Collaboration with Local Leaders to Advance New Models of Equitable, Sustainable Neighborhoods.
Late last week, EcoDistricts Team members Rob Bennett, Renee Garrels, and Katy Ricchiuto boarded a plane heading for a nation that’s currently at the center of discussion about the world’s water crisis, and has long been a beacon for equity and social justice. EcoDistricts－in partnership with Donzell Robinson of Justice & Sustainability Associates, and Pete Muñoz of Biohabitats－has been invited back to South Africa with funding from the USAID Low Emissions Development Program to deliver municipal trainings and incubator workshops to five different urban development projects in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
This work is part of our newly launched EcoDistricts Accelerator. Through the Accelerator, we provide technical assistance and capacity building to advance equitable, sustainable districts. We provide direct support to cities, developers, institutions and communities to integrate equity, resilience and climate protection; to form collaborative governance; and to develop strategic roadmaps to advance projects.
It is through the Accelerator that the EcoDistricts team has had the privilege of working with communities including:
- The legacy town of Millvale, just outside of Pittsburgh, PA
- The community-led Central Area Collaborative in Seattle, WA, a historically African American neighborhood
- Anchor institution-led Innovation Quadrant in Portland, OR and
- City-led work with the Woodstock/Salt River Precinct in Cape Town, South Africa
Over this last year, we have gotten exciting clarity on deeper, multi-year engagement in partnership with local leaders in Portland, Puget Sound and Pittsburgh－regions that are leading the way in EcoDistrict development. Cleveland, Miami, and Minneapolis are also primed for potential deeper engagement in the near future. These places all have a neighborhood pursuing EcoDistricts Certified, an emerging cohort of communities using the Protocol to guide them, a strong research partner, and an interest in hosting the annual EcoDistricts Summit.
While our role varies depending on the needs of each community, in every place we focus on building capacity and expertise, adopting new models of collaboration, and embedding clear equity, resilience and climate protection goals in implementation plans to inform all decisions and investments.
Accelerator activities range from services such as workshops or assessments to longer-term programmatic delivery. Activities are customized based on the unique challenges and opportunities facing a particular place. They may include:
- EcoDistricts readiness and opportunity assessment
- Engagement, collaborative governance and partnership development
- Roadmap development and performance reporting
- Strategy and implementation in the areas of
- Equitable development
- Climate protection
- Creative placemaking
- Net zero districts and living infrastructure
All this work is delivered in collaboration with expert faculty, industry practitioners and nonprofit professionals who expand our impact. They bring strategic planning, facilitation skills and deep expertise in key areas essential for achieving equitable, sustainable neighborhoods.
All faculty are well versed in the EcoDistricts Protocol and are go-to experts who join us for trainings, workshops, and technical assistance. They have a long history of collaboration with EcoDistricts, and were instrumental in development of our approach and tools:
- Nwamaka Agbo (Nwamaka Agbo Consulting) – restorative economics practitioner and community economic development.
- Eliot Allen (Principal, Criterion Planners) – urban planning and sustainability metrics and tools to advance neighborhood climate protection.
- Irwin Lowenstein (President, ReThink Advisors, Inc.) – district development, legacy cities, cross sector collaboration and Cleveland Ecodistrict champion.
- Christine Mondor (Principal, evolveEA) – architect, planner, facilitator and Pittsburgh Ecodistrict champion.
- Pete Munoz (Senior Engineer, Biohabitats) – green infrastructure and water systems.
- Donzell Robinson (Chief Operating Officer, Justice & Sustainability Associates) – collaborative governance, mediation and public engagement.
- Meghan Venable-Thomas (Cultural Resilience Program Director, Enterprise Community Partners, Inc) – creative placemaking, cultural resilience, public health and community development.
In South Africa, we have two faculty members with us: Donzell Robinson of JSA – expert in collaborative governance, and Pete Munoz of Biohabitats – expert in environmental design. These subject matter experts, both with international experience, bring depth and knowledge to aspects of development identified as challenges in the South Africa context. There, our collaborative governance work focuses on the equity imperative and its application in the City of Johannesburg. In the area of environmental design, Pete brings a depth of knowledge on how to apply water management strategies to a country with pressing water scarcity challenges.
At EcoDistricts, we have two related, strategic goals in our mission to advance equitable, sustainable neighborhood development: 1) Build a Market through certification and professional credentialing, and 2) Support innovative cities and projects. Through the Accelerator, we are excited to provide technical assistance and peer learning to support local leaders to create new models and best practices for the neighborhoods of the future.
Whether you’re in the early or late stages of planning and development, we develop a customized package of support that advances your innovative district scale project and prepares you to pursue EcoDistricts Certified.
Let’s Get Started.REQUEST A CONSULTATION