"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 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.

Prince's Foundation

Location: Great Britain


The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community evolved from The Institute of Architecture, established by HRH The Prince of Wales.

We believe that sustainably planned, built and maintained communities improve the quality of life of everyone who is part of them. They help us live better at a local level, and start dealing with the broader global challenges of urbanisation and climate change.

By 2050, the world’s urban population will almost double to nearly 6.5 billion people. We operate across the globe, building the capacity of the planners, architects, engineers, and communities that will be tasked with supporting a rapidly urbanising world. Our work puts people at the heart of creating resilient places – through community engagement and working with people who know their area best. Through educating future generations of practitioners, pioneering practises, and building places, we endeavour to create sustainable, vibrant communities that leave a legacy for future generations.


“I wanted to create an organisation both to champion and to show what it means to build harmoniously and in an environmentally friendly manner. It simply cannot be a coincidence that creating places where people actually want to live – that are built with an eye to enduring appeal and versatility and where people can walk from their house to the shop to the local school – leads to more durable, contented and productive communities. And as you will not be surprised to hear, I have always believed that if you want to effect change it is not enough merely to champion an idea, but absolutely vital to make the effort to create tangible examples on the ground that prove this philosophy, and then inspire other communities to do the same.

I am incredibly proud of its commitment to investing in education and sharing knowledge and best practise, which has always been at the core of its work and mission. For over twenty years now, my Foundation has offered broad and much-needed education that is sadly unavailable elsewhere, giving people the kind of integrated, holistic skills they need to create sustainable and beautiful places through programmes such as the Summer School and Graduate Fellowship.

My Foundation now combines this education work with championing community-building worldwide, engaging with all sorts of people across the globe and bringing talented people together to create long-term, practical solutions.”

Monday, December 19, 2016

Democracy Collaborative

Location: Nationwide

Website: democracycollaborative.org

Through our cutting edge research and our many diverse programs, The Democracy Collaborative works to carry out a vision of a new economic system where shared ownership and control creates more equitable and inclusive outcomes, fosters ecological sustainability, and promotes flourishing democratic and community life.

We are a national leader in equitable, inclusive and sustainable development through our Community Wealth Building Initiative. This initiative sustains a wide range of Advisory, Research and Field Building activities designed to transform the practice of community/economic development in the United States. We also host the Next System Project, ongoing intellectual work designed to connect Community Wealth Building to the larger context of systemic economic transformation.

Our staff and associates are involved in a wide range of projects involving research, training, policy development, and community-focused work designed to promote an asset-based paradigm of economic development and increase support for transformative strategies among community stakeholders, anchor institutions, and key policymakers. As the premier innovator and leading national voice in the field of Community Wealth Building, we are known for our research and advisory services, as well as informing public policy, promoting new models and strategies, and establishing metrics to advance the field.

Throughout this work, our mission is to catalyze the transformation of our economy, working to build community wealth and create a next system anchored in democratic ownership and based on:

Broadening ownership and stewardship over capital Democracy at the workplace Stabilizing community and emphasizing locality Equitable and inclusive growth Environmental, social, and institutional sustainability

Monday, December 12, 2016


Location: Nationwide

Website: stablecommunities.org/ncst

The U.S. housing market remains extremely uneven. While some areas have rebounded significantly from the recession and have a robust housing market, others – especially communities of color, lower-income areas, and cities where economic activity remains depressed – continue to grapple with high rates of vacant, abandoned and distressed properties that weaken nearby home values, create health and safety risks, lower local tax revenues, and thwart neighborhood revitalization efforts.

The National Community Stabilization Trust (NCST) is a non-profit organization that works to restore vacant and abandoned properties to productive use and protect neighborhoods from blight. Our programs facilitate the rehabilitation of vacant but structurally sound homes, enable safe, targeted demolition when necessary, and support creative and productive re-use of vacant land.

Established in 2008 by the sponsors listed to the left, NCST offers a unique blend of policy expertise and on-the-ground experience working with local partners to eliminate the blight caused by vacant and foreclosed properties and severely delinquent mortgages in distressed communities.

