Tell us about your scholarship and how it relates to urban issues, particularly homelessness.
My terminal degree—they always say terminal cause it kills you—is in public health. My scholarly work is considered public scholarship and my doctorate is in international health, and it’s a practice doctorate because I’m also a nurse practitioner. I always do research that’s outwards focused, in health services, health policy. I’m also really passionate about inter-professional education especially for our health sciences students. I work in a couple of the shelters here in the U-district: Roots young adults shelter, and the Elizabeth Gregory home which is specific to homeless cis and trans women, and functions as a safe house for those dealing with intimate partner violence and trauma. We organize inter-professional groups of medical, nursing, and dental students that do basic foot and dental care and education for them.
In terms of public scholarship, I’m currently wrapping up one project that’s on trauma-informed care called “Soul Stories: Voices from the Margins”, which will be published by the University of California Medical Humanities Press this year. The next one in-line is called Skid road: the intersection of Health and Homelessness,it is an in-depth narrative history of homelessness in King County, looking at how a fairly progressive city/county has historically dealt with the most vulnerable populations, and to figure out how we got to where we are now.
The project that is just starting as part of Urban@UW is the Doorway community café project. We had a faculty retreat in November 2016, and I was a part of brainstorming and planning projects that we could do as a university, looking at our resources, interests, and what we could do that has a higher impact on homelessness, nationally as well as right here on our doorstep. One of the ideas was a place-based studio/ community café. I am working with Lisa Kelly who is a professor in the UW School of Lawwho assists homeless adolescents and young adults with legal issues, and Charlotte Sanders with the School of Social Work. When I was doing study abroad work in Auckland, New Zealand with Jim Dires, we were with our students working with some agencies and NGO’s building partnerships to address homelessness in a more comprehensive, upstream way than just having soup kitchens. They opened a community café called the Merge café, where baristas and all the food prep people are working their way out of homelessness. The whole point was that they have community tables, there aren’t any single tables. There are unobtrusive social workers and outreach workers that help if people are struggling with housing insecurity or food insecurity. There are homelessness services without being known as “the homelessness café”. And we want to see if that model will work specifically for homeless young adults and adolescents in the U District.
How long have you been working on the challenge of homelessness?
I’ve worked as a nurse practitioner and health services researcher around homelessness since 1984. When I was a young adult I had the lived experience of homelessness for about 6 months. It’s a very individual type of experience that directly impacted my practice and my research. My 1st book is a health policy narrative called “Catching Homelessness: A Nurse’s Story of Falling through the Safety Net” came out in August 2016 and it was the UW Health Sciences common book for AY 2016-17. Homelessness and trauma also affected my teaching; I would always include some of that perspective. But, I wasn’t as “out,” with it because it was—and still is—very stigmatizing and people automatically go to the individual choices that you made. So, that’s changed how I teach and also how I interact with students—in a good way.
What role do community partnerships play in your work?
Public health is by definition inter-professional, so I automatically value partnerships as they allow us to avoid the problem of tunnel vision. For something that’s a wicked problem like homelessness, you have to have inter-professional views, and I love it because it keeps me on my toes. We have many partnerships with homeless youth-serving agencies that operate with businesses, and with policymakers.
How will you use data in addressing homelessness through the Doorway Project?
My philosophy about research follows a pragmatic framework of exploring the best methods, questions, and approaches to figuring out possible solutions to societal problems. My research has always been mixed method so I do a lot that’s qualitative as well as quantitative. For my dissertation I used objective medical charts and physical exam findings as well as qualitative methods like participatory community mapping. I personally think it’s a really important way to go for wicked problems like homelessness—wicked being very multifaceted and so there is no one easy solution. For Doorway we are planning on having broad-based objective data as well as qualitative data.
What approaches do you believe are most effective for addressing homelessness in Seattle?
