Strategic Plan Glossary

What is this?

A list of key terms and definitions created by the City's Outcome Teams and other Incredible contributors while crafting Strategic Direction 2023, Austin's strategic plan for the next 3 to 5 years. This "living" glossary  will adapt over time. We invite additions and feedback at

Austin Strategic Direction 2023
Find definitions related to strategic planning and what's in the plan – Vision, Strategic Anchors, and 6 Outcome chapters with Challenge Statements, Metrics, and Strategies:
  • Economic Opportunity & Affordability
  • Mobility
  • Safety
  • Health & Environment
  • Culture & Lifelong Learning
  • Government That Works For All
Strategic Plan Outcomes

Access – The potential for or actual entry of a population into a system. Entry is dependent upon the wants, resources, and needs that individuals bring to the service-seeking process. The ability to obtain wanted or needed services may be influenced by many factors, including travel, distance, waiting time, available financial resources, and availability of a regular source of service. Access also refers to the extent to which a public service is readily available to the community’s individuals in need. Accessibility also refers to the capacity of the agency to provide service in such a way as to reflect and honor the social and cultural characteristics of the community and focuses on agency efforts to reduce barriers to service utilization. Source: Turnock, BJ. Public Health: What It Is and How It Works. Jones and Bartlett. 2009.

Affordable Housing – Housing in which the household pays no more than 30 percent of its income for gross housing costs, including utilities. Housing deemed “affordable” generally falls into two primary categories:
  • Market-rate Housing (unsubsidized) - the price one must pay to purchase or rent a home on the open real-estate market
  • Subsidized Housing - housing assisted with public funding for low-to-moderate-income persons and families.
Source: Austin Strategic Housing Blueprint[Also see Household Affordability, Cost-Burdened Households]

Agile – Set of core principles for delivering solutions while focusing on user needs, delivering iteratively, continuously improving how your team works, continuously planning, failing fast, and learning quickly. Agile techniques don’t guarantee success, but you don’t have to be afraid to fail or experiment, as agile allows you to spot problems early and resolve them quickly. Source: UK Agile Delivery Service Manual

Austin Strategic Housing Blueprint – A 10-year Blueprint, adopted by the Austin City Council in 2017, that includes numerical goals, timelines and strategies to maintain and create affordable housing for a range of incomes throughout the city, as envisioned in Imagine Austin. Learn more:

Austin Strategic Mobility Plan – The City of Austin’s first locally focused, multi-modal mobility plan. Learn more:

Built Environment – Distinct from the natural environment (land, water, air, wind), the built environment consists of man-made buildings, roads, parks, and other fixtures that form the physical character of a city. Source: City of Austin Planning and Zoning Department

Challenge Statements – Evidence-based diagnoses of critical issues facing the Austin community. “How might we…?” phrasing sets a basis for a variety of solutions. Source: City of Austin Office of Performance Management  [Learn more: Challenge Statements]

City of Austin Equity Statement – Racial equity is the condition when race no longer predicts a person’s quality of life outcomes in our community. The City recognizes that race is the primary determinant of social equity and therefore we begin the journey toward social equity with this definition. The City of Austin recognizes historical and structural disparities and a need for alleviation of the wrongs by critically transforming its institutions and creating a culture of equity. [Also see Equity] Source: City of Austin Equity Office

Complete Community – Areas that provide amenities, transportation, services, and opportunities that fulfill all residents material, social, and economic needs. Find more detailed information on complete communities and the CodeNEXT 2016 Prescription for complete communities. Source: Imagine Austin

Cost-Burdened Households– Households whose costs of housing, transportation, and utilities reduces their ability to afford other necessities, such as food, medical care, or child care. Typically, households are considered cost burdened if their housing costs exceeds 30 percent of their income or if their combined housing and transportation costs exceeds 45 percent of their income. Source: City of Austin [Also see Household Affordability]

Critical Infrastructure – Using the U.S. Patriot Act as a foundation, the City of Austin defines critical infrastructure as systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the city and region that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, local and regional economic security, public health or safety, or any combination of those matters. There are 16 critical infrastructure sectors whose assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, are considered so vital to the U.S. that incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety. 

