Whiteboard Video:

Watch our animated video to learn more about our framework.

 

Thriving Cities Lab

The Thriving Cities Lab is an ongoing research initiative at the Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of Virginia to advance and engage leading-edge research around human and community thriving.

Approach: The Human Ecology

 

Current Lab Research:

Henry Luce Foundation Grant

Thriving Cities Lab is conducting a year-long research study on university-community partnerships funded by the Henry Luce Foundation. This study is working to 1) understand the current state of the field nationally, 2) illustrate work happening across the country through brief case studies, and 3) uncover and illuminate the necessary civic infrastructure for universities and local communities to establish lasting, effective and collaborative partnerships. This work will be shared and workshopped at the Coalition for Urban Metropolitan Universities Annual Conference in October. The tentatively titled "Field Guide for Urban University-Community Partnerships" will be available online in early 2019.

Collaborative Lab Research:

Surdna Foundation Grant

Thriving Cities Lab is working with Barbara Wilson, Assistant Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning and Liz Ogbu, social impact designer to design a community-engaged approach to pre-development social impact analysis, funded by the Surdna Foundation. Three facilitated design-thinking workshops, a series of expert interviews, and student supported research are being used to gather a variety of methods to assess the social impacts of design and redevelopment. This work will develop a set of social impact metrics intended to be used in other settings both locally in Charlottesville and beyond.

 

Project Partners:

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A New Civic Paradigm: The Human Ecology

Thriving Cities Group uses a framework we call “human ecology” to help us envision a city. The human ecologies of a city contain and depend upon an array of different, but fundamental endowments. The first three of the six endowments build on the classical ideals of “the True,” “the Good,” and “the Beautiful;” the last three are what we might call the modern ideals of “the Prosperous,” “the Just and Well-Ordered,” and “the Sustainable.” 

The Human Ecology Framework is a new civic paradigm for understanding and assessing urban thriving for the 21st century.

Want to learn more about the six endowments? Download our PDF.

Human Ecology at Work:

 

Endowment Briefs:

Thriving Cities Group uses a framework we call “human ecology” to help us envision a city. The human ecologies of a city contain and depend upon an array of different, but fundamental endowments. The first three of the six endowments build on the classical ideals of “the True,” “the Good,” and “the Beautiful;” the last three are what we might call the modern ideals of “the Prosperous,” “the Just and Well-Ordered,” and “the Sustainable.” Each brief provides an in-depth look at each endowment.

 

Indicator Explorer

The Indicator Explorer is a unique online data discernment tool that connects people with the social data indicators they need to measure what social metrics matter most based on validated evidence of what works best for making communities thrive. It enables users to discern how their issue is connected to other issues across the human ecology and what experts think are the most important short-term outcomes around which to build strategies for a user’s desired long-term impact.

 
 

City Profiles

In order to put data into a context for wise action, Thriving Cities Group has created distinct city profiles for its pilot cities. These profiles are central in that they characterize a given pilot city in relation to the Project’s distinctive “human ecology” framework and research design. In applying the human ecology framework, profilers collected and analyzed both quantitative and qualitative data on each city according to the six fundamental community endowment areas. Additionally, the profile assesses the unique ways in which the community endowments interact with and relate to each other in the context of a particular city. 

 
 

Case Studies:

Crosstown Case Study

The CROSSTOWN CONCOURSE redevelopment in Memphis provides a unique case study to highlight a diverse coalition of real estate developers, designers, and artists that have achieved what many said was impossible: namely, redeveloping the most expensive and largest historic building in the state's history, the Sears Crosstown Building. Moreover, from the start, the Crosstown Development team came together to not only develop the vacant building, but to catalyze meaningful social change beyond the building's footprint.

American Underground Case Study

The nation’s most interesting startup scene isn’t in Silicon Valley or New York City. If you want a glimpse of what could be the future of American entrepreneurship, look no further than Durham, North Carolina, where an offbeat incubator called American Underground (AU) is quickly becoming a leading example of what we call a new-paradigm enterprise. In this case study, we evaluate AU through the lens of the Human Ecology Framework, a holistic model for understanding the six fundamental and interdependent building blocks of civic thriving. Through the lens of the Human Ecology Framework, we will see that AU has created all kinds of value that would be invisible to a traditional business case study.

 
 
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Citizen's Field Guide:

Our Citizen’s Field Guide is a multi-dimensional tool for place-based community assessment and development that brings together important geographical features with vital community statistics, critical historical backgrounds, and cultural contexts through a series of maps, visualizations, and infographics. The combination of quantitative, qualitative, and geospatial information at a neighborhood level offers a uniquely powerful tool by which a community can work together to tell its distinctive story, assess itself, and develop a shared vision of civic thriving.

 
 
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This State of Knoxville report springs from a partnership between the Thriving Cities Group and Connect Knox. Thriving Cities was commissioned to collect and synthesize the various reports written about Knoxville, Knox County, and the surrounding community and put that and other quantitative data into conversation with the expressed desires of Knoxvillians, as seen through the Connect Knox Community Survey conducted by Survature over the course of the summer of 2017. The report is organized by the Human Ecology Endowments and highlights the ways each of the items within an endowment connects to or influences other parts of social life.

 
 

Detroit Documentary

In the summer of 2014, an evangelical group called Life Remodeled embarked on a 6-day effort to transform Cody High School in Detroit, MI, and the surrounding Cody Rouge neighborhood. Thriving Cities Group started with the questions: "Can white suburban evangelicals be a force for good in our inner cities? Or does their core mission of preaching the gospel disqualify them as social service providers in public settings?" The below video is one video in a series of short films about emerging cultural forces reshaping urban life.