A community café! Since the “white persons founding of Seattle” we’ve had one of the highest amounts of homelessness per capita, from a continual boom-bust economy going all the way back to when the area attracted a lot of single men mostly for shipping and logging. Looking historically at policy solutions, I’m pragmatic and at the same time very empathetic to people who are experiencing homelessness. I have had the lived experience and I’ve worked with many people who are experiencing that, and at the same time I am a citizen and a homeowner and I have children, and I believe there are certain civil standards we need to have as a society. Coming from a nursing and public health perspective, huge homeless encampments are problematic, and they are symptomatic of something that is significantly wrong with how we are handling housing and social support. If somebody is substance abusing, has severe depression or other mental health issues and you get them a stable place to live, even if you don’t get them counseling and medications, a lot of the time they get better. We need a lot more supportive, longer-term housing, especially for young adults. I’m a mom of two young adults and they had lots of stability and resources, and a lot of the young people right out by the window here have not had those resources, they’ve gone through foster care, detention in the past, fractured lives, and trauma.
What do you see for the future of research and policy-making in your field, and in homelessness as an urban challenge?
More consumer involvement. I work with the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, and they focus on grassroots community involvement. Everything that they do includes consumers to vet certain changes. So, I think of having that as more of a model. Also, respecting people’s time: I’m paid to go to meetings because I’m a faculty member but someone who is struggling to make ends meet, a meeting is taking time away from what they could do otherwise to make money. So, paying them for their time and valuing their input—I think we could do that even more.
If you could give aspiring urban scholars a piece of advice, what would it be?
Get out there—and wear comfortable shoes! It’s one thing to sit in some little office pod or library being very removed. If you’re talking urban scholarship, community involvement is very important, in whatever way you are able to, get out there and take time to be a part of the community that you’re studying or living in.
Written by Shahd Al Baz, Urban@UW Communications Assistant
City of Bellevue selected as 2018-2019 UW Livable City Year partner
The year-long partnership connects city staff with students and faculty who will collaborate on projects to advance the Bellevue City Council Vision Priorities, specifically around livability and sustainability.
In the upcoming year, city staff will work with University of Washington’s Livable City Year program participants on a variety of possible projects that range from trail-oriented development and urban forestry best practices to potential public/private partnerships and multi-family community outreach strategies. Projects encompass many of the council’s strategic target areas of Economic Development, Transportation and Mobility, High Quality Built and Natural Environment, Great Places You Want to Be, Achieving Human Potential, and High-Performance Government.
Giving Voice, Being Seen: Community Agency and Design Action in a Time of Climate Change, April 26
Climate change affects everyone, but it does not impact all communities equally. These differences may be most evident in the built environment and the shared spaces such as parks, streets, schools, homes, which we experience and move through daily.
This symposium is a space for examining the intersections of climate change, urbanism, and environmental justice, and the ways in which diverse voices contribute to or are excluded from climate change conversations.
How social networks help perpetuate the ‘cycle of segregation’
Think about the last time you looked for a new apartment or house. Maybe you asked your friends or colleagues about where they lived. You thought about your route to work, or that neighborhood you always drive through on your way to your kid’s soccer practice. Many of these places were familiar to you, whether from an occasional visit or part of a daily routine. And if you’re like most people, you ultimately moved to a neighborhood you knew about first- or secondhand.
That decision helped, however unintentionally, to cement patterns of residential segregation, says Kyle Crowder, a University of Washington Professor in the Department of Sociology and co-author of “Cycle of Segregation,” published in January by the Russell Sage Foundation. In the book, Crowder and his co-author, Maria Krysan of the University of Illinois at Chicago, focus on Chicago neighborhoods, the opinions of residents and the past and present policies that shape the city — put simply, a city known for its white neighborhoods on the north side, and black neighborhoods on the south and west.
Chicago, Crowder and Krysan point out, has some characteristics particularly endemic to large, industrial metropolises that grew in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But relatively newer cities like Seattle don’t escape the economic, political and social forces that create and maintain segregation, Crowder said. Nor is addressing them an easy fix.
A Homeless Camp in Our Back Yard? Please, a University Says
For months, 65 homeless people lived in tents they set up in a parking lot behind the Seattle Pacific University bookstore, with a row of portable toilets and layers of clothes to guard against the damp chill of winter. It was a homeless camp like so many that crop up along roads and ramshackle lots in some American cities, except that this one had been invited here by the university administration.
So Genny Deserley, 14, who became homeless with her mother, Krissy, last year when the rent on their apartment doubled, sometimes curled up in the university library or the student union with a book on rainy afternoons. And Emma Goehle, a Seattle Pacific sophomore studying global development and sociology, spent hours meeting with people in the tent city and conducting interviews for a university research project on homelessness.
