"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, December 24, 2013

The Steel Yard

Location: Providence, RI

Website: www.thesteelyard.org

The Steel Yard offers arts and technical training programs designed to increase opportunities for cultural and artistic expression, career-oriented training, and small business incubation.

Our work is made possible through a combination of program-related earned income, private and government grants, corporate giving and individual philanthropy.

We are located at the historic Providence Steel and Iron site, along the Woonasquatucket River in the heart of Providence's industrial Valley neighborhood.

Our 10,000 square foot industrial shop includes:

- Welding, blacksmithing, jewelry, ceramics, and foundry space,

- Ceramics Cooperative,

- Jewelry Cooperative,

- Studio Access Opportunities, and

- Outdoor multi-use work and exhibition space.

The Steel Yard's programs cater to working artists, students, community members, tradespeople, arts educators and entrepreneurs.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Baltimore Slumlord Watch

Location: Baltimore, MD

Website: www.slumlordwatch.wordpress.com

Baltimore Slumlord Watch was created in January of 2009, as a way for city residents to discuss and share information on Baltimore’s many slumlords.

Started by a resident who was tired of watching out of town “investors” and others destroy neighborhoods as a result of their negligence, we hope this blog will serve as a valuable service to other city residents who are sick of the problems slumlords cause in our communities.

Please note, we do not work for realtors, developers, or property investors, and have no financial interest in property in Baltimore City.


Location: New York, NY

Website: www.mannahatta2409org

Mannahatta 2409, currently under development, will offer an online forum to enable the public to develop and share climate-resilient designs for Manhattan based on realistic model assessments of carbon, water, biodiversity, and population.

The project is scheduled for launch in late Fall 2013.

Because ecology has largely been ignored by past generations, New York City, like most modern cities, has inherited a series of interconnected problems of ecological performance: stormwater management, climate change adaptation and mitigation, brownfield remediation, and ecological restoration.

The first step in rectifying these problems is to think of the city as a vital ecological place, an ecosystem with attributes like a forest, a wetland, or a stream, but designed for people.

Mannahatta 2409 will be a map-based web application meant to inspire, inform, and generate new ideas about sustainable urban forms from the many diverse people who love New York City, Manhattan in particular.

We want to engage everyone, from city officials to schoolchildren, in the search for ecologically informed sustainability, as measured by ecological performance indicators related to carbon, water, biodiversity, and population.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans

Location: New Orleans, LA

Website: www.maccno.com

The Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans emerged from the meetings initially called for by Kermit Ruffins beginning in late September 2012 in response to the controversial increase in enforcement imposed on live music venues, and now serves as a platform from which all members of the cultural community may have a voice in decisions that directly affect them and the cultural economy of this city.

Our group is a diverse set of individuals, which include, in addition to musicians: street performers, venue owners and their staff, artists, lawyers and other advocates, craft-makers, traditional culture bearers, 2nd-line vendors, small-business owners, urban planners, and concerned citizens.

MACCNO facilitates discussions on issues concerning the New Orleans’ cultural economy and is dedicated to ensuring that all members of the cultural community have equal access to opportunity and a voice in the decision making process.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Opportunity Village Eugene

Location: Eugene, OR

Website: www.opportunityvillageeugene.org

Opportunity Village is a pilot project that will provide transitional micro-housing for 30-40 homeless individuals and couples at a time.
br> Design and organization of the village will be based upon best practices derived from a comprehensive study of long standing “tent cities” in the United States, lessons learned from local encampments, and a creative understanding of permaculture principles.

The transitional micro-housing will be compact (60-100 square feet) and transportable (less than 8 feet wide).

The idea is to combine a sense of ownership over a small, private space with an abundance of shared, common spaces that include cooking facilities, gathering areas, restrooms, and micro-business opportunities.

The village will be built through a collaboration between village residents, community volunteers, and skilled builders.

The Village will be self-managed with oversight provided by a 501(c)3 Board of Directors.  Basic rules will be upheld through a community agreement that prohibits stealing, violence, and drug or alcohol use.

Furthermore, it requires that all residents contribute to the operation and maintenance of the village through participating in security shifts, fundraising events, construction projects, cooking, gardening, or any number of other supportive activities.

