"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.

Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has"

Margaret Mead, Anthropologist
(used with permission)

"If you don't like the news .... go out and make some of your own !!"

Wes "Scoop" Nisker, Newscaster


Government is a slow and tedious process. While it often includes citizen and neighborhood involvement, non-governmental, private organizations have created movements and interesting groups which can create positive change in our cities and towns.

I am fascinated by the way groups are created and how they influence public decision making. This blog merely recognizes them and forwards the description of these groups from their own websites.

Monday, July 31, 2017


Location: Alabama


Our primary mission is to advocate for the collaboration of the design arts and their importance in creating and enhancing place in Alabama.

Who is DesignAlabama?

DesignAlabama is a nonprofit, citizen-led organization that seeks to raise the bar for design in our great state through education of the applied arts, promoting designers who live and work in Alabama and supporting sound design thinking to sustain our communities. Our board of directors is made up of design professionals, community development officials and business professionals who champion design.

What does DesignAlabama do?

DesignAlabama was founded in 1987 under the wing of the Alabama State Council on the Arts. The organization has since developed initiatives to bring awareness to design professions that help shape how we live and the environment around us. The design arts supported include a range of interconnected fields including architecture, engineering, graphic design, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture and urban design.
Some of our most impactful initiatives have been our Mayor’s Design Summits. In these daylong workshops civic leaders work with designers and planners to excavate ideas that will help make their communities desirable, profitable and more livable. We even tackle important design problem solving such as rebuilding after a natural disaster.

DesignAlabama also creates educational content to inform civic leaders and the general public of design processes and why design is a critical factor in using resources effectively. We share case studies from Alabama designers to highlight examples of successful creative work being done across our state.

Professionals associated with DesignAlabama visit communities selected to participate in the DesignPlace Program to provide design, planning and community identity assistance. Included are design professionals with experience in architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, graphic design, interior design and planning, showing the underlying success of community development when design arts are used. During intensive visits of one to four days, DesignPlace professionals survey the community, review issues to be addressed, meet with community groups and leaders, develop recommendations, and outline strategies for implementation.

How are communities selected for DesignPlace?

Communities who have been represented at the DesignAlabama Mayors Design Summit can apply to participate in DesignPlace. Please download the application, complete and submit to DesignAlabama for consideration. A committee of design professionals charged with directing the program will make final selections.

What are the benefits of DesignPlace?

Perhaps the greatest benefit is the stimulation and mobilization of the general public. Citizen participation is absolutely critical to the success of DesignPlace or any local design and planning initiative. A DesignPlace visit is not an end in itself; rather, a new beginning. DesignPlace is invaluable for illustrating the value of community design and planning in Alabama. It stimulates awareness of design issues and dramatizes the impact design can have upon a community’s vitality and the quality of life within its boundaries.

What are the costs associated with DesignPlace?

The DesignAlabama design professionals offer their time and expertise at no cost to the community. The community, however, is expected to commit to the following:
• Reimbursement of travel and other out-of-pocket expenses for team members
• Provide lodging, meals, equipment, supplies and a workspace for team
• Defray cost of publication and distribution of team’s findings and recommendations
• A financial commitment by the community to implement recommendations

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Global Street Design Guide

Location: international


The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and the Global Designing Cities Initiative today unveiled the Global Street Design Guide, the first-ever worldwide standard for redesigning city streets to prioritize safety, pedestrians, transit and sustainable mobility for an urban century.

“The tested and proven designs in these pages can be adapted to city streets around the world to support local economies and make them safer for everyone, no matter how they get around. It is no longer a question of engineering or innovation but of the imagination and will be needed to update city streets for a new age.”

Global Street Design Guide sets a new global baseline for designing urban streets. Recognizing that cities are places for people, the guide shifts the parameters of designing urban streets from the typical point of view of automobile movement and safety, to include access, safety, and mobility for all users, environmental quality, economic benefit, enhancement of place, public health, and overall quality of life.

Created with the input of 72 cities in 42 countries, this new manual presents 21 street typologies and 50 unique street and intersection transformations applicable worldwide. With over 40 case studies, the Guide shows in actionable terms how to redesign streets to put people first. From moving more people with transit lanes to dedicating space for a vibrant economic activity like street vendors, this new global toolkit is applicable to a variety of contexts worldwide.

Urban Street Design Guide Urban Bikeway Design Guide, Transit Street Design Guide, expanding from a North American context to address a variety of street typologies and design elements found around the world.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Movement for Black Lives

Location: Nationwide

Website: m4bl.net

As we enter 2017, under an administration motivated by hate and greed, we renew our commitment to you, and to our fight for justice.

We know that Black people have always made a way, even when the odds were against us – as they are now. An administration full of racist, sexist, fear mongers are moving into the White House – and we should all be concerned about their potential impact on our lives. We are just beginning to see the effects of the fear and violence they support. In the last 30 days, we’ve seen an increase in hate crimes and hate speech against Black people, the vandalizing of Black churches, and vigilantes taking up arms in our communities to incite violence and fear. In the face of all this, millions of Black folks across the country are asking, “What can we do?”