16 critical infrastructure sectors:
  1. Chemical
  2. Commercial Facilities
  3. Communications
  4. Critical Manufacturing
  5. Dams
  6. Defense Industrial Base
  7. Emergency Services
  8. Energy
  9. Financial Services
  10. Food and Agriculture
  11. Government Facilities
  12. Healthcare and Public Health
  13. Information Technology
  14. Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste
  15. Transportation Systems
  16. Water and Wastewater Systems
As a provider of utilities, the City of Austin also incorporates infrastructure for enterprises such as Austin Energy and Austin Water.

Creatives – Individuals who have received extensive training in a creative field or have otherwise acquired creative skills; are actively engaged in creative work and presenting it to the public; AND either derive income or attempt to derive income from their creative activity (whether in the for-profit or nonprofit sector). They include a list of 69 occupations as defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Classification (SOC) system. These are some but not all:
     -Arts Education
     -Community Arts
     -Culinary Arts
     -Design and Graphic Arts
     -Gaming and Digital Media
     -Fashion Design
     -Film and Video
     -Landscape Architecture
     -Literary Arts
     -Performance Art
     -Slam Poetry
     -Visual Arts

Source: City of Austin Economic Development Department - Cultural Arts Division, CreateAustin Cultural Arts Master Plan

Creative Space – An environment that is consciously set up to trigger collaboration in a creative way. Source: “Creative Space Explorer” designer, Jonathan Imme  [Also see Cultural Space] 

Additional description adapted from
  • Creative Space includes all spaces dedicated to artists' creative process and the creation of artistic product. These include but are not limited to artists' studios, music and theater rehearsal rooms, film and video studios, music recording facilities, writers' centers, and industrial spaces dedicated to the creation of artistic product. These spaces may be shared between artists or individually dedicated.
  • Creative Space includes all publicly accessible spaces that supply the means of creative production. These include but are not limited to art supply stores, musical instrument stores, and film and video equipment supply stores.
  • Creative Space includes all arts training and arts education spaces. These include but are not limited to art schools, theater training facilities, literary arts centers, arts departments at large educational institutions, and any other classroom or other space dedicated to teaching the arts.
  • Creative Space includes artists' live / work space-spaces that serve a dual function to both house the artist and their family, and to provide creative space in which to conduct their artistic practice. These include but are not limited to residential units with dedicated contiguous work space, and commercial or industrial work spaces with dedicated contiguous residential space.
  • Creative Space includes work space for arts support organizations. These include but are not limited to spaces occupied primarily by arts funding organizations, arts sector support organizations, and arts advocacy organizations.
Creative Vitality Suite (CVSuite) – A subscription-based online research and reporting tool created by the Wester State Arts Federation (WESTAF). The CVSuite consolidates annual economic data from multiple sources on occupations and industries within the creative sector. The CVSuite also includes a Creative Vitality Index, an index created by WESTAF that compares the per capita concentration of creative activity in two regions. Data on creative industries, occupations, and cultural nonprofit revenues are indexed using a population-based calculation in order to compare one region’s creativity or creative-sector economic activity to another. Source: City of Austin Economic Development Department

Cultural Competence –Refers to the ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures and is comprised of four components: (1) Awareness of your own cultural worldview, (2) Attitude toward cultural differences, (3) Knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews, and (4) Cross-cultural skills. Source: Colorado Department of Education, 2010.

“A set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that … enable a system, agency, or group of professionals to work effectively in cross-cultural situations” (Cross, et al. p. 13). It refers to the ability to honor and respect the beliefs, languages, interpersonal styles, and behaviors of individuals and families receiving services, as well as staff members who are providing such services. “Cultural competence is a dynamic, ongoing developmental process that requires a long-term commitment and is achieved over time.” Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2003, p. 12. 

