What I am working on at the moment
With collaborators across Canada and beyond, I lead Cities for People, an initiative of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, which aims to foster more inclusive, innovative and resilient cities. We currently have four focus areas for our work: increasing social and economic equality; strengthening the civic commons; enabling city labs; and supporting urban innovation networks.
I’m also thrilled to serve as an advisor to a new Kids & Place Lab which will be launched in the US in late 2016.
Why I wanted to join the Participatory City Global Advisory
I love cities. And I believe that if more people engage constructively together in creating the places where they live, that we can co-produce new narratives about what cities can be and transform paradigms and possibilities for 21st century cities.
I like that Participatory City values not only the granular changes that can come about through community relationships and everyday activities, but also the measurement of impact that is necessary in order to learn whether efforts and investments are making a difference.
A little bit about my background
I’ve had the opportunity to work some 25 years in participatory city planning, urban revitalization, and economic and real estate development in North America and Europe. The range of my work spans from a Peace Corps tour of duty in Central Europe post-fall of the Berlin wall, to economic development planning in marginalized neighbourhoods of US cities, to my current role with the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation in Canada. I am passionate about bridging innovative local action on the ground with policy and systems change. I had the chance to work on that ‘agency-structure’ bridge in roles at Groundwork UK, Oakland Planning and Development Corporation, and the Montreal Urban Ecology Centre. Also, in my doctoral research, I walked that bridge by carrying out deep participatory research with Haitian communities in the post-earthquake period and developing a theory of change to effect scaling and systems change, called ‘From Community Stories to Transformational Narratives’.
My first degrees are from my native US state of Pennsylvania: a BS from Eastern University in St. Davids, an MBA in Real Estate Development and Urban Land Studies from Temple University in Philadelphia, and a Master of Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Pittsburgh. I recently completed a PhD in Urban Planning, Policy and Design at McGill University in Montreal, the city which I am grateful to have called home for the past 13 years.