We heard you loud and clear. While we don’t have all the answers, we know where to start – and we are committed to working alongside you to figure them out the rest. A lot is at stake right now. Some have cautioned us to wait and see, to give the new administration a chance, but we know that’s a mistake. We won’t sit idly by as people threaten the safety and quality of life of Black people across the country.

We are confident that we have the commitment, the people power and the vision to organize our country into a safe place for Black people — one based on inclusivity and justice, not intimidation and fear. Join us. Our vision has always included our children living in safety, our communities having control of our destinies, and an economy that provides good jobs, food, clean water and safe housing for our people. That hasn’t changed, and if anything, this moment requires that we work even harder for those things. We’ve done it before and we can do it again.

The Movement for Black Lives includes a number of organizations, individuals and networks focused on a hopeful and inclusive vision of Black joy, safety, and prosperity. That means freedom from violence and economic inequality, as well as the freedom to realize our greatest dreams.

Sunday, January 1, 2017


Location: International

Website: c40.org

The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, now in its 11th year, connects more than 80 of the world’s greatest cities, representing 600+ million people and one quarter of the global economy. Created and led by cities, C40 is focused on tackling climate change and driving urban action that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and climate risks, while increasing the health, wellbeing and economic opportunities of urban citizens.

The current chair of C40 is Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo; three-term Mayor of New York City Michael R. Bloomberg serves as President of the Board. C40’s work is made possible by our three strategic funders: Bloomberg Philanthropies, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), and Realdania. C40 was founded on the idea that cities can achieve more by working together than acting alone. C40’s international staff supports mayors of the world’s megacities to deliver bold, ambitious and transformational action on climate change, through the exchange of ideas, programmes and policies; world class research; technical expertise; events that convene the world’s foremost climate experts and communications support to highlight the individual achievements and collective leadership of cities. Member cities have already committed to reducing their emissions by a total of more than 3 gigatons of C02 by 2030 - the equivalent of taking 600 million cars off the road. C40 Initiatives and Networks.

Working across multiple sectors and issues, C40 convenes networks that provide a range of services in support of cities’ climate change efforts. C40 has 17 networks organised under 6 initiative areas covering the mitigation, adaptation and sustainability topics of highest priority to C40 cities and with the potential for the greatest climate impact. C40 is also positioning cities as a leading force for climate action around the world, defining and amplifying their call to national governments for greater support and autonomy in creating a sustainable future.

C40 networks help cities replicate, improve and accelerate climate action. These city-only working groups provide for honest knowledge exchange, enabling cities to tap into the global expertise of their peers as well as connect with technical partners. Through networks, cities find opportunities to undertake joint projects in areas of mutual interest and benefit. C40 networks also amplify individual city solutions by providing a global platform for showcasing city successes. The result is that cities' climate actions to reduce GHGs and climate risks are bolder, more impactful, implemented faster, at a lower cost and with less resources than if they were to go it alone. No other organisation facilitates such deep connections amongst city staff across 50+ countries, 20 time zones and 26 languages to accelerate local action with major global impact.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Opportunity Urbanism




Much of urban thinking today centers on the physical form of the city: its resources, infrastructure, and built space. Cities are told how to become “more sustainable” by expanding transit, reducing dependence on fossil fuels, and adopting restrictions and planning approaches that mandate higher densities, and, increasingly, bar the expansion of single-family home-dominated areas.This mindset creates a narrow and distorting view of a city, one that ignores or oversimplifies the role and agency of a city’s most important component: its middle class, especially families.


To us, cities emerge because they provide opportunity to people, and are sustainable only so long as they continue to do so.

For a city to sustain itself, it must provide a wide range of opportunities – not just for the affluent. And the city, better seen as a metropolitan area, needs to address the diverse interests and preferences of its residents. And given that those interests and preferences are constantly evolving, the “overplanning” mindset is untenable, even dangerous, to the future of cities that embrace it. Another paradigm is needed; one that concentrates more on human capital than physical capital. Such a paradigm would stress issues of upward mobility, human capital development, small business expansion, governance, and middle-wage job growth. It would not ignore the physical environment, but acknowledge that physical assets should adapt to serve human beings, not the other way around. It would also change the way we think about physical assets, giving higher priority to those that actually boost opportunity, particularly for working and middle-class residents.


Given the current concern about economic inequality, this alternative perspective is desperately needed. In many cities, notably New York, there is already a growing focus among the political class away from economic growth, and towards a redistribution of income to the poorer members of society. But in many cases the focus is not only on the poor, but also in servicing the needs of well-organized rent-seekers, from speculators and some developers to public employee unions. Although these interests often express an admirable concern for social welfare, we believe that sparking broader-based economic growth represents the best way to achieve upward mobility for metropolitan area residents. Houston and other growing cities, we maintain, best represent this more people-oriented approach.