NCST supports neighborhoods and fights blight through these key activities:

Provide community-based buyers an opportunity to acquire vacant, abandoned and distressed properties as part of a neighborhood revitalization strategy. Our First Look REO acquisition program gives local affordable housing and community development organizations the opportunity to obtain properties in their market areas before they are marketed more broadly. In many cases, REO properties can be acquired at discounts that help make it financially feasible for nonprofit buyers to rehabilitate these properties for new occupants.

Partner with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in their Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative.

This partnership offers Fannie and Freddie REO properties to local affordable housing and community development organizations through a special First Look program in 18 strategic markets around the country, mostly east of the Mississippi river.

In collaboration with the Housing Partnership Network (HPN), NCST manages a portfolio of highly distressed mortgages to resolve delinquencies, assist homeowners, and prepare vacant properties for productive disposition. Financial institutions donate these mortgages to NCST and HPN to assist with asset resolution.

Along with many national and local partners, including our six sponsors, we research solutions and advocate for policies to help communities address blight and high rates of vacant, abandoned, and distressed properties.

Offer financing to support local housing work.

Our REO Capital Fund aggregates capital from philanthropic and social investment sources to provide flexible financing for local organizations to acquire and rehabilitate single family homes.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Property Panel LA

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Website: propertpanel.la
The City of Los Angeles -- on behalf of its residents and taxpayers -- owns a vast portfolio of real estate, encompassing nearly 9,000 distinct parcels located within the County of Los Angeles. These include parks; libraries; municipal facilities; parking lots, and commercial, industrial, retail, office and residential buildings and vacant land. Some are small; some are very large. L.A.’s real estate holdings also include land at and around our airports, the Port of L.A. and properties owned by our nation’s largest municipally owned utility, the Dept. of Water & Power. The City has additional holdings in other California counties and outside the State.

Properties owned by the City serve many community needs and benefits. There are, however, many properties that are underutilized, and which could better serve the public -- be it as public space, revenue-producing income property, low-income housing … and much more. Some properties might benefit from being re-purposed by the City, while others could generate more value for Angelenos by being leased, sold or developed by the City, or in public/private partnerships. PropertyPanel.LA is intended as an informational tool, as a resource and as a call to action for the City to undertake a more organized, professional and strategic approach to our valuable shared public assets.

“Now everyone can know what we all own a piece of,” said Controller Galperin. “The extent of the holdings revealed by this map shows that we as a City have the opportunity to engage in widespread economic and community development, as well as to generate revenue for much-needed City services.

Silicon Valley Rising

Location: Silicon Valley, CA

Website: siliconvalleyrising.org

Silicon Valley Rising is a coordinated campaign driven by an unprecedented coalition of labor, faith leaders, community-based organizations and workers.

We aspire to a new vision for Silicon Valley where all workers, their families and communities are valued. We have high expectations for this Valley and for our communities:

We want to be a part of creating a new economic model that rebuilds the middle class.

We want to raise wages and standards for all workers so they can live and thrive here.

And we want to build housing that is affordable and accessible so that our families don't have to live in garages, in their cars, or near a creekbed.

Our campaign is about bringing everyone in this Valley together to solve the biggest challenges of our time.

Friday, December 9, 2016


Location: Southeast Florida


Who Should Use the DataCommon, and How is it Useful?

Easily visualize relevant and meaningful information about your community and constituents to enhance understanding of important issues and inform policymaking.

Planners & Academics -

Find needed data and information at your fingertips to support local and regional planning, grant application development, and community collaborations.


Quickly access the important information that you need about your community in a user friendly way

The Southeast Florida DataCommon is a unique tool that can be used to promote better communication, more informed policymaking, and broad-based collaboration around issues of shared importance. It is a resource for grant writers; providing data and analyses of relevant community and regional trends. Information provided in the context of larger issues can further community participation and engagement to bring about positive community change. It provides a portal through which users can easily access and visualize data about Southeast Florida’s communities.

