"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.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Cultural Landscape Foundation

Location: Nationwide

Website: www.tclf.org

The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) is the only not-for-profit (501c3) foundation in America dedicated to increasing the public's awareness and understanding of the importance and irreplaceable legacy of its cultural landscapes.

Through education, technical assistance, and outreach, we broaden awareness of and support for historic landscapes nationwide in hopes of saving this diverse and priceless heritage for future generations. While TCLF seeks donations to support its efforts, it is not a membership organization.

Founded in 1998 by Charles Birnbaum, FASLA, TCLF achieves its mission by
•Collaborating with individuals and local, regional, and national groups to understand and protect our landscape heritage and to reach the broadest possible audience. For example, TCLF is one of the American Society of Landscape Architects’ “partners in education”;

•Training professionals, students, teachers, and the general public to recognize, document and safeguard America's cultural landscapes;

•Serving as the nation’s largest and most valuable non-profit source of information about our nation’s historic landscapes and those pioneering individuals who have contributed (through design, planning and advocacy) to this legacy;

•Raising awareness of and support for individual landscapes-at-risk; and

•Recognizing and celebrating the efforts of owners, supporters and stewards of significant American places.

TCLF’s overall success can be measured by the millions of people who have learned about cultural landscapes through its website, publications and events—as well as through the growing national awareness of the importance of America’s cultural landscapes and the increasing efforts to document and protect this heritage.

Monday, July 25, 2011

re:place Magazine

Location: Vancouver, BC

Website: www.regardingplace.com

Re:place intends to be a forum for discussion on relevant issues pertaining to Greater Vancouver’s public spaces and urban landscape.

Re:place intenfs to educate citizens about the workings of the public realm, and to encourage interaction and engagement in cities.

Re:place intends to explore the ever-changing look and dynamic of Greater Vancouver.

The world is urbanizing. Of the 6.5 billion inhabitants of this world, 3.2 billion currently live in cities and the number is forecasted to increase to 5 billion by 2030 – an estimated 61% of the global population. Vancouver, with its reputation for balanced, healthy and sustainable living, is being faced with the challenges of population growth and urban development every day.

This reality makes discussions regarding urbanism and the public realm of the utmost importance, yet there are currently no media in the GVRD where the primary focus is the investigation of these issues.

We aim to change this. re:place is a non-profit organization devoted to facilitating the holistic discussion of relevant urban landscape and public space issues throughout the GVRD.

The re:place team offers a depth and variety of experience in architecture, urban planning, municipal processes, journalism, media relations, design and sales. This organization will strive to shed light on the complex issues inherent to the ideal of sustainable urbanization.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Taylor Community Science Resource Center

Location: St. Louis, MO

Website: www.slsc.org/ForEducators/TaylorCommunityCenter.aspx

Jack and Susan Taylor, longtime St. Louis philanthropists, donated $2.5 million to the Saint Louis Science Center to help improve science learning opportunities throughout the region. In honor of the gift, the Science Center named its new outreach facility the Taylor Community Science Resource Center.

The Taylor Center is a state-of-the-art, 69,000-square-foot facility at 4900 Manchester (southwest corner of Kingshighway and Manchester). The Taylor Center is a dynamic place, providing outreach and community programs for youngsters of all ages, adults, and educators. Through its myriad partnerships and collaborations throughout the community, the Science Center has seen a growing need for high-quality math and science-based programming. The new Taylor Center allows these programs to grow and meet the needs of the community.

The Taylor Center is a place where learning happens every day, where teachers connect with science and technology, and where youngsters are actively engaged. The Taylor Center meets one of the metropolitan area's most critical needs - one facility that provides high-quality information about science and technology for many different audiences, including educators, parents, teens and community-based organizations.

The facility houses several classrooms and multipurpose rooms that can be used for after-school programming, professional development for educators, community-wide and family programming, and more. The wet laboratory facilities and technology center will be places for hands-on science activities and provide technology access to disenfranchised audiences. In addition, the Science Center’s extensive natural history/science collection is housed here and visible to educators and the expanded resource library will help teachers strengthen their math and science curricula, and connect them with recent science and technology discoveries.

Youth Exploring Science (YES) is one of the Saint Louis Science Center’s premiere educational programs. Based at the Taylor Community Science Resource Center, YES is a structured program, which sends fourteen-year-olds on a four-year journey of self-discovery. YES teens explore scientific concepts through inquiry-based experiences and then learn to teach others. Through their teaching initiative, YES teens take museum science education out into the community where they facilitate science and mathematics activities.

The Saint Louis Science Center launched the YES program in 1997 by recruiting fifteen under-served, minority teens from community organizations. Today's YES teens continue to be recruited from more than fifteen community partners, including Herbert Hoover Boys & Girls Club, Jackie Joyner-Kersee Youth Center, Beyond Housing, Lighthouse Community Center, Girls, Inc., and Annie Malone Children and Family Service Center.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Philadelphia Citizens Planning Institute

Location: Philafelphia, PA

Website: www.citizenplanninginstitute.org

The focus of the Institute is to educate citizens about the role good planning and implementation play in helping to create communities of lasting value. Through education, we are building a constituency for good planning.

