"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, October 21, 2013


Location: St. Louis, MO

Website: citypulsestl.org

CityPulse is citywide network of beacons that provides pedestrian lighting as interactive art, detects and reports street-level activity in real time, creates civic connections, and offers a new platform for human interactions and entrepreneurship.

Each beacon is a modified standard of an existing lighting product equipped with inexpensive infrared sensors and micro controllers. CityPulse gathers pedestrian motion data for display via the CityPulse Map, which can be viewed on any number of digital devices. Choose to overlay the Map with additional data from other open-API resources.

Because the Map is accessible through any web-capable device, it translates seamlessly into a mobile application or a touch-screen kiosk, making it an invaluable exploration resource for locals and tourists alike. Find a bus stop, see who’s playing at that venue, or just choose a new place to get coffee.

The beacons are available in two sizes: a planted 21-foot-tall Home Beacon and a wall-mounted 10-foot-tall Satellite Beacon. The two different options offer different levels of accessibility, accommodating everything from high-traffic hubs to off-the-beaten-path storefronts.

This variety of beacons creates a complete network of nodes into any neighborhood. Once the beacons are hardwired throughout a neighborhood, they will collect Beacon activation information to send in real-time to the interactive activity Map. When a Beacon is activated, it appears as a “blip” on the Map.

Other blips indicate geo-tagged social media activity. The Map interface can be accessed via any web browser, as well as smartphones and tablets. Due to its intuitive design and quick access to location-based data, the Map offers the ideal interface for a public kiosk (see next page), serving as an informational hub for those unfamiliar with the city, or someone simply looking to explore.

Overlaid with the Map are a variety of helpful options including:

- Venues including restaurants, bars, convenience stores, markets, and other amenities, as well as nearby beacons,

- Promotional sales or current coupons in your surrounding area,

- A calendar of events and showtimes to make correlations between crowds and activities,

- Transit routes and schedules, as well as road traffic reports,

- Applied gaming using CityPulse’s API that encourage exploration (i.e. scavenger hunts, check-ins, etc. and,

Interesting city tips, fun facts, architectural history, community art, etc.

Brain Drain

Location: St. Louis, MO

Website: braindrain.co

Brain Drain is the brainchild of a group of young people united by a love for St. Louis. Some of us met in college, while others of us became friends after graduating. We are the ones who stayed, and we are committed to reversing the trend of young people leaving St. Louis.

Brain Drain aims to influence the trajectory of this city we all now proudly call home — and show other young minds that they can, too.

Our passions are urban ones and human ones. We are designers, architects, urban planners, journalists, educators, musicians, brewers, printers, archivists, builders, activists, organizers, mobilizers.

Our respective fields range from as technical as architecture and mechanical engineering to as creative as illustration and printmaking. We want to offer our diverse skills, backgrounds, and passions to solve real problems on a human scale.

Please come to our weekly #crappyhour, the public Creative Happy Hour on Wednesdays at 6 P.M. at Urban Chestnut Brewing Company, 3229 Washington Ave. Brain Drain invites all creative people, i.e. all people to #crappyhour tweeted every Wednesday.

Brain Drain is the antidote to urban exodus. Representing young natives and transplants that call St. Louis City home, our projects revere the city’s unique heritage while catalyzing its future. We focus on community-based projects that enhance the vitality of the larger St. Louis region and turn shared experience into shared initiative for our city.

Modern Architecture London

Location: London, England

Website: modernarchitecturelondon.com

Although I grew up in a town outside London, visits to the capital to see family and the sights were frequent throughout my childhood. I'd always been keen on art and design and my interest in modern architecture probably started when my Dad took me to see the Le Corbusier exhibition at the Haywood Gallery in 1987. My first photographs of modern architecture in London were taken in 1988 as part of a school project. I moved to London in 1989 to study graphic design at a place then known as Middlesex Polytechnic.

There are some very good guides to London architecture in book form, but they all have to make compromises because of space limitations. The guides that include a lot of buildings can't devote much space to each one, and often have only a short description with a postage stamp sized photo. Some guides only include the well known buildings or the most recent ones, which means than many interesting places get forgotten about,

The point of this site is to try and take advantage of what websites can offer and combine photos, text, floor plans and mapping information. I'm not limited by space, but I am limited by time. Some buildings have very minimal information at the moment. The site will always be a work in progress and I'm aiming to continue adding to it on a regular basis.

What's the criteria for a building to appear on the site?