A critical component the DataCommon is the importance and relevance of the information being presented to professional users, academics, policymakers, business leaders, and members of the general public. This platform was developed to encourage and facilitate meaningful dialogue within and amongst these groups. The continued development and expansion of the DataCommon will be instrumental in advancing a shared understanding of the Region and the opportunities and challenges facing our communities and fellow residents. As we explore issues that connect us to one another, better data and collaborative efforts will contribute to the development of public policy and cooperative action plans to support a better future for South Florida. The DataCommon will promote more effective inter-agency data sharing and will serve as a common platform to view pertinent issues in Southeast Florida.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Lowell Plan

Location: Lowell, MA

Website: lowellplan.org

The Lowell Plan, Inc. was established as a nonprofit economic development organization in 1980. For 30 years, the Lowell Plan has sustained constructive and productive dialogue among the city’s key leaders in business, government, education, and community development. Visitors from around the country and the world have asked how the city has become a model of urban revitalization. They want to know the formula. In its simplest terms, the answer is that Lowell’s public and private leaders have maintained an ongoing dialogue that has yielded practical responses to the challenges and opportunities facing the city.

The formula sounds simple, but it was revolutionary at the outset. The Lowell Plan created a neutral ground where public and private sector officials could speak candidly and collaborate on priority issues. Through the years the names and faces have changed, but the board’s structure and reputation for getting results ensure that the pieces keep coming together month after month.

The Lowell Plan has shown itself to be bold, versatile, and effective from funding the American City Corp.’s Downtown Master Plan and the Lowell Model for Educational Excellence in the early years to undertaking the feasibility study for the Tsongas Arena and the market analysis for a minor-league baseball team in the middle years—to recently funding the Urban Land Institute and Creative Economy Studies and administering the National Park’s trolley extension project. Click on past projects for a listing of the Lowell Plan’s involvement in Lowell since 1980.

Going forward, the Lowell Plan is committed to fostering a dialogue that will take Lowell well into the 21st century as a city with a productive and sustainable economy; lifelong educational opportunities; and vibrant and diverse cultural offerings. With a belief in the value of community service, the Lowell Plan make civic engagement a priority through its support of the leadership program “Public Matters.”

Lowell shines when the community’s best talent, backed by resources, is put to work to achieve common objectives. As we have done so often in our 30-year history, the Lowell Plan will work to achieve consensus on future courses of action to ensure the city’s ongoing revitalization.

Lowell will be the best city of its size in America. The Lowell Plan commits its resources to this goal, which will be achieved through partnership with the public sector in a renewed commitment to dialogue followed by action.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

L.A. Conservancy

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Website: laconservancy.org

Think about your favorite building in Greater Los Angeles. Chances are, it’s one of the fantastic historic places that help make the region unique. The Los Angeles Conservancy works every day – as we have since 1978 – to make sure these places survive and thrive for future generations.

A private, member-based nonprofit, the L.A. Conservancy was formed in 1978 as part of the effort to prevent demolition of the stunning Los Angeles Central Library. What started as a handful of concerned citizens is now the largest group of its kind in the U.S., with more than 6,000 member households, hundreds of volunteers, and a full-time staff of nearly twenty.

The Conservancy is based in downtown Los Angeles but works throughout L.A. County—which spans 88 cities plus the County’s unincorporated areas.We work through education and advocacy to raise awareness of historic places, prevent their needless demolition, empower people to save the places they love, and foster strong preservation laws and incentives.

Why Preserve Historic Places?

As people rely more on technology and virtual connections, and as cookie-cutter development makes cities look more and more alike, we have a growing need for authenticity, character, and distinction. We don’t want our communities to look like everyone else’s. Historic buildings, structures, landscapes, and neighborhoods help fill this critical need. They tell great stories, give us a sense of place, help us learn who we are and what we value as a culture, and embody our shared history.

The L.A. Conservancy has a vision of Los Angeles as a place that values our past and considers it an essential part of our present and future. The Conservancy is a nonprofit membership organization that works through education and advocacy to recognize, preserve, and revitalize the historic architectural and cultural resources of Los Angeles County.

We raise awareness of the value of historic places in strengthening communities, fostering economic development, and enriching lives.