Cities, scientists unite in battle against climate change at U.N. summit
Climate scientists and city planners are to start charting a global roadmap on how cities can best battle climate change, when they gather at a U.N.-backed summit in Canada’s Edmonton on Monday. The three day gathering marks the first time cities rather than nations are offered a seat at the table of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the U.N.’s top scientific authority on global warming, organizers say. “What this will do ... is significantly advance the science that mayors and city governments need on which to base their actions,” said David Miller, North America’s director for the C40 Cities network, one of the organizers of the summit. The panel of scientists’ growing interest in cities mirrors fledgling recognition among global leaders that breakneck urbanization must be steered on a path toward reducing planet-warming greenhouse gases, said Miller.
The stakes are high: cities account for an estimated 75 percent of carbon emissions, according to U.N. figures. Under the Paris climate agreement, nearly 200 countries agreed to curb planet-warming emissions enough to keep the rise in global temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, ideally to 1.5 degrees. But without unprecedented action temperatures could rise above 1.5 degrees, according to a draft report by the IPCC seen by Reuters earlier this year. About 50 percent of the world’s population live in urban areas, a figure expected to grow to 66 percent by 2050, according to the U.N.
Many homeless people take better care of their pets than themselves; this clinic helps them
Homeless people with pets are usually criticized and sometimes turned away from shelters. But that’s starting to change.
His name is Bud the Amazing Wonder Dog, but the huge German shepherd-rottweiler mix was not feeling amazing or wonderful during his clinic visit, as he whimpered and tried to steady himself on an examination table too small for a dog his size. His owner, a homeless man named Stan, wrapped his arms around Bud, whispering, “I’m sorry, baby.” Stan, who asked that his last name not be published, told the veterinarian that Bud has a cramp in his cheek and arthritic pain in his paws.
Bud the Amazing Wonder Dog is one of many animals who’ve come to The Doney Clinic hosted at Union Gospel Mission in downtown Seattle in the more than 30 years it has been running.It’s one of very few clinics in the country like it. Named for Bud Doney, a veterinarian in Interbay who started it in 1985, the clinic is free — the only requirement is that owners get their pets neutered after the first appointment.
And there’s evidence homeless pets could actually be better off; one study found that they were healthier than housed pets, less likely to be obese, and had fewer behavioral issues like aggression to strangers or separation anxiety. “They typically have a constant connection with their human” states , professor in the
Tri-campus survey aims to identify student struggles with housing, food costs
In a region as expensive as the Puget Sound, making ends meet affects college students, too. Rent, utilities and food can run into the hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a month – and for students without the means, it’s a daunting and sometimes compromising challenge.
Urban@UW is trying to learn more about the situations facing students. From now through March 16, a survey is available for students ages 18 or older at all three University of Washington campuses. The voluntary survey is confidential. Organizers say the information is vital to learning more about how students confront housing and food insecurity.
“It’s a broad perception and assumption that students in post-secondary education don’t have an issue with meeting basic needs,” said Rachel Fyall, an assistant professor of public policy in the Evans School and faculty chair of Urban@UW’s Homelessness Research Initiative. “In the Puget Sound region, we have experienced exponential increases in the cost of living, mostly associated with housing costs, but there’s been no systematic effort to understand how that affects students.”
Urban@UW is an interdisciplinary effort to tackle city issues through research, teaching and community collaboration. Last fall, faculty involved in the Homelessness Research Initiative debuted The Doorway Project, a quarterly café, with outreach services, targeted at homeless youth and the University District neighborhood as a whole. The most recent pop-up café, held Feb. 25, served more than 120 people in the parking lot of the University Heights Center. The next is scheduled April 22 in the same location.
Front and Centered, Urban@UW, the Climate Impacts Group and the UW School of Public Health & Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences are working on two climate and environmental justice research projects that will be completed later this year:
1) An environmental justice map of Washington State that overlays population vulnerabilities (e.g. health & income) with environmental burdens (e.g. toxics and air quality) to identify risk.
2) A report assessing the state of knowledge and needs for further research on equity and climate impacts across Washington State.
Join this interdisciplinary group February 21st, 2018 to learn about these projects and hear directly from communities about how they are experiencing climate change and what it means for them.This event is free and open to the public and will be held in the Health Sciences Building T-435. Please RSVP if you are interested in attending.