Cultural Heritage – The legacy of physical artifacts and intangible attributes of a group or society that are inherited from past generations, maintained in the present and bestowed for the benefit of future generations. Cultural heritage includes tangible culture (such as buildings, monuments, landscapes, books, works of art, and artifacts), intangible culture (such as folklore, traditions, language, and knowledge), and natural heritage (including culturally significant landscapes, and biodiversity). Source: UNESCO, 2017

Cultural Significance – Aesthetic, historic, scientific, social or spiritual value for past, present or future generations. Cultural significance is embodied in the place itself, its fabric, setting, use, associations, meanings, records, related places and related objects. Places may have a range of values for different individuals or groups. Source: Art and Popular Culture

Cultural Space – Dynamic and fluid, allowing people to participate in the communication of identity in a myriad of ways. It can be physical, such as the home one grew up in, a community center, or a museum; it can also exist intangibly through the Internet. This space can be defined by its location such as neighborhood, city, region and country and the relationship one has with these locations. Other factors that create cultural spaces include religious and spiritual practices, shared histories, food, social networks, music and art. [Also see Creative Space]. Source: Judith Martin and Thomas Nakayama, Intercultural Communication in Contexts, 2018.

Culture – The conceptual system that structures the way people view the world—it is the particular set of beliefs, norms, and values that influence ideas about the nature of relationships, the way people live their lives, and the way people organize their world. Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014. The word “culture” can be applied to describe the ways of life of groups formed on the bases of age, profession, socioeconomic status, disability, sexual orientation, geographic location, ethnicity, membership to social groups, etc., and people can belong to multiple cultural groups, each with its own set of cultural norms. Source: Improving Cultural Competence

Disadvantaged businesses – Small businesses that are owned, managed, and controlled by both socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. The City of Austin’s Small & Minority Business Resources (SMBR) Department certifies qualifying small businesses. General Eligibility Requirements require that businesses be fifty-one percent owned, managed and controlled by an economically and socially disadvantaged individual (see presumed include: Asian-American, African-American, Native American, Hispanic or Women); must be a small business as defined by the US Small Business Administration (SBA); personal Net Worth limit of $1.32 million for owner; firm must be organized as a for-profit business. Source: City of Austin Small & Minority Business Resources Department

Disparity – A particular type of difference that is closely linked with social, economic, and/or environmental disadvantage. Disparities adversely affect groups of people who have systemically experienced greater obstacles to resources and services based on their racial or ethnic group; religion; socioeconomic status; gender; age; mental health; cognitive, sensory, or physical disability; sexual orientation or gender identity; geographic location; or other characteristics historically linked to discrimination or exclusion. Source: Adapted from Healthy People 2020, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion “health disparity” definition.

Diversity – The character of a community where people of different racial and ethnic groups, genders, religions, ages, political beliefs, families, sexual orientations, and socio-economic statuses live and work alongside each other. Source: City of Austin Equity Office

Early Childhood Education – Early childhood education (ECE) consists of activities and/or experiences that are intended to effect developmental changes in children prior to their entry into elementary school. ECE includes quality child care, Head Start and pre-K programs all geared to school readiness. Source: Encyclopedia of Children’s Health

Economic Resiliency – The ability to avoid, withstand or quickly recover from a shock or event affecting an area’s economy. Source: Adapted from U.S. Economic Development Administration [Also see Resiliency]

Equity – A condition when everyone has a fair opportunity to live a long, healthy, and meaningful life. It implies that quality of life should not be compromised or disadvantaged because of an individual or population group's social circumstances or conditions. Achieving equity requires creating fair opportunities and eliminating gaps in quality of life outcomes between different social groups. Source: Adapted from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation definition of “health equity,” 2017. [Also see “City of Austin Equity Statement”]

Facility – A place, amenity, or piece of equipment provided for a particular purpose, including amenity, resource, venue, establishment, center, place, station, location, premises, site, post, or base.

Governance – The collection of rules, norms and actions that structure the way that decision-making is carried out in an organization. Effective organizations incorporate this into their "operating model" or "management system."