This encourages both skill and relationship building, emphasizing the transitional aspect of the village.

The purpose of the project is to bridge the existing gap between the housed and the unhoused, create a place for that collaboration to occur, and build social capital.

This is how we believe we can effectively transition people off the streets, through the village, and into more permanent living situations.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Build a Better Burb

Location: Nationwide

Website: www.buildabetterburb.org

Build a Better Burb is an online publication dedicated to improving suburban design and planning. It uses engaging visuals to help suburban residents and leaders explore solutions from across the country that can be applied to their communities.

By showcasing innovative ideas and outstanding projects, the site seeks to inspire conversation about the importance of design and planning within suburban communities.

The articles on the site highlight bold ideas for improving housing, regional planning, parking and transit, and a sense of place within suburban downtowns and neighborhoods.

The Build a Better Burb website evolved from a design competition that was sponsored by the Long Island Index in 2010. The Build a Better Burb competition called for bold ideas from architects, urban designers, planners, and visionaries for the underutilized land in Long Island’s downtowns.

The goal was to reimagine what might be possible for our region. Seeing the scope of the problems facing Long Island, we realized that small tinkering at the edges wasn’t going to stop the brain drain or create vibrant town centers or convince businesses to locate here in order to reinvigorate our sagging economy.

We knew there was land to build on – 8,300 acres, in fact, within just ½ mile of our over 100 downtown communities. But where were the exciting ideas of what we might create there? For too long, there has been a crisis of imagination.

Bold new ideas are urgently needed. So in recruiting designers for the competition, we asked that they drop any preconceived notions about what was or was not possible.

We asked:

What would you do on these acres of opportunity? Build a car-free community? Plant an oasis of urban agriculture? Produce renewable energy and with it, provide well-paying green jobs? Use landscape systems to repair regional ecologies? Enhance public space and the civic realm?

The Build a Better Burb competition asked for innovative solutions at a variety of scales, from small-scale to regional. It sought both prototypical ideas as well as concepts tailored to particular downtowns. Photographs, renderings, plans, diagrams and other illustrations were requested to illustrate entrants’ ideas.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Catalytic Communities

Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Website: www.catcomm.org

Based in Rio de Janeiro, Catalytic Communities (CatComm) is an empowerment, communications, think tank and advocacy NGO run as a small, adaptive collaborative network which works to support and empower residents of informal settlements.

As needs among favela residents and their leaders evolve, we do too.

CatComm functions as a news source, agenda-setter, movement-builder and research collaborative, each to a lesser or greater extent at any time, as needs dictate. We are the only organization in Rio working at the intersection of community development, international networks, media and urban planning.

For 13 years we have been supporting community organizing efforts across Rio de Janeiro by developing and providing access to communications and networking tools and spaces supporting favela development tailored in strategic ways when the time is right.

CatComm is classified as a 501[c][3] not-for-profit organization in the United States, in addition to our charity status in Brazil, because of our commitment to developing educational and free services that empower those most at-risk.

We conscientiously incubate programs to support Rio de Janeiro’s informal settlements knowing such communities will constitute a third of the world’s population by 2050 and document what we do to serve as an example for other cities across the globe.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Urban Development Institute


Website: www.udi.bc.ca

The Urban Development Institute is a national non-profit association (with international affiliations) of the development industry and its related professions that is non-partisan in its activities.

With over 600 corporate members, UDI Pacific represents thousands of individuals involved in all facets of land development and planning, including: developers, property managers, financial lenders, lawyers, engineers, planners, architects, appraisers, real estate professionals, local governments and government agencies.

Since 1972, the Pacific Region has been dedicated to fostering effective communication between the industry, government, and the public; and aims to improve both housing and job opportunities for all British Columbians.

UDI Pacific also serves as the public voice of the real estate development industry, communicating with the media on a number of issues. UDI concentrates its activities in three primary areas: government relations, professional development and education, and research. As a "Partner in Community Building," the Urban Development Institute is committed to working with communities and governments to create and achieve the vision of balanced, well-planned and sustainable communities.

The Urban Development Institute, a non-profit association of the development industry in British Columbia, promotes wise and efficient urban growth, good planning and good development practices, affordable housing and high quality commercial and industrial developments.