For more than thirty-five years, our walking tours, special events, and other programs have brought countless Los Angeles residents and visitors closer to the beautiful buildings and unique spaces that make Los Angeles County so special. Our educational programs have introduced many people to the history and value of Greater Los Angeles' built environment.

We also work on a vast range of preservation issues throughout Los Angeles County, both proactively and in response to specific threats to historic cultural and architectural resources.

We provide technical assistance and resources to help people enjoy and preserve the historic places they love.

The largest local preservation group in the United States, our large and active membership reflects an unprecedented level of support for L.A.'s historic resources and we continue to gain ground in making preservation part of public policy, urban planning, and public consciousness.

Pit Stop

Location: San Francisco, CA

Website: sfpublicworks.org/pitstop

San Francisco Public Works operates the Pit Stop program, which provides clean and safe public toilets, sinks, used needle receptacles and dog waste stations in San Francisco's most impacted neighborhoods.

The program utilizes both portable toilets, which are trucked to and from the sites daily after overnight servicing at a remote location, and the semi-permanent JCDecaux self-cleaning toilets.

All the Pit Stop facilities are staffed by paid attendants who help ensure that the toilets are well maintained and used for their intended purpose. The program, which began in July 2014, now operates at 11 locations, providing an alternative to using our streets and sidewalks as a toilet. Not only do the people who need a bathroom benefit, but so do the neighborhoods.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Resiliant Landscape Guide

Location: International


Working with nature -- instead of in opposition to it -- helps communities become more resilient and come back stronger after disruptive natural events. Long-term resilience is about continuously bouncing back and regenerating. It's about learning how to cope with the ever-changing “new normal.”

As events become more frequent and intense due to climate change, communities must adapt and redevelop to reduce risks and improve ecological and human health. It's also time to stop putting communities and infrastructure in high-risk places. And we need to reduce sprawl, which further exacerbates the risks.

Resilient landscape planning and design offers a way forward for communities. We can now use multi-layered systems of protection, with diverse, scalable elements, any one of which can fail safely in the event of a catastrophe.

Many communities have attempted to find a single solution to disasters through heavy-handed infrastructure projects: walls to keep out water, power plants to cool cities. But working with nature to create multi-layered defenses provides several co-benefits.

For example, constructed coastal buffers, made of reefs and sand, can also provide wildlife habitat and recreation opportunities; urban forests made up of diverse species clean the air while reducing the urban heat island effect; and green infrastructure designed to control flooding also provides needed community space and creates jobs.

The goal of resilient landscape planning and design is to retrofit our communities to recover more quickly from extreme events, now and in the future. In an era when disasters can cause traditional, built systems to fail, adaptive, multi-layered systems can maintain their vital functions and are often the more cost-effective and practical solutions.

In an age of rising waters and temperatures and diminishing budgets, the best defenses are adaptive, like nature.

This guide is organized around disruptive events that communities now experience: drought, extreme heat, fire, flooding, landslides, and, importantly, biodiversity loss, which subverts our ability to work with nature.

The guide includes numerous case studies and resources demonstrating multi-benefit systems as well as the small-scale solutions that fit within those. The guide also explains landscape architects’ role in the planning and design teams helping to make communities more resilient.

American Architectural Foundation

Location: Nationwide

arch Website: archfoundation.org

The American Architectural Foundation (AAF) is dedicated to the vibrant social, economic, and environmental future of cities. In the past decade alone, AAF has worked directly with local leaders through more than 500 city engagements. During this time, AAF has served every major metropolitan region and most second-tier cities in the United States. All told, it has provided design leadership training and technical assistance to hundreds of elected officials, public-private partnerships, education leaders, business leaders, and other key local decision makers in the design process.

These engagements are based on real-world challenges and opportunities from the participants’ cities, which provide the focus for intensive, collaborative design leadership programs. The overarching goal is to equip these leaders with the knowledge, inspiration, and resources that they need to lead their communities to transformative change through design.

To inform its efforts, AAF leverages its extensive network of city leaders and design innovators. Their collective experience and expertise is rich in depth and diversity, spanning such key sectors as building design and construction, urban planning, landscape, transportation, infrastructure, finance, and communications. Underlying all these concerns is a commitment to advancing the cause of sustainability.