Thanks to a generous grant from the William Penn Foundation, a Pilot course was developed and delivered in November of 2010.

The series of three evening “Citizen Planner” classes provided ‘101’ level introduction on planning issues and principles, land use and zoning, and the development process.

Thirty participants were selected from over 80 applications- representing 24 neighborhoods and a wide diversity of civic organizations. On December 6, a reception at City Hall was held to honor the ‘graduates’ and instructors/contributors. The Mayor commended the ‘learners’ for their enthusiasm and commitment to Philadelphia and encouraged them to influence others with their passion for positive change through planning.

The Spring 2011 Course is made possible with funding from the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Housing and Community Development. The Pilot Core Course has been improved and three “Electives” have been added to provide an overview of topics the pilot participants identified as useful: commercial development, transit-oriented development and healthy communities. Learners who successfully complete the classes comprising the Core Course and two of the three electives, will earn a Certificate of Completion as a "Citizen Planner” of Philadelphia.

Additional electives for future course sessions could include urban design, historic preservation, marketing, and “greening“ strategies. As our resources and number of ‘graduates’ grow, the Institute is envisioned to act as a networking hub through which civic groups can share information and best practices.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Local Bites

Location: Fresno, CA

Website: www.tastefresno.com/localbites

Local Bites is a partnership between TasteFresno and Mayor Swearengin to encourage Fresnans to support locally owned restaurants—it's a simple, yet effective way that we can all have an impact on our local economy!

Once a month, Mayor Swearengin will dine out at a local restaurant (on her own dime, of course!). You're invited to join, or create your own Local Bites night—to participate, simply make the commitment to dine locally about once a month.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Location: New Orleans, LA

Website: www.neighborhoodland.com

Neighborland is a new way to shape the development of your city. It’s a tool for learning more about your neighborhood and having a say in its future. We started this project with a simple question: “What if residents could easily share their ideas for improving their neighborhoods?” Could these ideas help community leaders, entrepreneurs, and developers better meet the needs their communities? Can presenting this data in a transparent and friendly way help shape the development of a neighborhood — or at the very least, provide a new form of public accountability?

We launched Neighborland in New Orleans in June 2011. Now that we’re live, we’re looking for ideas that are creative, feasible, and supported by our neighbors. Take a look around the site and you’ll see neighbors sharing ideas and asking (and answering) questions about their communities. You can listen to neighbors you’re interested in and receive notifications to keep track of the ideas that you care about. We believe sketching an idea that might benefit your neighborhood is a meaningful civic action, and with Neighborland you don’t need to go to a city council meeting or be friends with a developer to do it. We’re working hard to make sure your ideas are seen by the right people.

This site is just the beginning. Stay tuned for upcoming workshops, pop-up stores, events, and how-to guides that respond to issues that are important to your community. We’re kicking off a series of events later this summer to collect ideas from as many residents as we can. On July 15th, we’ll select some of the best ideas in New Orleans and we’ll work with you to help make them happen.

We hope that Neighborland will create meaningful connections between neighbors, community leaders, property owners, developers, and our local government.

Whether Neighborland humbly offers this tool for New Orleanians to voice their hopes, share local knowledge, and work together to make these ideas a reality.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Concerned Citizens of Western SoMa

Location: San Francisco, CA

Website: www.westernsoma.com

We are concerned citizens, residents, businesses and families who all live and work in the “Western SoMa” neighborhood in San Francisco.

We formed this group to help promote positive change in the area. We are a grassroots organization which has a vision of a growing vibrant neighborhood safe for all residents and visitors alike. Our group believes their should be more housing of all types – market, medium, and low income – as well as an environment which also encourages community-serving businesses to help foster future development of Western SoMa.

There is a current draft community plan written by the “Western SoMa Citizens Planning Task Force” will be submitted to the planning department on September 18 as a recommendation for future development requirements in this area.

Task Force (which has less then half of their 20+ members living or working in Western SoMa) created a plan which imposes restrictions which would prevent new businesses, homes, and the density required to provide a safe, vibrant neighborhood like so many other parts of this city.

This plan imposes which would prevent new businesses, homes, and the density required to provide a safe, vibrant neighborhood like so many other parts of this city.

But it doesn’t have to be this way – we have an alternative vision that instead encourages the needed development so many of us that truly live here agree we need.

This is your chance to meet others that share this view and be part of a group offering a solution we are proposing to city planners.

There is an Eastern Neighborhoods plan which covers an area which effectively surrounds the Western SoMa area. This plan represents a compromise between planners, developers, and other special interest groups in the city. It has been received with positive reviews, including the San Francisco Planning Department.