The Center will closely examine these issues, with particular interest in how planning and zoning decisions can hamper or spark economic growth. It will also highlight key demographic concerns, notably around the critical issue of families, who generally seek out housing that is both affordable and spacious enough to raise children. And governance – the question of who makes decisions about the commons – will also be a key area of exploration. An approach that focuses on good schools, good parks, decent jobs and strong neighborhoods may not thrill many architects, pundits and planners – who almost invariably favor ever-denser development – but they do matter to most people who live in urban areas.

The Center for Opportunity Urbanism will promulgate a perspective on urban development that is applicable to most American cities, and indeed to cities around the world. Initially the Center will be seeking to define this new model with comparative studies of different regions in terms of how they most efficiently address issues ranging from promoting upward mobility and reducing poverty, including among minorities, and spark broad-based economic growth. This involves such things as comparing regions based on their actual costs, relative to others, and how they create family-sustaining jobs across a broad spectrum of workers.


It will be the primary task of the Center to spell out how cities can drive opportunity for the bulk of their citizens. Initially, at least, this will be primarily a virtual, media-centered effort. This is necessary given the very weak profile of key opportunity cities, including Houston, particularly in comparison with the key media centers located either in the Northeast or coastal California. A major reason why the current planning mindset so dominates policy discussion, in part, reflects that there is no coherent alternative vision. Our intention is through conferences, articles and studies to provide an alternative “pole” in the now very stilted and predictable trajectory of urban studies. It will help rediscover the essence of great cities, what Descartes called “an inventory of the possible.”


The primary organizing principle of cities should be the creation of opportunity and social mobility.

People should have a range of neighborhood choices (including suburban), rather than being socially engineered into high-density, transit-oriented developments beloved by overly prescriptive planners.

Restricting housing supply unreasonably through regulation drives up costs and harms the middle class.

Education impacts housing choices, forcing parents to overpay in the few good school districts or move further out of the core city. Making educational alternatives available for working and middle class families is essential to upward mobility and long-term urban growth.

Supporting the needs of middle-class families should be just as important, if not more, than the needs of the childless creative class. Children, afterall, represent the future of society.

Successful economies need a broad spectrum of industries. Solid middle-class and blue-collar jobs are just as important as the much celebrated high-tech industries aimed at white-collar professionals. Educational choices should be made to address these varied needs.

Concentrations of power – whether through political or economic structures – undermine social mobility and the creation and pursuit of new opportunities. Decision-making power, therefore, should be as widely dispersed as practical.

Transit investments should be based in large part on serving cost-effectively those who most need it, to provide a reasonable alternative for those (the disabled, elderly, students) for whom auto transit is difficult. It should not be primarily a vehicle for real estate speculation or indirect land use control. The use of bus transport, including rapid bus lanes, as well as new technologies, including firms like Uber and driverless cars, need to be considered as potential answers to the issue of urban mobility.

In general, cities are better off with more market-oriented land-use policies than prescriptive central planning.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

CREATE Streets

Location: Great Britain

Website: createsteets.com

What we do:

We are a RESEARCH INSTITUTE. We conduct and collate high quality research into what people actually want and what therefore drives long term value generation.

We ARGUE FOR CHANGE. We argue for specific changes to policy to make it easier to build the homes and streets that people actually want. We want homes for people not stakeholders.

We ADVISE. We are making our research available to landowners, developers, councils and Registered Social Landlords. We use our StreetScore tool to help investors, developers, councils and RSLs understand the correlations between what they own or build and happy, mixed communities for the long term.

We help DEVELOP. We are starting to identify actual sites for potential building and redevelopment and working with communities, housing associations and landowners and developers with the right long term values to help facilitate street-based development.

We ENGAGE. We encourage and help local communities to take control of their own neighbourhoods via neighbourhood plans and the communal preparation of specific schemes via schemes such as Community Right to Build.

We are non-partisan. Most of our members are not party political though we have members from all three main parties.

We wish to create streets which are:

Capable of matching high rise densities 

Realistic, long term commercially viable 

Environmentally friendly 

Aesthetically beautiful and local 

Tailored to what people actually want 

Encouraging of mixed communities


Location: Great Britain


The BIMBY Housing Toolkit is a simple and practical online tool which enables communities, organisations, Local Authorities and developers to collectively or indiividually create a regional BIMBY Housing Manual. It is specifically designed to give both certainty to house builders, who can be sure of their housing's popularity, whilst also granting security to the community and local authority that new building projects will tie in with local preferences and needs.

Using the BIMBY Toolkit, you will be able to directly influence the quality and beauty of new housing by developing a BIMBY Housing Manual for your area.

You will feel empowered to engage in the siting and design of new homes, by influencing the planning process in a positive, rather than negative way.

You will feel empowered to demand that any new homes planned in your area are well located and well designed, by influencing the planning process in a positive, rather than negative, way.

The finished Manual is designed to:

Welcome developers into a community

Be clear about the placemaking principles, elevational proportions, materials and standards that the local community expect

Smooth the planning process so that there is more planning certainty for the right kind of development up front.