The impact of AAF’s efforts is visible in the local design leadership behind hundreds of projects across the United States, ranging from brownfield remediation to waterfront redevelopment to downtown corridor revitalization.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


Location: Philadelphia, PA

Website: www.rideindego.com

The City of Philadelphia launched Indego in 2015 as the newest form of public transportation. With more than 1000 self-service bikes and more than 105 stations, Indego offers 24/7 access to the City on your schedule. Indego is an initiative of the City of Philadelphia and sponsored by Independence Blue Cross.

Indego was launched with a strategic focus on making a bike share that is accessible and equitable to all Philadelphians, and is the lead partner of the Better Bike Share Partnership, a collaboration funded by The JPB Foundation to build equitable and replicable bike share systems.

The Better Bike Share partnership supported the City of Philadelphia’s equity goals for Indego when the system launched in April of 2015, including the placement of 19 Indego stations in underserved neighborhoods, the industry’s first integrated cash payment option, and outreach and education work in partnership with the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.

Earlier this year, the City of Philadelphia, with funding from the William Penn Foundation, added 30 additional stations to connect underserved communities with parks, waterways and resources throughout Philadelphia. This spring also marked the launch of the Indego30 Access pass.Since April, over 1,000 people have purchased an Access pass, taking more than 16,000 trips.

Thursday, September 8, 2016


Location: International

Website: urbandesignmentalhealth.com

The Centre for Urban Design and Mental Health (UD/MH) is a start-up think tank focused on answering one question: how can we design better mental health into our cities?

More people are living and working in urban environments than ever before - and these environments affect how we feel. Urban design by architects, transport designers, city planners, developers, interior designers, urban gardeners, street artists, and many more impact our mental health as we move around our built environments.

The Centre for Urban Design and Mental Health: Reviews the breadth of research on urban design and mental health, summarizes, and identifies gaps.

Catalyzes interdisciplinary dialogue on urban design and mental health in cities around the world.

Showcases successful projects and innovative ideas,

Develops practical, evidence-based recommendations to improve mental health and reduce mental illness through urban design.


To help inform, motivate and empower policymakers, designers, planners, and public health professionals to build better mental health into their cities through smarter urban design.


To be a central repository and global go-to resource for policymakers, architects, transport planners, urban planners, developers, designers, engineers, geographers, and others who want to design better mental health into cities, and drive integration of mental health into urban design as standard.


Share knowledge -

UD/MH brings together useful research, ideas, experiences and intelligence from across the world and shares it on our platforms to increase its reach and make it more accessible to academics and diverse city makers. We also publish external op-eds and participate in conferences and other events to share knowledge and inspire new audiences into action.

Increase knowledge -

There is still much we need to learn about how urban design can improve mental health. UD/MH encourages research and sharing of ideas and experience by providing global platforms for publication - the Journal of Urban Design and Mental Health, and our Sanity and Urbanity blog.

We also encourage investment in research focused on this field.

Improve cross-sector communication -

We convene cross-sector dialogues in cities around the world, bringing together experts from architecture, urban planning, transport, geography, public health, psychiatry, and many more to identify opportunities and discuss potential collaborations.

Empower practical action

UD/MH works closely with those involved in policy-making and on-the-ground citymaking to understand the barriers to integrating better mental health into urban design, and tries to help address these barriers by inputting to consultations and producing practical, evidence-based advice.

UD/MH launched in July 2015.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


Location: Ventura County, California


SOAR is a series of voter initiatives that require a vote of the people before agricultural land or open space areas can be rezoned for development.

The first SOAR initiative was approved by the voters in the City of Ventura in 1995. Since 1995, nine SOAR initiatives have been enacted protecting open space and agricultural land around all of the major cities in Ventura County as well as in the county’s unincorporated areas. The County SOAR initiative blocks the Ventura County Board of Supervisors from rezoning unincorporated open space, agricultural or rural land for development without a vote of the people. Eight city SOAR initiatives require city councils to obtain the approval of their citizens before allowing urban development beyond a City Urban Restriction Boundary (CURB), or, in the case of the City of Ventura, before rezoning agricultural land within the city’s sphere of influence.

