Course Overview

Here’s what to expect from the CPI course, including course structure, requirements, program costs, and more.

What are the classes?

The course includes seven evening classes: a class orientation, three introductory classes on planning, land use and zoning, and the real estate development process; and three special topic classes, which change every session. See the course description for current topics.

When does the course take place?

The eight-week CPI course is offered every spring and fall on Wednesday evenings.

The Spring course is in April and May.

The Fall course is in October and November.


Final Paper or Presentation

Each participant is also required to complete a final project in order to earn their Certificate of Completion as a Philadelphia Citizen Planner. You will receive information about this at the first class. One way to meet the project requirement is to make a presentation at the optional Workshop session at the end of the course.

Upon completing the orientation, 3 core classes, 2 special topic classes, and a final paper or presentation, you earn a Citizen Planner Certificate of Completion.

Participants are actively engaged in learning from each other, as well as from the instructors. One of the goals of CPI is to provide practical tools individuals can take back to their neighborhood organizations or communities.

This course has been developed for individuals and leaders within neighborhood organizations who are highly motivated to engage in planning issues on equal footing with other stakeholders.

To make the most of your time investment, class sessions will be structured to be relevant to your interests and needs. Real life examples will be included as much as possible with plenty of opportunities for learner interactions through Q&A and group exercises.

An orange slide with text reading: CPI is offering a sliding scale for our course fees. Check out the new fee levels, and why we are making this change.
Text reading NEW in a blue ribbon at the left top corner. An orange line below with rates listed.

How much does it cost?

CPI is offering course fees on a sliding scale. This is an intentional effort to be more equitable in our fundraising. Please find the appropriate level for you, depending on your individual and organizational access to money and wealth. 

Thank you to AORTA whose model we used to inform our own. 

$50 Reduced Rate (Scholarship)

  • Any participant can request a scholarship without any additional application requirements. If the $50 is still prohibitive, please email us and we will work with you.

$100 Sustain

  • This covers the course fee for you (3 core classes + 2 special topic courses).  

$150 Champion

  • This covers the course fee for you and the core classes for one additional person. If you have institutional support, we suggest paying at this level or higher. By institutional support we mean your employer is supporting you and can regularly afford professional development opportunities.

$245 Full Cost

  • This is the actual cost of the course per person, our break-even rate.  

$300 Redistribution

  • Perhaps you benefit from an educated constituency in planning, and mostly answer yes to the following questions:
    • Are you and your family homeowners or landowners? Could you afford private education? Can you access and afford healthcare? Do you have disposable income? Do you have a financial safety net? Do you have U.S. Citizenship? Does your income only support you, and not other loved ones? 
  • Consider supporting our ability to fund other Citizen Planners and build capacity across Philadelphia, the poorest big city in the U.S.

Where are your fees going? 

  • Program costs – catered food from a local vendor, small gifts for volunteer instructors, promotional materials, and printing of curriculum materials.  
  • Graduation expenses – every year we throw a graduation for the Spring and Fall cohorts (60 graduates). 
  • Materials development – we recently developed a prototype of CPI in a Box, and we are already making revisions. Our hope is to be able to translate this resource into multiple languages which will entail complete redesigns per language.  
  • Operating expenses – video conferencing software, website design and hosting fees, and social media management platform. 
  • Alumni network – we’re looking to offer more options for alumni to learn from each other such as a neighborhood tour program. 


How do I apply?

Sign up for our newsletter to be notified of the next application period.

We receive many more applications than we have seats (30). To select the participants for each course, we consider how applicants will be able to use the information they receive. We also strive for geographic diversity in each cohort–for that reason, we generally don’t accept more than ONE person from any one community organization.

We receive over 200 applications for each course. If you are not accepted the first-time round, please apply again!




How will I be scored?

Activities in neighborhood groups, and essay questions are all considered in the selection process. Since we receive so many applications, it’s important to be specific with those responses to differentiate yourself and for us to know the course will be immediately valuable to your work. Do your best to provide examples/specifics. While reviewing applications we look for:

  • Demonstrated ability to collaborate. We suggest getting involved in a community activity/project/organization before applying to CPI.
  • Level of motivation and clarity on areas of concern or interest.
  • We are looking to compose a cohort with wide geographic diversity. While this item is not scored, it’s used to diversity the cohort.
  • Previous applicants receive two bonus points.
  • Recommendations from CPI alum or instructors receive one bonus point.
  • Applicants from a priority audience receive one bonus point.


More and more people should participate in CPI because it instills people with one of the greatest forms of knowledge – the knowledge that you have the power to affect change. — Jacqueline Wiggins, Spring 2016