Cascadia showcases how a coordinated corridor strategy can reinforce urban innovation
A central premise of Meeting of the Minds is that the flexibility, practicality, and focus of municipal governments make them ideal technological and social innovators. But can the ingenuity of U.S. cities be sufficiently amplified to effectively keep up with the pace of climate change, especially in the face of declining federal leadership?
Answering this question requires us to find the most effective scales for replicating urban progress. Metropolitan to regional scale programs can have the greatest impact, while household to district level projects are easiest to implement. Well-functioning cities and their staffs can help society achieve ambitious goals like reversing climate change and relieving global poverty, but that’s not what they are primarily paid to do. Instead, individual cities mostly aim their problem solving at local conditions. Fixing a pothole or increasing bus frequency can bring immediate relief to a neighborhood and kudos to a city council member.
Organizations like ICLEI and the US Conference of Mayors have long facilitated the sharing of these operational insights. As urban environmental issues have become more prominent, groups like the Urban Sustainability Directors’ Network and Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities have become more influential. With the advent of smart technology as an urban focus, new groups like MetroLab Network, Global City Teams Challenge, and the World Council on City Data are now emerging.
Recognizing that most of the world’s tech corridors are built around the innovation coming from two or more collaborating research universities, Microsoft has been funding enhanced connectivity between UW and UBC through the Cascadia Urban Analytics Cooperative. The schools are now using this framework to actively expand research links in transportation, housing, public health, genomics, and law, as well as growing parallel training programs in “Data Science for Social Good.”
Save The Date: The Doorway Project’s second pop-up cafe will be open on Sunday February 25, from 2:00pm-4:00pm at the University Heights Center, 5031 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105. Everyone is welcome to attend this free, family-friendly event to listen to live music, enjoy warm beverages and food. No one will be turned away for lack of funds. Learn about some of the efforts to end youth homelessness in the U district! Find out more at the Doorway Project
In orlando, america’s theme park capital, low income black residents can’t breathe the air
The struggle for environmental justice in low-income and Black communities continues. This is most certainly the case in Orlando, Florida. In the heart of one of the premier tourist destinations in the United States, the theme park capital of America, the residents of a historically Black community are having trouble breathing due to air pollution — reflecting a nationwide problem.
The community in question is the predominantly Black neighborhood of Parramore in Orlando, Florida, one of the city’s poorest communities, as HuffPost reported. The Griffin Park federal housing project is completely boxed in by highways — Interstate 4 and State Road 408 — and air pollution from over 300,000 cars per day. Trees that would have protected against the noxious fumes of automobiles have been cut down. In Parramore, once a thriving Black middle-class area founded in the 1880s, years of railroad and highway construction, segregation and relocation of residents to Griffin Park have surrounded the community and exacerbated the environmental issues it faces.
As the Orlando Sentinel reported, “Griffin Park is a planner’s nightmare — a neighborhood encircled by roads and subjected to noise and pollution 24 hours a day. From a historical standpoint, it’s unsurprising.” The median household income is now $13,613, and childhood poverty is 73 percent, with many children suffering from chronic health problems. Residents suffer from cancer, asthma and other respiratory conditions, and have urged officials to pay attention to their environmental health concerns. City authorities say they will conduct a health assessment of the area in the next five years as part of a beautification plan that is set to include green spaces.
A study released in 2017 by University of Washington researchers found that little progress has been made in bridging the gap between the exposure of people of color versus whites to harmful air pollution from combustible sources. The study, which examined levels of the transportation-related pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO2) between 2000 and 2010 found that disparities in exposure was greater based on race and ethnicity than by age, education and income.
What you do at the UW and what led you to your current research interests?
The main thing I study and teach about is the role and interaction of nonprofits with government, both through advocacy and in public service delivery, primarily in the fields of low-income housing and homelessness. Before getting my Ph.D., I worked locally at the Housing Development Consortium of Seattle-King County. That’s where I first got involved in housing and homelessness issues.
How do your current research interests intersect with urban issues?
There are nonprofits in all communities, but there is a concentration of nonprofits in urban areas, due to concentrations of funding, and of people who are interested and want to make an impact. For homelessness as well as other social services, government has a long history of delivering public programs through nonprofits, so it is an interesting research context because we have a lot of public money going to nonprofits to deliver the actual programs.
How has your research in homelessness informed your teaching?