No other county in the United States has more effective protections against urban sprawl.

Who is SOAR?

SOAR is a non-profit grassroots group of citizens in Ventura County, California who are dedicated to keeping Ventura County from following the same urban sprawl pattern that has plagued the rest of Southern California. SOAR has over one thousand active members with a presence in each city of the county.

Why do we need SOAR?

Sitting on Los Angeles County’s northwestern boundary, Ventura County is subject to tremendous sprawl development pressure. Ventura County’s rolling hillsides, rugged mountains, beautiful beaches and fertile plains and valleys present a spectacular setting that creates conflicting incentives to preserve and develop this landscape. With a population of approximately 900,000 and over 100,000 acres of agricultural land in production the county offers a highly attractive semi-rural respite from the urban sprawl of Los Angeles County, where one city’s strip malls and subdivisions merge indistinguishably with the next.

The history of wasteful sprawl development in Southern California over the last several decades, often over the strenuous and vocal objections of residents, is testament to the fact that local elected officials have been more responsive to development pressure than to the core values of their citizens. The fact that the largest source of campaign funds for local elected officials in Southern California is pro-development money was a primary reason that Ventura County citizens recognized the need an extra level of review for urban sprawl development proposals. Most of the SOAR initiatives were passed in 1998 and most of them will expire in 2020. Ventura County citizens need to renew SOAR protection against urban sprawl for another generation by passing new initiatives during the November 2016 election.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Meeting of the Minds

Location: International

Website: cityminded.org

Meeting of the Minds is a global knowledge sharing platform based in San Francisco, CA.

Since it was founded, Meeting of the Minds has been dedicated to a singular proposition: bring together a carefully chosen set of key urban sustainability and technology stakeholders and gather them around a common platform in ways that help build lasting alliances. We believe that such a platform is a vital ingredient for smart, sustainable and equitable urban (re)development strategies.

Meeting of the Minds focuses on the innovators and initiatives at the bleeding edge of urban sustainability and connected technology. Through our blog, magazine, webinars, monthly meetups, workshops, roundtables, and an annual summit held each fall, we invite international leaders from the public, private, non-profit, academic and philanthropic sectors to identify innovations that can be scaled, replicated and transferred from city-to-city and across sectors.

Among the thousands of international leaders who participate in the Meeting of the Minds network are innovators scaling-up practical urban solutions in infrastructure, policy, design, equity, technology, energy, mobility, water, finance, and more.

Now in its 10th year, our annual summit brings together 400+ opinion-shapers, policy-makers, leading thinkers and innovators from all over the world for 2+ days of intensive immersion in thought leadership and cross-sector development.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Location: Los Angeles, CA

Website: nomadicdivision.org

LAND (Los Angeles Nomadic Division) is a non-profit organization founded in 2009 committed to curating site-specific public art exhibitions in Los Angeles and beyond. LAND believes that all people deserve the opportunity to experience innovative contemporary art in their everyday existence, to enhance their quality of life and ways of thinking about their community. In turn, artists deserve the opportunity to realize projects in the public realm, unsupported through traditional institutions. LAND brings contemporary art outside of the walls of museums and galleries, into our shared public spaces and unique sites, in Los Angeles and beyond.

LAND supports dynamic and unconventional artistic practices using a tripartite approach:

Commissioning public projects of site- and situation-specific works with national and international contemporary artist
Collaborating with a variety of institutions and organizations, such as universities, museums, and theaters as well as other types of spaces, industries, and entities

Offering additional programs such as performances, workshops, residencies, discussions, educational opportunities, and publications

LAND’s innovative exhibitions and programming structure features three main types, or scales, of programming:

Large-scale, multi-site, multi-artist exhibitions (group thematic shows that exist over time and space)
Monographic exhibitions or discrete group exhibitions

One-night ephemeral performances and durational events

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Levitt Foundation

Location: Nationwide

Website: levitt.org

The Levitt program is transformative. Abandoned, blighted places—whether a neglected and gang-infested park, a dormant downtown, a vacant lot or a toxic brownfield—are today vibrant, welcoming destinations where families, friends and people of all ages and backgrounds gather to discover new worlds, and each other, through free, live music.