Most agree it promotes the type of growth that we need so badly here in Western With such a great plan covering such a large area, why are we not included?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

CIty Parks Alliance

Location: Nationwide

Website: www.cityparksalliance.org

The Alliance is a national organization comprised of city parks leaders from across the country who work together to strengthen America's city parks. The organization has been in formation over the past several years in response to a broad-based movement of city park advocates who recognize the critical role parks play in the revitalization of our cities.

The mission of City Parks Alliance is to create vibrant and healthy parks and green spaces that contribute to sustainable cities by organizing, facilitating and nurturing a broad-based movement.

A group of parks administrators and advocates began meeting in August 1999 to establish greater collaboration and discuss the formation of a new national entity. A little over a year later while meeting in Philadelphia, this group endorsed the creation of the City Parks Alliance on October 23, 2000.

The group's creation is an outgrowth of the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Funds' Urban Parks Initiative, which helped establish a network of top non-profit and public-sector urban parks organizations, and city parks and recreation agencies. City Parks Alliance was established in June of 2002 as a 501 (c) (3) organization.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

ARISE Detroit !

Location: Detroit, MI

Website: www.arisedetroit.org

ARISE stands for Activating Resources and Inspiring Service and Empowerment.

Our goal is to promote a greater citizen involvement and community awareness of organizations and services that help a community function better.

We are creating a permanent network of organizations and their volunteers offering programs that support children and families.

Our mission is to inspire a community of active engagement, personal responsibility and hope by connecting people to opportunities and resources to transform the quality of life for all Detroiters.

Vision Detroit will be a city where children are loved and mentored, families are healthy and strong, and everyone is instilled with a spirit of hope and engaged in community service.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Spatial Information Design Lab

Location: New York, NY

Website: www.spatialinformationdesignlab.org

Spatial Information Design Lab was founded in 2004 as an interdisciplinary research unit in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University.

The Spatial Information Design Lab is a think- and action-tank at Columbia University specializing in the visual display of spatial information about contemporary cities and events. The lab works with data about space -- numeric data combined with narratives and images to design compelling visual presentations about our world today. The projects in the lab focus on linking social data with geography to help researchers and advocates communicate information clearly, responsibly, and provocatively. We work with survey and census data, Global Positioning System information, maps, high- and low-resolution satellite imagery, analytic graphics, photographs and drawings, along with narratives and qualitative interpretations, to produce images.

Spatial Information Design is a name for new ways of working with the vast quantity of statistical and other data available about the contemporary city. By reorganizing tabular data using unique visualization techniques, and locating it geographically, we try to correlate disparate items of information and picture the patterns and networks they create. Putting data on a map can open new spaces for action, and new options for intervention, as the often-unseen shapes and forms of life in the city becomes visible.

Design, here, is less like a tool and more like a language, a practice that shapes the outcomes and understandings of the things we do. It is not simply an aesthetic prejudice. The ways in which we present ideas and information can sometimes be even more important than the material itself, for better, or more commonly, for worse. The words and pictures we choose make a difference to the way people, including us, imagine their own possibilities of responding to what we say and do.

The goal of the Spatial Information Design Lab is to make partnerships with people and organizations inside and outside of the University. We are most interested in research which requires the independence and rigor of an academic setting (free of the usual politics and pressures of real life situations), and which thrive in an atmosphere of open inquiry, experimentation, and risk-taking, in order to expand the ways in which data is collected and used.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

San Franciscans for Planning and Urban Research

Location: San Francisco, CA

Website: www.spur.org

Through research, education and advocacy, SPUR promotes good planning and good government in the San Francisco Bay Area.

SPUR's history dates back to 1910, when a group of young city leaders came together to improve the quality of housing after the 1906 earthquake and fire. That group, the San Francisco Housing Association, authored a hard-hitting report which led to the State Tenement House Act of 1911.
In the 1930s, SFHA continued to advocate for housing concerns. In the 1940s, SFHA merged with Telesis, a group of graduates from UC Berkeley's city planning program, to become the San Francisco Planning and Housing Association in 1942. In the same year, the Association landed another major success with the creation of San Francisco's Department of City Planning.

In the 1950s, SFPHA pushed for the revitalization of San Francisco as the Bay Area's central city, in an effort to curb suburban sprawl and channel growth back into the urban core. In 1959, the San Francisco Planning and Housing Association was reorganized into the San Francisco Planning and Urban Renewal Association—and later, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association—to be the citizens' voice for good planning.

Over the next five decades, SPUR built support for land use, transportation and investment strategies to support center-oriented growth and urban economic vitality. Since then, SPUR has been involved with virtually every major planning decision in the city.

In May 2009, the opening of the 14,500 square-foot SPUR Urban Center opened a major new chapter in the life of the organization and in civic planning in San Francisco. Located in the heart of the Yerba Buena cultural district, the Urban Center provides a common ground for citizens to come together in fruitful, forward-thinking conversation.

In a city dominated by single-interest politics, SPUR plays the crucial role of uniting citizens to jointly craft solutions to our common problems.

SPUR is a member-supported, nonprofit organization.