Growth Concept Map – Applies the vision statement to the city’s physical development pattern. Generated through a public scenario building process, defines how we plan to accommodate new residents, jobs, mixed-use areas, open space, and transportation infrastructure in the next 30 years. Source: Imagine Austin Glossary

Guideposts / Guiding Principles A set of principles that guide Austin's strategic planning.

Historically Marginalized – A group or community that has experienced social disadvantages and relegation to the fringe of society. Social exclusion is the process in which individuals or people are systemically blocked from (or denied full access to) various rights, opportunities, and resources that are normally available to members of a different group, and which are fundamental to social integration and observance of human rights with that particular group (e.g., housing, employment, healthcare, civic engagement, democratic participation, and due process). Source: Hilary Silver, “Social Exclusion and Social Solidarity.” International Labour Review 133, no. 5-6 (1994).

Historic Landmark criteria* – (1) The property is at least 50 years old and represents a period of significance of at least 50 years ago, unless the property is of exceptional importance as defined by National Register Bulletin 22, National Park Service (1996); and, (2) The property retains a high degree of integrity, as defined by the National Register of Historic Places, that clearly conveys its historical significance and does not include an addition or alteration which has significantly compromised its integrity; and (3) The property is individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places; or is designated as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, State Archeological Landmark, or National Historic Landmark OR demonstrates significance in at least two of these categories. [Also see Historically Significant], Source: City of Austin Historic Landmark Criteria, Historic Preservation Office, adopted 2012.
*The City's Culture and Lifelong Learning Outcome Team identified a need for the City to review this criteria.

Household Affordability
– The ability of a household to afford its housing and associated costs, including rent or mortgage, transportation, utilities, and child care expenses. [Also see Affordable Housing, Cost-Burdened Households]

Human-centered governance – A new approach to exercising authority and decision-making that starts with the needs, behaviors and experiences of residents, and continues through a process of questioning assumptions, engaging with empathy, stewarding divergent thought, reflecting and learning. It is more future-oriented (what outcomes could be created) rather than an analysis of already formed alternatives. Source: Leading Public Design: Human Centered Governance, Christian Bason

Imagine Austin – The City of Austin’s 30-year comprehensive plan adopted by City Council in 2012. Calling for Austin to become a city of complete communities, Imagine Austin lays out land use plans, along with a community vision and 8 priority programs. Learn more:

Indicators & Metrics – Performance measures to assess the degree the outcome is being achieved. Each “Indicator Category” theme in the Austin Strategic Direction has a series of indicators and metrics to track and report whether the City is making progress on that outcome. Learn more below and in the Guide to Effective Performance Measures:
  • Community Indicators help the City and community to understand whether we are making progress at achieving the ultimate outcome; as much as possible, these are people-centric and describe whether Austinites’ quality of life is improving. In most cases, these indicators will measure things that are beyond the direct control of the city government.
    Example: Percentage of residents experiencing food insecurity
  • City of Austin Contribution Metrics measure the contribution that the City government – through its programs and policies – is making toward achieving the stated outcome. These metrics will likely involve data that is collected by the City government and demonstrate the quantity and/or quality of the City’s efforts to positively “move the dial” on one or more of the community indicators.
    Example: Number of City-supported fresh food access points in healthy food priority areas.
Innovation – “Any project that is new to you and has an uncertain outcome...From small and simple projects to grand and gutsy gambles, it is all innovation. There is very little value in trying to draw the line on what counts as innovative and what does not.” - The Other Side of Innovation: Solving the Execution Challenge. Framing innovation in terms of how to manage it rather than on a strict definition of what is “innovative” enables organizations to organize around the degree of difficulty of the execution challenge. Managing difficult innovation efforts involves building a dedicated team and running a disciplined process, which cycles between learning and doing, and determining what would be required to bring a new initiative firmly and sustainably into ongoing operations. Innovative projects can result in new methods, products, processes, services, technologies, partnerships, governance or business models.  [See Cynefin Decison-Making Framework for what kinds of approaches apply to different types of challenges.]