Levitt’s free concerts, easily accessible locations and open lawn settings foster social interactions among people of all ages and backgrounds—strengthening the social fabric of our cities. There’s no front row, no back row, just a grassy open lawn filled with friends dancing, children playing and neighbors picnicking. Levitt venues are places where people relax and enjoy the company of others. Where we embrace our shared humanity.

At Levitt, we believe the arts aren’t a luxury, but a basic human need, just as essential as food and shelter. Studies show that frequent engagement with the arts has remarkably positive effects on our individual well-being, as well as society as a whole. However, the average American’s ability to access the arts is dwindling. High premiums are placed on cultural activities like going to a museum or experiencing a live concert.

Levitt concerts feature first-rate, critically acclaimed artists free of charge. This enables people from all walks of life—many of whom could not afford the cost of a concert for themselves or their families—to have those meaningful cultural experiences essential to a healthy, happy life. Both permanent Levitt venues and the Levitt AMP [Your City] Grant Awards are community-driven, inspiring engaged citizens and civic leadership to come together and commit to creating a meaningful impact in their city. Once a Levitt location opens, people from throughout the community are invested in the success of the concert series—from concertgoers and volunteers to community partners and local sponsors. At the helm is a local nonprofit, either Friends of Levitt for signature Levitt venues or the local organization presenting Levitt AMP, mobilizing support for the concert series and driving community engagement.

Why We Matter:

Through both permanent Levitt venues and the Levitt AMP [Your City] Grant Awards, Levitt harnesses the power of free, live music to strengthen American community life one city, and one concert, at a time. The impact of the Levitt program goes beyond the free concerts. Levitt demonstrates the power of creative placemaking—the integration of arts and culture into communities to spark economic growth, strengthen social bonds and enhance overall quality of life. Below are just some of the ways the Levitt program impacts communities:

Green spaces are reclaimed.

Neglected public spaces are activated.

Local economies are given a boost.

Communities are safer.

Social and economic barriers are broken.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Right to the City

Location: International


Through shared principles and a common frame and theory of change, RTTC is building a national movement for racial justice, urban justice, human rights, and democracy. RTTC seeks to create regional and national impacts in the fields of housing, human rights, urban land, community development, civic engagement, criminal justice, environmental justice, and more.

Right to the City was born out of desire and need by organizers and allies around the country to have a stronger movement for urban justice. But it was also born out of the power of an idea of a new kind of urban politics that asserts that everyone, particularly the disenfranchised, not only has a right to the city, but as inhabitants, have a right to shape it, design it, and operationalize an urban human rights agenda.

In the realm of ideas, a key resource and touchstone is “Le droite à la ville” (Right to the City) a book published in 1968 by French intellectual and philosopher Henri Lefebvre. In the sphere of human rights, this powerful idea was adopted by the World Urban Forum and elaborated into the World Charter of the Right to the City in 2004. Building from this powerful idea, international principles, and forward-looking grassroots organizing, the Right to the City Alliance was established in January 2007.


Land for People vs. Land for Speculation:

The right to land and housing that is free from market speculation and that serves the interests of community building, sustainable economies, and cultural and political space.

Land Ownership:

The right to permanent ownership of urban territories for public use.

Economic Justice:

The right of working class communities of color, women, queer and transgender people to an economy that serves their interests.

Indigenous Justice:

The right of First Nation indigenous people to their ancestral lands that have historical or spiritual significance, regardless of state borders and urban or rural settings.

Environmental Justice:

The right to sustainable and healthy neighborhoods, workplaces, healing, quality health care, and reparations for the legacy of toxic abuses such as brown fields, cancer clusters, and superfund sites.

Freedom from Police State Harassment:

The right to safe neighborhoods and protection from police, INS/ICE, and vigilante repression, which has historically targeted communities of color, women, queer and transgender people.
Immigrant Justice:

The right of equal access to housing, employment, and public services regardless of race, ethnicity, and immigration status and without the threat of deportation by landlords, ICE, or employers.

