Just Communities: The Evolution of EcoDistricts

Today is a big day for those of us who have poured our hearts into building and growing the EcoDistricts movement. Our name is changing to Just Communities, and I couldn’t be more excited about the new identity and what it stands for.

When I founded EcoDistricts in 2013, I quickly learned that our name posed a challenge in reflecting the depth of our mission. Many assumed we cared primarily about scaling green buildings and green infrastructure, while others assumed we were a district energy trade association. Only those who knew us well or took the time to investigate our work came to understood that we focused on advancing equity, resilience, and climate action in every aspect of our work. We built a community, or perhaps more accurately, tapped into a diverse and enthusiastic community of advocates, urban planning, design, and development practitioners, and public officials that were leading new models of community development that addressed our most pressing issues in an honest and straight forward manner. The EcoDistricts community is a diverse, eclectic group of leading-edge design nerds, policy wonks, community developers, intermediaries, and activists. We came together to grapple with difficult challenges that everyone who works in urban and community development face. Our brand stood for holistic, community centered sustainability – that demanded that every district and neighborhood-scale project center the interests and needs of residents and the planet.

When we were acquired in 2021, I knew that we needed to refresh the EcoDistricts brand to better reflect the organization’s vision and values. We took our time to investigate what we stood for and where we wanted to go. To help guide our work, investments, and program design, we created the Manifesto for Just Communities. Click here to learn more.

Just Communities is a bold re-imagination of EcoDistricts – focusing on places where the inseparable forces of racial and environmental injustice persist. Just Communities is our response to land use policies and extractive development practices that harm our health and stifle upward mobility, resulting in increasingly segregated, unaffordable, and inequitable communities, unprepared for the mounting threats of climate change.

But please do not misunderstand. The ethos and passion that so many of you brought to EcoDistricts is not going away. We are integrating and expanding the programs and tools of EcoDistricts and PSE to better support resident leaders, community-based organizations, developers, and municipalities advancing racially equitable and environmentally regenerative development practices and policies. Just Communities benefits from being part of a dynamic growing, Black-led organization that has expertise and lived experience in key areas that EcoDistricts has long advocated – health impact, inclusive economic development, just energy, green infrastructure, transportation and land use policy, and data equity.

Stay tuned, as we are just getting started. In the coming months, we will announce a newly updated suite of services including:

  • A Framework for Equity & Regeneration (formerly the EcoDistricts Protocol)
    Just Communities is an implementation tool to guide the planning and implementation of neighborhood development projects.
  • A Rigorous Certification Standard (formerly EcoDistricts Certified)
    The Just Communities certification program provides verification services to communities looking to successfully apply the framework in their neighborhood. Certification is a mark of leadership and a global peer-to-peer learning network.
  • A Learning & Leadership Platform (formerly EcoDistricts AP)
    The Just Communities Accredited Practitioner (AP) program is a continuing education and learning platform to support community leaders, city officials, and planning, design, and development professionals committed to applying the Just Communities Framework in their work.

RIP EcoDistricts and hello Just Communities. Let’s get to work.

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