The first comprehensive demonstration of the power of the civic commons to produce increased and more equitably shared prosperity.

Reimagining the Civic Commons is a three-year, national initiative with projects in five U.S. cities that revitalize and connect civic assets. A collaboration of national foundations and a network of local partners, the initiative is working toward four main goals: civic engagement, socioeconomic mixing, environmental sustainability and value creation.

Just 32% of people believe most people can be trusted
From 1970 to 2012, the percent of people living in predominantly poor or affluent neighborhoods rose from 15% to 31%

Civic Assets as Community Connectors

As communities have segmented by income, technology has advanced and priorities have shifted, support for civic assets has declined. Due to underinvestment and apathy, our civic assets are no longer providing the connective tissue that binds us together and anchors neighborhoods. The result is more than overgrown ballfields and lackluster libraries: research shows that Americans spend less time together in social settings, trust each other less and interact less with others whose experiences are different.

Reimagining the Civic Commons intends to create great public places that are shared by everyone, a neutral ground where common purpose is nurtured.

A New Way of Working for Cities

Reimagining the Civic Commons is advancing a vision for renewed and connected urban public places—and reinventing how cities manage public assets.

Central to our approach is the belief that our shared public places are a portfolio of assets that have the power to influence positive social outcomes. Based on this, we are working with teams on the ground to design, manage and operate their civic commons in a manner that:

  • Recognizes the intrinsic value of existing buildings, assets, neighborhoods and people that others disregard
  • Brings people of all backgrounds back into public life, reconnecting communities to civic assets where trust can be formed
  • Generates stewards and advocates for the assets that shift the behavior of citizens from consumers to producers
  • Provides the best quality for all and can compete with alternatives in the private market
  • Welcomes everyone and creates opportunities for shared experience among people of all incomes and backgrounds
  • Increases access to nature for residents and invites visitorship via walking, biking or transit
  • Provides ecological benefits to the surrounding neighborhood
  • Attracts additional investment in the surrounding neighborhood to create tax revenue to support the assets in a way that serves longtime residents

To achieve these outcomes, we are supporting collaboration among and across city departments, local non-profits, community groups and a diverse range of community members in the five demonstration cities. These partnerships are working to foster public places that thoughtfully respond to community needs while making progress toward our four main goals.

Shared Learning

A national Civic Commons Learning Network housed at U3 Advisors provides access to research, storytelling and cross-city learning opportunities and is a go-to resource for civic asset and city leaders nationwide. Through the learning network, we aspire to understand the impact of investments in the civic commons, support the innovation and collaboration required to achieve those impacts and increase broad-based support for investing in the civic commons in cities across the country.

Project Details
The timeline


The investment

$40 million, including $20 million from national foundations and $20 million in local matching funds

The Demonstration Cities

Akron, Ohio Chicago, Illinois Detroit, Michigan Memphis, Tennessee Philadelphia, Pennsylvania—Pilot (Pilot supported by Knight Foundation and William Penn Foundation)

The fiscal sponsor of Reimagining the Civic Commons is The Miami Foundation.