Reimagining the Civic Commons

Insights and provocations from Studio #1

Civic Commons Studio #1; photo credit: Meredith Edlow

By Bridget Marquis

Six months into Reimagining the Civic Commons is a time to pause and reflect on what we have learned thus far.

Sharing takeaways from Civic Commons Studio #1 seems a good place to start.


Civic Commons Studio #1 was staged in Philadelphia last fall. Co-hosted by Fairmount Park Conservancy, the studio offered an opportunity for demonstration city teams and thought leaders to reflect on a series of questions that stand at the center of this challenging work.

Civic Commons Studio #1; photo credit: Meredith Edlow

Over two days, the network grappled with a dozen questions:

How do we seed sustained civic engagement, not more community meetings?

How do we brand and message the initial project to encourage civic commons writ large?

What are quick yet meaningful actions to take on environmental sustainability?

What are the associated development opportunities and how can we capture them for the benefit of sustaining the civic commons?

Notes on civic engagement; photo credit: Meredith Edlow

What are the equity and inclusion opportunities associated with this work?

What are the revenue streams for sustainability?

How do we program and design for economic mixing?

What are the opportunities to share resources among assets and what are the associated challenges?

Alexa Bush poses a question on inclusion; photo credit: Meredith Edlow

How might we drive value in surrounding neighborhoods? If increased value might lead to displacement, how might we protect against this risk?

How do we effectively work with local government at speed?

How do we develop the right team infrastructure to accomplish this work?

How do we make storytelling and learning from our work standard practice?

Maitreyi Roy speaks on team infrastructure; photo credit: Meredith Edlow

While there are no easy answers, the conversations captured at Studio #1 offer insights and further provocations to consider as we reimagine our civic commons.

The full report can be downloaded here.

Studio #2 is scheduled for May in Chicago. These semi-annual gatherings for the entire civic commons network offer a platform for cross-city learning focused on the outcomes of civic engagement, economic integration, environmental sustainability and value creation for neighborhoods and cities. These gatherings provide a vehicle to capture learning from demonstration teams related to collaboration, innovation and impact.

Civic Commons Studio #1 participants at Winterfest; photo credit: Meredith Edlow

Bridget Marquis is director of the Civic Commons Learning Network with U3 Advisors.

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