The main reason for a building to be on this site is that I like it, or at least find it interesting in some way. There's a major bias towards north London because that's where I live. I'm going to stretch the definition of what counts as London as I see fit - I think the building furthest out is probably Stansted and I've included that because it's thought of as a London airport. The buildings are from the 20th and 21st centuries but I'm going to have to write a separate piece at some point to explain what I consider to be 'modern' architecture.

The purpose of the images on this site is to help explain the buildings - I'm not particularly interested in photography for it own sake. The internet is awash with digital photography and I don't really know what the point of it is most of the time. I'm certainly not trying to create 'art' photographs.

The majority of the photos on the site are taken with a Canon Powershot digital camera. However, you may be able to detect a few traces from a previous era of photography. There are a small number of images from 35mm slide and negative film taken with an SLR camera and a compact camera.

I occasionally do very minor digital retouching but I don't paint out graffiti, streetsigns or any of the other street furniture because I want the photos to be an accurate record of how the building is experienced as much as possible. I often crop the photos and for some of them I distort the image in Photoshop to correct for converging verticals.

Maps are something that guidebooks sometimes struggle with. My copy of Nairn's London contains grid references to an edition of the London A-Z that no longer exists. I'm able to include Google maps and Google streetview in most instances. I've also included bird's eye views from Microsoft 'Bing' - they're a great way to understand the form of a building from an aerial view.

I think floor plans are an essential part of understanding architecture. They're time consuming to research and produce so for now, they are limited to the housing category. All of the floor plans have been redrawn to ensure that they're in the same style and to the same scale.

Where appropriate, I've listed the sources I've used for each of the buildings. Some information comes from the web and some from books. I consult the periodicals in the library at the Royal Institute of British Architects for more detailed information about particular buildings. I've also learnt a lot from numerous visits to buildings as part of the annual Open House event.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Location: Manhattan, NY

Website: www.civitasnyc.org

We are a union of citizens dedicated to improving neighborhood quality of life in the Upper East Side and East Harlem since 1981.

CIVITAS promotes urban planning, zoning and land use policies that are sensible and sensitive to residential life in our neighborhoods.

CIVITAS supports environmentally sound development, vibrant retail activity at street level, uncluttered sidewalks and access to good public transit.

CIVITAS opposes overbearing towers that are non-contextual and cut off light and air from surrounding buildings and the sidewalk below.

CIVITAS commissions urban planning studies, speaks out at public hearings, issues reports and keeps its members informed on current issues impacting on urban life, including traffic congestion, historic preservation, zoning variances, water quality and public access to parks and the waterfront.

In 1981, when CIVITAS was founded, August Heckscher, its first chair, hearkened back to the Roman Republic to find a name that would express the spirit of the new community organization. The name chosen, “CIVITAS,” referred to that quality of a citizen that made him deeply involved in the life and fate of his city. Such has been the guiding spirit for CIVITAS ever since.

The mission of CIVITAS is to foster, mobilize and coordinate civic concern in the community of Manhattan’s Upper East Side and East Harlem. To that end, CIVITAS seeks to promote, preserve and protect residential neighborhoods that are lively and livable.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

People St

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Website: www.peoplest.org

People St offers communities within the City of Los Angeles the opportunity to transform underused areas of LA’s largest public asset – our 6,500 miles of city streets – into active, accessible public space.

Community organizations, business owners and other groups can apply for opportunities to enhance the quality of the public realm through installing three innovative design treatments, including plazas, parklets and bike corrals.

This website is your one stop shop for information, resources and materials on People St Plazas, Parklets, and Bike Corrals, and the process for applying to bring these projects to your neighborhood.

Building from lessons learned from the city’s first six pilot projects, LADOT has been working closely in an unprecedented collaboration with community members, elected officials, and other city staff to develop People St into a program that will expedite project development and implementation with a clear, consistent process.

People St facilitates partnerships between the community and the City of Los Angeles to implement projects that transform redundant or under-used areas of street into high-quality public space.

These cost-efficient conversion projects use simple elements like moveable tables, umbrellas and chairs; paint and plantings; and lively and entertaining programming to create relatively instant transformations to improve the life of a street.

Bringing a People St project to life requires the active participation of community partners to build neighborhood support for a project, identify an appropriate site, conduct outreach, raise the money required, and provide and fund long-term maintenance.

The goal is to create true public-private partnerships on projects that are initiated and driven by and for communities.

People St contributes to more active, livable streets, enhancing quality of life in the City of Los Angeles. Providing expanded public spaces can increase safety for people who walk, bike and take transit, encourage increased levels of walking and bicycling, and support economic vitality.

New local gathering spaces can foster a greater sense of community and social cohesion. Plazas, parklets, and other new types of public space can also become centerpieces of neighborhoods, providing venues for events and celebrations.

