Reimagining the Civic Commons

Our civic assets were once the pride of our communities. Our libraries, parks, community centers, and schoolyards served rich and poor alike as neutral ground where common purpose among citizens was nurtured. From libraries to parks to recreation centers, these institutions are more than simply spaces -- they are democratizing places that foster inclusion and opportunity in neighborhoods. There is compelling evidence that due to decay, inattention and abandonment, civic assets are no long providing this much-needed connective tissue that binds us together and anchors neighborhoods. And nowhere is that decay, inattention and abandonment more evident than in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty.

The Reimagining the Civic Commons initiative will invest in five place-based demonstration projects with the potential to catalyze transformative change through the imaginative use of civic assets. The demonstrations will deliver a set of connected civic assets focused on the outcomes of economic integration, civic engagement, environmental sustainability and neighborhood value creation that benefit poor and vulnerable populations.  This work is being funded collectively by four national foundations and will take place in Philadelphia, Chicago, Memphis, Detroit, and Akron.  Alongside the demonstration sites, a national learning network under the U3A's leadership will focus on activating innovation in the civic commons in demonstration cities and beyond, understanding the impact of the civic commons and the innovation and collaboration required to achieve that impact, and increasing broad-based support for the civic commons in cities across the country. To do this work, we will collaborate with partners to provide research and impact assessment, storytelling and cross-city learning opportunities.

Reimagining the Civic Commons intends to be the first comprehensive demonstration of how a connected set of civic assets – a civic commons – can yield increased and more widely shared prosperity for cities and neighborhoods. Learn more about the Reimagining the Civic Commons initiative here.