the Dilkon chapter were recognized on November 8 for a public outreach plan. The Dilkon Chapter of the Navajo Nation, located in the northeastern region of Arizona, is an active and engaged community that desired to compete for funding for further economic, housing and public service development within their community. In order to better compete for funding for these initiatives, the Dilkon Chapter needed to update their community land-use plan, as dictated by the Navajo Nation. Teaming up with Pijawka and Davis, the chapter began to utilize a new approach help create their plan. In February of 2017, a community-based land use plan was created through the use of "geodesign."
David Pijawka
David Pijawka, professor of planning and senior sustainability scientist
Geodesign is primarily guided by the principle that land-use planning is complex, and to effectively design a resilient and sustainable community or place, it requires a collaborative approach between geographic information systems (GIS) experts, planning professionals, geographic scientists, community members and other stakeholders such as environmental, development and housing experts. “Geodesign leading to a land-use plan incorporates community participation and visioning of a different and viable future based on community-shared goals and needs that leads to consensus on the type of land uses, their location and connections,” explained Pijawka. “We found that the idea of a community working together to reach a consensus of a future connected well with indigenous approaches to planning communities. The exchange of ideas and knowledge, through the use of computer GIS systems for communicating among community groups was original and innovative.” The Dilkon Chapter’s project is the first known application of geodesign as a planning framework in an American Indian community. In order to complete this effort, the Dilkon Chapter, Pijawka and Davis, along with members from the Office of Navajo Government Development, completed a two-day long workshop where eight different data development groups were created based on their area of interest and expertise, including economic development, public services, conservation (both cultural and environmental), transportation, infrastructure, grazing and housing. During the workshop community members were able to consult with experts and design land-use designations using the land suitability maps, their local knowledge and their cultural and traditional sensibilities. “This is an important partnership that places ASU in the center of important community work with American Indian communities,” said Pijawka. “It demonstrates a successful and innovative approach to community development through the use of information technology, spatial analysis and community engagement.”