All this activity is shown to support local businesses as more pedestrians come to and spend time in neighborhoods.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Urban Assembly

Location: New York, NY

Website: www.urbanassembly.org

The Urban Assembly was founded in 1990 to address a wide range of poverty issues. In the mid-'90s we spearheaded a major planning effort to transform a 300-block area of the South Bronx.

That effort identified the lack of high-quality local secondary schools as a major concern and recommended creating three model high schools, each tied to a major local institution.

In 1997, in partnership with the New York City Department of Education and New Visions for Public Schools, the Urban Assembly opened the first of these schools, the Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice, and in 2002 it opened the second, the Academy for Careers in Sports.

Based on our success, the Urban Assembly was invited to submit proposals for two more schools. In 2003, we opened the Bronx Academy of Letters, and, inspired by the commitment of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, shifted the organization’s focus exclusively to the creation and support of new small schools.

Twenty-one Urban Assembly schools are now up and running.

We are reaching into the communities where kids need us most and giving thousands of students the education they deserve. By every measure, our children are among the city’s most underserved.

94% of our students are African-American and Latino. 69% of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch programs. 70% of 9th graders enter our high schools with scores below city and state proficiency levels in math. 64% are below proficiency in reading. 50% of our students speak a language other than English at home.

Our schools demonstrate that at risk students can achieve incredible success with the right learning environment, instruction and support. The Urban Assembly’s network-wide graduation rate is 76% — 15 points higher than the New York City average and seven points higher than the national average. Several of our schools have graduation rates above 90%.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Joint Center for Economic and Political Studies

Location: Nationwide

Website: www.jointcenter.org

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies works to inform and illuminate the nation's major public policy debates through research, analysis, and information dissemination, with the goal of improving the socioeconomic status of African Americans and other people of color, expanding their effective participation in the political and public policy arenas, and promoting communications and relationships across racial and ethnic lines to strengthen the nation's pluralistic society.

Our high quality research, distinctive analyses of the issues, and experience in assembling effective coalitions have been cited by policy makers as helping to generate innovative, practical solutions to America's most challenging problems.

The Joint Center's approach includes identifying critical and emerging issues and developing research parameters, as well as collaborating with well-known scholars and experts in designing and conducting rigorous investigations, studies, and reports.

Our research findings are publicized in relevant policy circles and among targeted audiences through our strategic partners and with the general public through traditional and new media.

The Joint Center facilitates extensive analysis of facts and issues through the lens of the African American community, with the goal of ensuring its views are considered in the public policy development process.

With our extensive polling of African American voters, we are the nation's key source of information on the black electorate and the elected and appointed officials who represent them at all levels of government.

Friday, October 11, 2013

City Modern

Location: New York, NY

Website: www.citymodernnyc.com

CITY MODERN will showcase the best of New York's design scene with studio tours, panel discussions, cocktail parties, special installations and home tours.

Meet the brilliant minds behind the city's most innovative spaces and engage with topics including fashion and architecture, food and design, the city’s talented young designers, and so much more.

Join us and be inspired by the brilliant designers, architects, and artists that are helping to build, remodel, and preserve our beloved metropolis.

Co-hosted by New York magazine, the second annual CITY MODERN celebrates New York’s incredible modern design and architecture. The week-long festival, helmed by Dwell editor-in-chief Amanda Dameron.

New York design editor Wendy Goodman, brings together a vital design community—accomplished and emerging designers, students, design enthusiasts, and many others—to share their ideas, creativity, and innovations. Exclusive programming, from September 27 through October 4, will include daily panel discussions, compelling home tours, lively parties and receptions, and much more.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Copenhagen Climate Adaption Plan

Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

Website: subsite.kk.dk/sitecore/content/Subsites/CityOfCopenhagen/SubsiteFrontpage/LivingInCopenhagen/ClimateAndEnvironment/ClimateAdaptation/CopenhagenClimateAdaptionPlan.aspx

We cannot get away from it: the climate is changing, and in the future we will get more rain, higher sea levels and warmer weather.

This presents Copenhagen with a number of challenges. If we wait to deal with them, it will become expensive, and coming generations of Copenhageners will have to use a lot of resources in order to avoid seriously damaging our city.

With this plan, we are meeting the challenges now. Doing this in good time will help us to keep expenses down as well as offering us a number of exciting possibilities. Climate adaptation can contribute to giving us a greener city as well as more growth and more jobs.

In other words, we must exploit the climate challenges positively, by acting in a way which will please both citizens and businesses – not just in 50 years time, but here and now.