Insights – Concise expressions of what has been learned through research. Insights are created and based from facts but go a step further to allow us to see the world in a new way. Characteristics of insights include:
  • Discovery: Aha! factor (non-obvious learning)
  • Inspiration: Open possibilities and catalyst for new ideas.
  • Evidence: Reason to believe.
  • Relevance: Real-life implications
Source: Adapted from Humantific.
Land development code – Set of regulations that govern how land is developed (or not developed) and include zoning regulations, criteria manuals, and subdivision regulations. Source: Imagine Austin Glossary [Also see Land use, Imagine Austin.]

Land use – The type of activity or development that occupies a parcel of land. Common land uses include residential, retail, industrial, recreation, and institutional. Source: Imagine Austin Glossary  [Also see Land development code, Imagine Austin.]

Lifelong learning – Lifelong learning may be broadly defined as learning that is pursued throughout all stages of life: learning that is flexible, diverse and available at different times and in different places. Lifelong learning crosses sectors, promoting learning beyond just traditional schooling. Source: This definition is based on Delors’ four pillars of learning (1996).

Measure  [See Indicators & Metrics.]

Metric – [See Indicators & Metrics.]

Middle-skill jobs – Jobs requiring more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree. Source: City of Austin and Austin Area Master Community Workforce Plan

Model employer – The belief that the public sector should be a repository of good employment practice and provide a model or standard to which private-sector companies should aspire. Source: Oxford University Press’ Dictionaries, Companions and Encyclopedias

Open Government – A set of principles, including accountability, transparency, civic participation, and technology integration, that enables a more broad set of possibilities and partners for understanding, collaboration, and problem-solving than what government can do on its own. Source: Austin Open Government Partnership

Open Source Software – Software that can be accessed, used, modified, and shared by anyone. Open Source Software (OSS) is often distributed under licenses that comply with the definition of “Open Source” provided by the Open Source Initiative and/or that meet the definition of “Free Software” provided by the Free Software Foundation.

Outcomes – The results we seek the Austin community to experience through our actions.  

Outreach – The act or process of reaching out.

People of Color – Used primarily in the United States to describe any person who is not white. Sometimes abbreviated POC, the term encompasses all non-white people, emphasizing common experiences of systemic racism (policies, practices, and procedures that work better for white people that for people of color, regardless of intention). Source: Center for Social Inclusion and Western Strategies, LLC (2012) Learn more: Race Forward's Race Reporting Guide

Performance Measure  [See Indicators & Metrics.]

Policy / Development Policy – A definite course or method of action selected from among alternatives and in light of given conditions to guide and determine present and future decisions or a high-level overall plan embracing the general goals and acceptable procedures especially of a governmental entity. Policy development is the means by which problem identification, technical knowledge of possible solutions, and societal values converge to set a course of action. As such, policy development is an outgrowth of the assessment and monitoring activities described with respect to all other essential public health services. Policy development is a process that enables informed decisions to be made concerning issues related to the public’s health. Source: Institute of Medicine. The Future of Public Health. National Academies Press.

Program – A set of organized activities supported by a set of resources to achieve a specific and intended result. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Public-private partnerships – A public-private partnership (P3) is a contractual arrangement between a public agency (federal, state or local) and a private sector entity. Through this agreement, the skills and assets of each sector (public and private) are shared in delivering a service or facility for the use of the general public. In addition to the sharing of resources, each party shares in the risks and rewards potential in the delivery of the service and/or facility. Source: National Council for Public-Private Partnerships

Public value – Concept that emphasizes the difference between managing a public and private realm, and emphasizes that policy and management strategies must be substantively valuable to the community members, politically legitimate, feasible and sustainable, operationally possible and practical. Public value can take the form of (positive changes in) productivity, service experience, outcomes, and democratic transparency and participation. Source: Leading Public Design: Human Centered Governance, Christian Bason, p. 239.

