EcoDistricts Acquisition FAQ

Why was EcoDistricts acquired?

EcoDistricts was acquired by Partnership for Southern Equity (PSE) in late 2021 to combine organizational assets to build a powerful new agenda to promote equitable and regenerative land use, real estate, infrastructure, and community development. The acquisition provides a generational opportunity to strengthen our core programming with a focus on centering growth and development through racial equity and expand impact by incorporating PSE’s community-oriented and approach to building collective power. In an era of competition and specialization among nonprofits, we saw an opportunity to leverage our strengths to better serve the community development field.

Who is the Partnership for Southern Equity (PSE)?

Founded in 2008, PSE is a nonprofit organization that advances policies and institutional actions that promote racial equity and shared prosperity for all in the growth of metropolitan Atlanta and the American South. Through forums, research, and organizing efforts, PSE brings together the regional community to lift up and encourage just, sustainable, and civic practices for balanced growth and opportunity.

Why a new name for EcoDistricts?

We decided to refresh the EcoDistricts brand to better reflect our vision and values as we move into our second decade of supporting new models of place-based community development. 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.

How is Just Communities different from EcoDistricts?

Just Communities is an evolution of EcoDistricts. 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. As part of the PSE family, Just Communities benefits from being integrated into a dynamic and 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. Just Communities will refresh and expand legacy EcoDistricts programing including:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

What is the future of the EcoDistricts Protocol?

The EcoDistricts Protocol is undergoing a significant renewal and will be released publicly in the fourth quarter of 2023 as the Just Communities Framework (EcoDistricts Protocol 2.0). Like its predecessor, the Just Communities Framework is a comprehensive and practical implementation tool to unlock the power of resident leaders, community-based organizations, developers, and municipalities in advancing racially equitable and environmentally regenerative development of our built environment.

What is the future of the Accredited Professional program?

The AP program is being refreshed under the Just Communities brand and will be expanded to include self-directed learning content, peer learning, and personal growth and leadership development. PSE is deeply committed to ensuring that the AP program is accessible to a diverse number of stakeholders, especially frontline resident leaders and BIPOC practitioners who have been marginalized in white-dominant planning, design, and development professions. The goal of the AP program is to diversify and expand the number of people in positions to influence and drive planning and investments in their communities. The AP program also helps support the growth of the Just Communities  certification program by building a community of practitioners who can support communities with implementation and verification.

What is the future of the EcoDistricts Certified program?

The certification program is being refreshed under the Just Communities brand. For communities seeking to rigorously apply Just Communities in their neighborhood, we will offer an updated rigorous certification program that provides guidance and verification services to support implementation of each phase of the framework. Just Communities Certification is a mark of excellence for communities dedicated to demonstrating equitable and regenerative practices and continues to be the only certification standard that emphasizes neighborhood-scale racial equity and climate resilience. We created Just Communities Certification to catalyze new forms of land use, infrastructure, real estate, and community development that lifts communities up and repairs our social and environmental fabric. Communities seeking to become certified are making an important commitment to reimagine what future growth looks like and becoming part of a growing movement of leaders committed to equitable and regenerative development. Just Communities believes that ecological collapse and extraction must give way to healing, regeneration and collaborative models.

Will my current AP credential remain valid?

Yes. All active APs will continue to be honored. Over the coming months, we will be in touch with every AP to provide new branding guidelines as the program name changes from EcoDistricts AP to Just Communities AP. For inactive APs that need submitting
continuing education hours, we will ask you to take the updated Just Communities foundation course and exam when it becomes available in January 2024. Please contact Alayne Hightower at with any questions.

Will our current EcoDistricts Certification remain valid?

Yes. All active EcoDistricts Certified communities will remain valid for 2 years from the date of certification. For communities that are currently past due, we will be in touch will guidance on renewing your certification. For those who are interested in pursuing certification, we will launch Just Communities certification in January 2024. Please contact Rob Bennett at with any questions.

What is the Manifesto for Just Communities

We created the Manifesto for Just Communities with a group of national urban and community development leaders to articulate our principles and values that builds off EcoDistricts’ and PSE’s legacy of advancing equitable and sustainable development. Just Communities is a call to action to learn, unlearn and commit to a new model of community development. We invite you to help grow the vision, that every community is a Just Community. Click HERE to learn more.