When I teach nonprofit management, I often use homelessness as the example of how the public and nonprofits are working together to try to tackle a very difficult issue. Also, innovation often comes from the nonprofit sector as they try new approaches to alleviate homelessness, and these ideas are sometimes adopted or integrated into broader policy. We saw that with the Housing First strategy, which was really pioneered by nonprofits then shown to be effective, and now it’s pretty standard that governments are supportive of and trying to help expand that strategy in their own programs. Also, I teach policy analysis, and homelessness is a very interesting case to think about what you can do to address problems within the constraints of policy. If you are a city government, there is only so much you can do: you only have so much money, you only have so much control, and yet you want to be able to make a difference. And homelessness is an example where you can find hundreds of meaningful programs that might make a difference, and as a policymaker you have to choose how you are going to use your limited resources and expertise.
How do you think about the use of data or evidence when making policy changes?
I think that statistics as well as qualitative data—getting at the mechanisms underlying programs—are very important to provide feedback to policymakers, nonprofits implementing the programs, and the program participants themselves, to evaluate if this is the right way forward. I absolutely think that data and evaluation are important, because these are public dollars and we want to be as smart as we can when using that money.
Based on your work, what do you believe is the most effective approach to address homelessness in Seattle?
I think we need a lot more housing. From my perspective, homelessness is fundamentally a problem of housing affordability, and while people experiencing homelessness experience a lot of other challenges aside from housing affordability, the lack of housing is the thing that defines them as homeless. And right now, Seattle is one of the fastest growing cities in this country and it’s very difficult to build housing at the same rate that people arrive. We need not just more housing, but also a mindful use of policy tools to help match the kind of housing that’s being built with what people need. For example, one-bedroom units won’t really have a meaningful impact on families who are trying to stay together or may otherwise be pushed out of Seattle. We need more housing across the spectrum to make sure that we are not creating a city that only includes certain types of people or households.
What do you see for the future of research and policy-making in homelessness?
We want to believe that we are learning from our experiences and not making the same mistakes over and over, and that we are finding more ways to be innovative and adapt to new challenges. I think we are getting smarter; I think that there has been some really good research recently done on a national scale that is influencing policy conversations. But, because of the quick pace that policy can be passed compared to the slow pace of research, sometimes we move forward with policies that have not been researched fully, and there isn’t really a way around that. I hope there is a dedication to following those policies to make sure we’re learning about them as they are being rolled out, even if we don’t know beforehand how they will work.
What role do partnerships play in adding value to your work?
A lot of the research that I have been involved in has been with the Downtown Emergency Service Center, which is one of the largest nonprofit service providers in the city. One of our projects also collaborates with Pathways to Housing, and another researcher from DePaul University, so a really collaborative effort. Another project that we’re working on, with Urban@UW, is a survey of student experiences with housing or food insecurity. For that project, which we are implementing next month, we are connecting with faculty and staff on all 3 UW campuses, looking to see what we can learn in a systematic way about the experiences about housing and food insecurity among our own student body.
If you were to recommend one book to an aspiring urban scholar, what would it be?
Well, if you want to know about housing policy then “Housing Policy in the United States” is the text book I have used in my class. It can be it is a very dense read but the field is extremely complex, and that book is a great introduction for anyone who wants to get in the weeds of housing policy while still understanding the scope. Everything from housing authorities to vouchers to nonprofit subsidized developments, to homelessness programs, to foreclosures, everything, so I have to recommend that book.
Written by Shahd Al Baz, Urban@UW Communications Assistant
New book ‘City Unsilenced’ explores protest and public space
Jeff Hou is a professor of landscape architecture and adjunct professor of urban design and planning in the University of Washington’s College of Built Environments. His research, teaching and practice focus on community design, design activism, cross-cultural learning and engaging marginalized communities in planning and design.
Hou states, “with public space playing such an important role for freedom of speech and assembly and for holding institutions accountable to the public, the fight for public space is also a fight for democracy that protects equity and justice around the world.”
Skid Road: The intersection of health and homelessness
After years of caring for the homeless in the streets and dilapidated motels of Richmond, Virginia, nurse Josephine Ensign became homeless herself.
Many of her patients were prostitutes—some as young as 15—and her conscience no longer allowed her to adhere to her clinic’s policies. Though she was Christian, she was fired for referring many of these women for abortions, for not making AIDS patients “account for their sins” before they died, and “no longer being a Christian woman with a humble and teachable spirit.”