Quality Early Childhood Education – A high-quality early childhood education (ECE) program provides a safe and nurturing environment while promoting the physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development of young children. Early childhood is generally defined as birth through age eight. Source: U.S. Department of State. Program standards set by widely recognized professional organizations for adequate structural characteristics and high-quality adult-child interactions. Examples of quality rating organizations include National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), National Accreditation Commission (NAC) or Texas Rising Star 4-star centers. Source: Austin Public Health School Readiness Action Plan

Racial Equity – The condition when race no longer predicts a person’s quality of life outcomes in our community. Source: City of Austin Equity Action Team. [Also see “Equity” and “City of Austin Equity Statement”]

Rapid Prototyping – The process of building and testing potential solutions quickly, creating quick learning loops. This can be useful across all disciplines and service areas, though it’s most commonly mentioned in reference to technology and software development. When designing software solutions, prototypes can include paper sketches of an interface design that staff can use to test their ideas with residents, as well as higher-fidelity prototypes that more closely resemble the final, completed service. For in-person services, rapid prototypes can include alternative signage on posterboard to test new way-finding solutions or a cardboard version of an information kiosk to test where the kiosk should be placed in a physical space. The goal of rapid prototyping is to spend the smallest possible amount of time and resources learning which solutions work well and which ones do not. For this reason, the prototypes should be considered disposable, with priority given to the ability for staff to learn quickly over the quality of any individual prototype. Source: City of Austin Office of Innovation

Resiliency – The capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within a city to survive, adapt, and grow, no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience. Climate resilience refers to the ability to effectively manage both immediate shocks and long-term stressors related to climate change and weather extremes. Source: 100 Resilient Cities Learn more: Austin's Strategic Anchors

Small Business – A business that is privately owned and operated, with a small number of employees, has a relatively low volume of sales, and is not dominant in its field on a national basis. Small business size standards vary widely, and may be determined by revenue or number of employees, depending on industry. Source: Imagine Austin Glossary

Smart (and Open) City – We are a city that becomes increasingly efficient in solving real problems for real people by: (1) engaging stakeholders and users, (2) leading collaboratively, (3) working across disciplines, departments, and city systems; and (4) using data and integrated technologies to transform services and improve quality of life with and for all Austinites, businesses, and visitors. [Also see Open Government] Source: Austin Smart Cities Initiative

Strategic Anchors – Foundational values, such as equity, prevention, and community trust, that cut across all Outcomes called for in Austin's Strategic Direction. Learn more: Austin's Strategic Anchors

Strategy – Actions and appoaches the City of Austin will take around its six Strategic Outcome to address identified challenges and “move the needle” on indicators and metrics.

Subsidized Housing – See Affordable Housing.

Sustainability – Finding a balance among three sets of goals: (1) prosperity and jobs, (2) conservation and the environment, and (3) community health, equity, and cultural vitality. It means taking positive, proactive steps to protect Austin's quality of life now, and for future generations. Source: City of Austin Sustainability Office  Learn more: Austin's Strategic Anchors

Sustainable Development – Development that maintains or enhances economic opportunity and community well-being, while protecting and restoring the natural environment upon which people and economies depend. Sustainable development 
meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Characteristics of sustainable communities include compact, mixed-use development, green building, transit-oriented development, pedestrian-friendly and bicycle-friendly neighborhoods, common open space, and diversity in housing opportunities. Source: Adapted from Glossary of Urban Planning Terms and Imagine Austin

Workforce – The population of employed and unemployed people seeking paying work within a defined area.

Workforce Development – A wide range of policies and programs related to education and training for acquiring skills needed to enter, or re-enter, the labor force. Source: Imagine Austin

Vision – An aspirational future state of Austin. Learn more: Austin Vision

Vulnerable Populations – Groups and communities at higher risk for poor outcomes as a result of barriers they experience to social, economic, political, and environmental resources, as well as limitations due to illness, age, or disability. We also consider the needs of caregivers of older adults. Source: Adapted from Canadian National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health

Strategic Plan Glossary 1.0
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