Services and Community Institutions:

The right of working class communities of color to transportation, infrastructure and services that reflect and support their cultural and social integrity.

Democracy and Participation:

The right of community control and decision making over the planning and governance of the cities where we live and work, with full transparency and accountability, including the right to public information without interrogation.


The right of working class communities of color to economic reciprocity and restoration from all local, nation and transnational institutions that have exploited and/or displaced the local economy.

The right to support and build solidarity between cities across national boundaries, without state intervention.

The right of rural people to economically healthy and stable communities that are protected from environmental degradation and economic pressures that force migration to urban areas.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Neighborhhod Assistance Corporation of America

Location: Nationwide

Website: naca.com

The Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America ("NACA") is a non-profit, community advocacy and homeownership organization. NACA’s primary goal is to build strong, healthy neighborhoods in urban and rural areas nationwide through affordable homeownership.

NACA has made the dream of homeownership a reality for thousands of working people by counseling them honestly and effectively, enabling even those with poor credit to purchase a home or modify their predatory loan with far better terms than those provided even in the prime market.

The NACA homeownership program is our answer to the huge subprime and predatory lending industry. NACA has conclusively shown that when working people get the benefit of a prime rate loan, they can resolve their financial problems, make their mortgage payments and become prime borrowers.

NACA’s track record of helping people who have credit problems become homeowners or modify their predatory loan debunks the myth that high rates and fees are necessary to compensate for their "credit risk.

Started in 1988, NACA has a tremendous track record of successful advocacy against predatory and discriminatory lenders as well as providing the best mortgage program in America with $10 billion in funding commitments.

NACA is the largest housing services organization in the country and is rapidly expanding by growing its existing 30+ offices headquartered in Boston, MA,opening many new offices nationwide and expanding the services it offers its membership. NACA’s confrontational community organizing and unprecedented mortgage program have set the national standard for assisting low- and moderate-income people to achieve the dream of homeownership.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

St. Bernard Project

Location: New Orleans, LA

Website: stbernardproject.org

SBP was founded in March 2006 by Zack Rosenburg and Liz McCartney after the couple, who originally lived in Washington, D.C. volunteered in St. Bernard Parish following Hurricane Katrina, in February 2006. Inspired by residents' collective spirit and fierce desire to rebuild their homes and communities, Zack and Liz launched SBP to help the community achieve its recovery goals.

With the tremendous support of donors, volunteers and corporate partners, SBP has grown from a three-person volunteer team into a nationally recognized leader in disaster resilience and recovery.

The key to SBP’s programmatic success is our model, an all-under-one-roof and vertically integrated approach that provides clients with one point of contact, causes efficiencies and accountability between traditionally siloed components and eliminates the need for (and cost of) subcontractors through in-house skilled labor crews.

SBP’s model is deeply subsidized by AmeriCorps members from all over the country who serve as client case managers, volunteer coordinators, and construction site supervisors, overseeing the labor of more than 10,000 volunteers, per location, each year.

SBP saves time and money by exercising direct control over skilled labor and scheduling, which also allows us to create well paying jobs for veterans and other under- and unemployed residents.

With its construction system enhanced and optimized through ongoing partnerships with Toyota and UPS, SBP rebuilds homes far below market rate, and carries out construction projects with much lower subsidies than traditional affordable housing models.

Since 2006, SBP has rebuilt homes for over 950 families with the help of more than 100,000 volunteers in New Orleans, LA; Joplin, MO; Staten Island, NY; Rockaway, NY;Monmouth/Ocean Counties, NJ; San Marcos, TX, and most recently Columbia, SC.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Lens

Location: New Orleans


The mission of The Lens is to engage and empower the residents of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast by providing the information and analysis necessary to advocate for more accountable and just governance.

With a staff of experienced investigative reporters and pundits, The Lens merges the accuracy, fairness and thoroughness of traditional journalism with the speed, urgency and interactivity of online media. This hybrid model is well-suited to New Orleans, a city where residents count media watchdogs as allies in the struggle to rebuild a better community in the face of limited resources.