UW’s Doorway Project kicks off services for homeless youth
The University District community includes as much as one-third of King County’s homeless youth over any given year. It’s a neighborhood where a food bank and youth shelter are available, and where young people on the streets can blend in.
Now the University of Washington, in a partnership among Urban@UW, faculty, students and community service agencies – and with $1 million in state funding over two years – is launching The Doorway Project, an effort to establish a neighborhood hub and navigation center specifically for homeless young people. The Doorway Project will bring youth in the U District together with UW faculty and students to develop plans for a hub starting with a pop-up café on Dec. 3 in the parking lot of the University Heights Community Center – the first of four such events that organizers hope will lead to plans for permanent site next year.
“A public university has a mandate to have a larger impact on these kinds of problems,” said Josephine Ensign, a professor in the UW School of Nursing and coordinator of The Doorway Project. “But it shouldn’t be an ivory tower, think-tank solution; it needs to involve public scholarship, informed by the public and impacting the public.”
One way to humanize the homeless is through art. “Telling our stories: art and home(lessness)” is a show Oct. 11-Dec. 15 featuring the work of six artists living in a low-barrier supportive housing project. They are part of an artists’ collective developed out of collaboration with University of Washington researchers, the Downtown Emergency Service Center and residents at 1811 Eastlake, a low-barrier supportive housing project.
Best answer to Seattle affordability may win the race for mayor
The rising cost of housing is a dominant issue in Seattle’s mayoral election, but political messaging – on trust, results and leadership – could also move voters in the race between Jenny Durkan and Cary Moon.It’s a race away from a scandal and a race to become Seattle’s first woman mayor in about 90 years, a race about beating traffic and beating back President Donald Trump.
Most voters just want to know how their own block will be affected by the election result, said Jeff Shulman, a University of Washington Associate professor in the Foster School of Busines who hosts a podcast about the city’s growth. The candidate who can better explain what people will get in return for accepting development in their neighborhood will stand a good chance on Election Day, he said.“People are trying to figure out what growth means to them,” Shulman said. “What they’re losing and what they could be getting,” like a new library or community center.
Urban@UW compiles Faculty Highlights Report for research, teaching and engagement on homelessness
As part of its recently launched Homelessess Research Initiative, Urban@UW has collaborated with faculty and staff across all three UW campuses to compile a broad-ranging selection of powerful and robust projects addressing homelessness from a research lens. Check out the Faculty Highlights Report to learn more about these efforts and the people behind them.
The Faculty Highlights Report was developed by Urban@UW’s Homelessness Research Initiative.
How do your current research interests intersect with urban issues?
My work focuses on issues of poverty place and safety-net participation. Historically, poverty problems have been concentrated in the cities of the US; even today as the majority of poor people in our metro areas live in the suburbs, poverty rates remain much higher in cities. Problems of poverty are also much more persistent in cities, and often more racially segregated in cities than in suburban or other areas.
What led you to studying poverty?
When I was a college student, my dad lost his job. He didn’t have a college degree and he struggled to find work for a long time. Around this time I took a class in social policy and later started to do research with the professor. And I thought, if I did work that advanced our understanding of the safety net and how society could better provide help, we could help workers who have a hard time finding or keeping jobs. It seemed if I could do research around poverty and policy, it had the potential to help folks – like my Dad—who struggled sometimes to make ends meet.
How do you think research in poverty has changed over the years?
I think we have a better understanding today of the many factors that lead families to have income near or below the poverty line. We also have a better understanding of which programs best help families escape poverty or weather periods of hardship, and of what it takes to help workers without advanced education or training to find and keep good paying jobs. I also think we understand more of the racial and ethnic inequalities that underlie a lot of our poverty problems, although there remains much we need to know about inequality in the US.
What other fields of study do you regularly work with?
My work is very interdisciplinary. I draw on the work of sociologists, economists, political scientists, public health and social work, and sometimes urban planning and design. My interest in cross-disciplinary research also leads me to engage practitioners and policy-makers from a variety of different sectors whether that’s at the federal level, in state agencies or local government, or locally based non profit agencies. This outreach is something I’m working on these days, as I’m relatively new to Seattle and look forward to opportunities around issues of social service provision and poverty programming.