Amongst other actions we take, we must cope with the larger quantities of rainwater and ensure a pleasant climate by means of green roofs and facades and more trees as well as green and blue areas.

We have already had excellent experiences with using the challenges we face to provide more opportunities for Copenhageners. The popular harbour swimming pools are the result of persistent efforts to deal with rain water, so that it does not contaminate the harbour waters along with the waste water. The cleanliness of the water in the harbour has attracted international attention and by focusing on climate adaptation, we will gain even more experience in the future about how to develop and adapt solutions which will benefit other cities as well as putting Copenhagen on the map.

This plan is our starting point for incorporating the necessary climate adaptation into our thinking in all areas of the city’s development in good time. So, climate adaptation and the development of an attractive and green major city will become two sides of the same coin.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Mi Ciudad Ideal

Location: Bogota, Columbia

Website: www.miciudadideal.com/en

Winka Dubbeldam (Archi-Tectonics) and Rodrigo Nino (Prodigy Network) have developed Downtown Bogotá // My Ideal City, an online platform for the citizens of Bogotá to influence their local city-planning proposals.

Recognizing that middle-class population growth across Latin America often outpaces the speed of urban development, My Ideal City responds to the demand for bottom-up planning measures. If successful, the online-platform could be implemented across the globe.


Location: International

Website: www.urbanretailinstitute.com

On October 20-22 at the Tower of London, CyArk will formally launch the CyArk 500 Challenge to digitally preserve 500 cultural heritage sites within the next five years. We are on a mission to save these cultural heritage sites digitally before more are ravaged by war, terrorism, arson, urban sprawl, climate change, earthquakes, floods, and other threats. There isn’t enough money or enough time to physically save every site, but we do have the 3D technology to digitally save these sites to make them available for generations to come.

The event will include an announcement of the site selection criteria, unveiling of the first sites to be included in the 500, and a call to action from CyArk Founder Ben Kacyra.

The launch will be followed by a two-day conference attended by cultural heritage, technology, and philanthropy leaders from around the world. The launch and conference will bring together some of the world’s best minds and organizations to share experiences and best methods for capturing, disseminating and archiving information about these sites. The aim is to increase awareness of the need for heritage documentation and preservation, create best practices within the field, embrace new technologies, and find creative ways to increase funding for these initiatives.

Saturday, October 5, 2013


Location: International

Website: http://www.coca-colacompany.com/stories/a-pilot-the-first-ekocenter-in-action#TCCC

Today, more than 1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water and approximately 2.5 billion don’t have adequate sanitation, making billions of people around the world vulnerable to disease and other development challenges.

To help provide communities in need with access to safe drinking water and other basic necessities, The Coca-Cola Company, together with DEKA, and other critical partners including development banks, NGOs and companies, launched EKOCENTER™ - a downtown in a box - with the Slingshot™ water purification system housed within the community center. The EKOCENTER project aims to improve the holistic well-being of developing communities around the world, focusing on those within the Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP), the largest, poorest socio-economic group. Globally, this represents nearly 4 billion people who live on less than US$2 per day.

Coca-Cola Company has been committed to making a positive, lasting difference in the local communities in which we operate. Through EKOCENTER, we are striving to continue this commitment. The project, which began as a pilot in South Africa in August 2013, will not only help deliver safe water and other necessities to some of the most remote and distressed areas of the world but also empower community members, especially women, through entrepreneurship and employment opportunities.

EKOCENTER is a modularly designed kiosk with Slingshot at its core, transformed from  a 20-foot shipping container into a hub of community activity, offering clean, safe drinking water, alongside other services, such as access to wireless communication, electricity, vaccination storage, and more tailored to address community needs. EKOCENTER strives to help communities thrive— each and every community member—from the people using EKOCENTER to the local entrepreneur operating it.

By 2015, we will place between 1,500 and 2,000 units in the form of EKOCENTERs, “downtowns in a box,” or Slingshot water purification systems to deliver further services beyond clean water, in Africa, Asia, Latin America and North America. Through this commitment, we aim to deliver 500 million liters of safe drinking water, while promoting greater local development in communities that need it most.

What is Slingshot technology? Each EKOCENTER is equipped with Slingshot technology. The Slingshot water purification system—developed in partnership with DEKA R&D—uses vapor compression distillation (VCD) technology to turn any source of dirty water—river water, ocean water and even raw sewage—into safe, clean drinking water. The technology, invented by inventor and DEKA R&D President Dean Kamen, delivers approximately 800 liters of clean water daily at the hourly electricity cost of less than a standard handheld hair dryer (1kWh).

