5 Things to Get Excited About at Summit 2017

The 2017 EcoDistricts Summit is designed as a highly participatory two-day program to integrate innovative solution-making to address real problems, in real time. Our interactive half-day studio session on site around Atlanta, interspersed facilitated discussions and reflections, and group work sessions will open the door to innovation and creative thinking to address the most vexing problems in neighborhood regeneration.

Drawing from big-picture inspiration from regional and national plenary and panel speakers, as well as detailed discussions that arise during Studio sessions, attendees will explore how their experiences at the conference can help them to affect change in their communities and more broadly. Attendees will be encouraged to examine their personal sphere of influence and how to activate it to build momentum around specific, achievable objectives for sustainable, equitable, and resilient neighborhood-scale projects.

1. designing the WE exhibit

designing the WE is a for-benefit design studio that will be bringing the “Undesign the Redline” traveling exhibit to the 2017 Summit. This interactive exhibit invites participants to learn the history, interact with the stories, and invent the culture of undoing structural inequities. If the process of redlining is about creating boundaries that value certain groups of people while de-valuing others, UNdesigning Redlining is about building connections that produce shared value. It asks the questions: Rather than treat each ‘sector’ as a separate box, how can we forge them as an engine for accelerating thriving people and places? How do we innovate each model so it connects rather than exists in isolation?

designing the WE’s process will begin with a week-long site visit to Atlanta in advance of the conference to take tours, conduct trainings, and survey neighborhoods. The designing the WE team will then synthesize information to be presented back at the conference, with the interactive exhibit set up in the conference location lobby. The process of gathering, developing, and re-telling these stories will uncover key insight projects, and propel relationships and momentum as we head into the conference and seek to continue the momentum afterward.


2. Studio ATL Sessions

The half-day “Studio ATL” sessions on Day 1 of the Summit aim to make a lasting impact on the neighborhoods of Atlanta by bringing attendees, organizations, and community representatives together to work inclusively to create neighborhoods for all. Each session will be led by experienced facilitators and speakers. Attendees will dive deep into learning about unique challenges and opportunities facing the neighborhood, tour an Atlanta community, and design real solutions to advance neighborhood equity, sustainability, and resilience.

Join a group of local community leaders and national experts and explore:

  • Bringing Affordability Back into the Atlanta Beltline – how to prevent displacement and an increasing lack of affordability and housing for the vulnerable communities this sustainable redevelopment project is supposed to serve.
  • Using Green Infrastructure and Parks to Improve Equity on Atlanta’s Westside – how to address historically discriminatory waste water treatment practices and provide a place for recreational benefits as well as capacity relief for stormwater discharge.
  • Developing Strong Mixed-Income Communities: Exploring Atlanta’s East Lake – discover a national model for community redevelopment, featuring a mixed-income housing community anchored by a golf course and educational programming.
  • Strengthening Climate & Cultural Resiliency through Creative Placemaking – how can residents, artists, and other creative and cultural practitioners collaborate to address the challenge of local climate resilience.
  • Stabilizing Arts & Culture: Creating a Permanent Place for the Arts – visit the South Broad Street Art District and reimagine the area as a place for artists to embrace history and build a new community.
  • The Role of Health Data and Sustainability as a Catalyst Point for Addressing Disparities – explore ways to bridge the gaps and opportunities between traditional “health” providers, designers, and community practitioners that can build sustainable systems that impact health outcomes for challenged neighborhoods.


3. TED-Style Speaker Presentation: Duriya Farooqui, Tim Keane, and April De Simone

Duriya Farooqui is the Executive Director of the Atlanta Committee for Progress, a coalition of 40 corporate CEOs, Atlanta leaders and the Mayor, working on the most critical investments for Atlanta’s future. Her presentation will speak to public private partnerships, the intersection of which needs to be a conversation on equity. Hear about the role of public private partnerships in some of Atlanta’s largest projects, including the Atlanta Beltline and the Westside Future Fund.

Tim Keane is the Commissioner of Planning and Community Development for the City of Atlanta. With his considerable background in planning, preservation, and sustainability, Tim will discuss high quality, sustainable, and equitable growth and development in Atlanta through facilitating more options for travel, abundant housing for all people, thriving neighborhoods, exceptional design in architecture and public spaces, preservation of historic resources, innovative regulatory practices, safe and durable buildings, and more.

As Co-Founder and Managing Partner of designing the WE, April De Simone will provoke attendees to think about the interactive Undesigning the Redline exhibit they will be interacting with throughout the Summit. With over 15 years of experience in co-creating various for-purpose ventures and initiatives that promote market based solutions to address complex social challenges, April will discuss the designing the WE organization, and the role their installations play in helping people explore topics like redlining.


Keynote speakers: Nathaniel Smith and Doug Farr

Nathaniel Smith, Founder and Chief Equity Officer of the Partnership for Southern Equity and a native of Atlanta, will set the stage for this year’s Summit as the opening keynote. Under Nathaniel’s leadership, the PSE has brought together the regional community to lift up and encourage just, sustainable, and civic practices for balanced growth and opportunity. The PSE’s notable accomplishments include the creation of the American South’s first equity mapping and framing tool – the Metro Atlanta Equity Atlas, and leading a coalition to support the initiation and passage of a $13m transit referendum to expand Atlanta’s metropolitan transit system into a new county (Clayton) for the first time in almost half a century. Join Nathaniel for this inspirational and thought-provoking keynote as he shares the history of Atlanta and its surrounding region, and discusses the importance of focusing on climate, growth, and economy to create equitable and inclusive communities.

Doug Farr, Founding Principal and President of Farr Associates, is a national leader in designing sustainable neighborhoods and buildings. With a commitment to an architecture practice centered on creating buildings that enrich human life while minimizing negative environmental impacts, Doug will outline our collective pledge to join the EcoDistricts experiment and consider some of the big questions in this movement: What if EcoDistricts never existed? Or what if it succeeds wildly? How would the world be different? Doug’s keynote will cover ideas about how to change the world quickly, and will provide attendees with an urgent call to action to prioritize outcomes in equity, resilience, and climate protection.


5. All-attendee engagement sessions that will lead to concrete outcomes at the end of the Summit

Many conferences provide attendees with the chance to learn, but few allow for a genuine opportunity to apply theory to real-world experiences. Through all-attendee engagement sessions sessions, the 2017 Summit will be a real-time experience in turning policy into practice.

We’ve enlisted a dynamic team of experts from Public Engagement Associates who specialize in designing real-time solutions to complex urban problems. Through facilitated sessions throughout the Summit, informed my key questions and answers posed by the Day 1 Studio Sessions and Day 2 Breakthrough sessions, Public Engagement Associates will lead attendees through the creation of a set of 10 actionable recommendations around implementing ‘Neighborhoods for All’ in the City of Atlanta. These recommendations will be distributed to key partners in the City of Atlanta, as well as all attendees following the approval of the final document.

Attendees will have the opportunity to apply the recommendations in their own neighborhoods as they work to build equitable, sustainable, and resilient neighborhoods.


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