Reimagining the Civic Commons
Transforming our shared civic assets to foster engagement, equity, environmental sustainability and economic development in our cities
Reimagining the Civic Commons is a three-year, national initiative with projects in five U.S. cities that revitalize and connect civic assets. RCC is a collaboration of national foundations – the JPB, Knight, Kresge, and Rockefeller Foundations – and a network of local partners in Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, and Akron. The $40M effort works to demonstrate how strategic civic investments can further four main goals: civic engagement, socioeconomic mixing, environmental sustainability and value creation.
As communities grow increasingly fragmented by social and economic factors, and as public investment priorities shift, support for civic assets like parks, plazas, trails, and libraries has been declining. The result is more than overgrown fields and lackluster libraries: research shows that Americans spend less time together in social settings, trust each other less, and interact less with others whose experiences are different. Reimagining the Civic Commons intends to create great public places that are shared by everyone of all backgrounds, a grounds to nurture common purpose and counter the trends of fragmentation. To achieve these outcomes, we support collaboration among and across city departments, local non-profits, community groups, and a diverse range of community members.
U3 Advisors helped to manage the selection of the first five pilot cities. We also house a national Civic Commons Learning Network that provides access to research, storytelling, and cross-city learning opportunities. This network has become a go-to resource for civic assets and city leaders nationwide, through biannual gatherings and other groups tasked with regularly tracking results. Through this work, U3 authored a Value Capture toolkit, now a resource for cities across the country seeking strategies to capture the value of investments in and around improved civic assets.
As the RCC initiative continues and more cities join, we aspire to understand the impact of investments in the civic commons, support the innovation and collaboration required to achieve those impacts, and increase broad-based support for civic investments in cities across the country. Our goal is to share the successes and lessons from the pilot initiatives across the country, in order to continue fostering investment and collaboration in our civic commons.