In 2012, our Company announced a partnership with DEKA at the Clinton Global Initiative to deliver stand-alone Slingshot water purification systems to schools, community centers and health clinics in rural communities in countries throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America, and as an expansion of this partnership, Slingshot will be a key component of the EKOCENTER project.

In 2013, we are deploying units in Africa and Latin America. Building on current pilot work initiated in Paraguay, Mexico and South Africa by The Coca-Cola Company and DEKA, the project will expand in early 2014 to additional markets.

Community participation and support are essential to the success of EKOCENTER, which is why we envision EKOCENTER being operated by local female entrepreneurs, complementing our initiative, and with support from technology, development, and financial partners.

We recognize that partnership with other companies, NGOs and government partners is key to leverage collective thinking, experience, innovation, products and financial support to execute EKOCENTER in a thoughtful manner with long-term viability in mind. Working with business, government and civil society – what we call the “Golden Triangle” – is key to making a positive difference on global challenges.

With help from DEKA, we have developed a partnership to support the EKOCENTER project. Their expertise enables us to do far more than we could alone.

EKOCENTER represents an investment in the future prosperity and progress of some of the most fragile and at-risk communities we serve,” said Muhtar Kent, Chairman and CEO, The Coca-Cola Company. “Through EKOCENTER we have the ability to change lives by offering access to safe drinking water and other needed resources, all while empowering local entrepreneurs. What started as an aspiration is now becoming a reality as we welcome our partners across the golden triangle of business, government and civil society to scale and improve this innovation.

Located on the ground of Coca-Cola’s Valpre natural spring water bottling plant, the EKOCENTER pilot elevates our Slingshot initiative by introducing a training facility for bottling partners, women and young entrepreneurs as we test this program for future expansion. The project supports our global commitment to replenish the water used in our beverages and their production, and to empower people and communities through employment. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fare & Square

Location: Chester, PA

Website: www.fareandsquare.org

Lack of access to healthy food is a critical issue in the Delaware Valley. There are 35 “food deserts” in the area as determined by the USDA. By the end of this summer, there will be one less.

Chester has been without a grocery store since 2001 and more than 54% of families in the City must travel too far for groceries, according to a Philabundance Community Survey conducted in July 2010. That’s why we are bringing the nonprofit grocery store, Fare and Square, to 9th and Trainer Streets (opening in September 2013).

Fare & Square will offer shoppers convenient access to “good food right around the corner” that has not been available to residents in a full-scale grocery store in years. We will sell nutritious food staples with a focus on fresh produce, meats, deli, dairy, seafood, and frozen foods and will help stretch customers’ dollars and give them more for their money. SNAP (Food Stamps) will be accepted along with everyday low pricing for all customers, as well as a percentage off of future purchases. Fare & Square will also offer SNAP outreach.

We have rehabbed the last operating full-scale grocery store space in Chester, which closed in 2001, creating a new gateway at the corner of 9th and Trainer. What’s more, Fare & Square will create 40 to 50 new jobs in Chester, hiring from the community as much as possible.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Urban Institute

Location: Nationwide

Website: www.urban.org

The Urban Institute gathers data, conducts research, evaluates programs, offers technical assistance overseas, and educates Americans on social and economic issues — to foster sound public policy and effective government.

The Urban Institute builds knowledge about the nation’s social and fiscal challenges, practicing open-minded, evidence-based research to diagnose problems and figure out which policies and programs work best, for whom, and how.

- Explore the work of our ten targeted policy centers and discover the breadth of the Institute's impact.

- Review our research publications, most freely available to all,

In the mid-1960s, President Johnson saw the need for independent nonpartisan analysis of the problems facing America's cities and their residents. The President created a blue-ribbon commission of civic leaders who recommended chartering a center to do that work. In 1968, the Urban Institute became that center.

Our Commitments:

- Use rigorous, state-of-the-art methods to analyze public policies and programs,
- Bring sound objective evidence to public policy decisions.

- Deepen public understanding of policy issues,

- Save government and communities time and money through research on effective and efficient programs,

- Work to make our Washington, D.C., metropolitan area a stronger community.

Clean Water Action

Location: Colorado

Website: www.cleanwateraction.org

Clean Water Action is a one million member organization of diverse people and groups joined together to protect our environment, health, economic well-being and community quality of life.

Our goals include clean, safe and affordable water; prevention of health threatening pollution; creation of environmentally safe jobs and businesses; and empowerment of people to make democracy work.

Clean Water Action organizes strong grassroots groups and coalitions and campaigns to elect environmental candidates and solve environmental and community problems.