What would you say are the top challenges facing cities today? One of the biggest challenges today is the shifts in the labor market, where we’re creating many high-paying jobs that require a lot of education and training, and then we’re creating an abundance of low-paying jobs that don’t require a lot of advanced training. This leads to not only income inequality but also difficulties for people with less access to education and training to earn enough to provide the basics for their families.
Second, research clearly points to committing resources to early childhood education, and I think cities face significant challenges in dedicating resources to public education that supports kids from birth through college.
Last, many metro areas face both traffic gridlock problems but also limited access to and availability of public transit options. As cities become more dense and in many ways more vibrant places, solving those transportation problems is important for families across the income spectrum.
What do you see for the future of poverty research and policy-making? Right now we live in a politicized environment, which doesn’t take evidence seriously in policy debates. I worry that today’s ideological divides create a lot of challenges for researchers, policymakers, and for advocates who are interested in the value of evidence to improve programs and policies. Even though there may be limited interest in poverty policy at the federal level now, there is lots of opportunity with states and local governments to develop and study new tools or solutions, or to experiment with new programs.
So, gathering good data seems key to addressing poverty challenges.
When we don’t have good data about the nature of our poverty problems its hard for us to develop effective interventions. We risk pursuing policies or programs that either have no effect or unintended consequences. Low-income households don’t deserve just any program or policy; they deserve programs and policies that will work, and that will increase opportunity. We have an obligation to weigh objective evidence when we make policy that affects the most vulnerable families in our community.
What led you to UW?
One of the reasons I was attracted to UW and the Evans School—I moved here from the University of Chicago a few years ago—was of the large number of scholars in various departments interested in urban issues. I’m excited to see how the work of the university and the Urban@UW community continue to evolve together. I hope in the coming years we develop insights and solutions that will help the region tackle the many challenges it faces.
If you could give aspiring urban scholars a piece of advice, what would it be?
Spend time in communities engaging with local organizations. Spend time with families and case workers, program managers on the grounds.That kind of street-level perspective helps you not only identify important questions, it also helps makes sure that you’re answering those questions with integrity and with a grounding in real-world experience. Its easy for us to study urban problems far removed from the communities that are vulnerable. Rolling up our sleeves and spending time in neighborhoods and communities is critical to developing inclusive and culturally competent solutions.
Written by Shahd Al Baz, Urban@UW Communications Assistant
To reach Auburn’s island of homelessness, cross this log
That feeling – that investment in services and subsidized housing leads to more homelessness – is a myth, said Lia Musumeci. She’s a University of Washington student who’s working with Auburn on homelessness issues. The project is part of a larger initiative, Livable City Year, a UW program partnering with Auburn to help it as it grows. Musumeci said if Auburn were the only community trying to improve its services, then it could attract more homeless people to move to Auburn from within the region. But Auburn is not alone in its efforts. Homelessness is rooted in the rising cost of living and job instability, she said. We associate those problems with Seattle. They’re problems in Auburn, too, but their effects are easier to overlook there. “It’s so hard for people to understand how grave this problem is,” said Musumeci, because in the suburbs, “a lot of homeless people, especially homeless families, try to hide themselves.” She said that showing people the problem, and telling the stories of people who are homeless, can help.
Challenging the whiteness of American architecture, in the 1960s and today
“This book tells the story of how I got a free Ivy League education.”
That’s the arresting opening sentence of Sharon Egretta Sutton‘s “When Ivory Towers Were Black,” an unusual hybrid of memoir, institutional history and broadside against the entrenched whiteness of the architecture profession in this country.
The institution in question is Columbia University and, in particular, its department of architecture and planning. The time frame is between 1965 and 1976, “mirroring the emergence and denouement of the black power movement,” as Sutton notes. And the narrative is really a two-part story, exploring how an era of intense student protest at Columbia, which peaked in the spring of 1968, gave way to a remarkably successful if short-lived effort to recruit students of color to study architecture and urban planning on the university’s campus in Morningside Heights, on the southwestern edge of Harlem.
That’s the beginning of the story of how Sutton, who is now professor emerita at the University of Washington and a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, became one of those students.
Vikram Jandhyala sees Seattle’s University District evolving into an “innovation district” — a place where public and private sectors work together to develop socially beneficial technologies. Think Silicon Valley, where Stanford University faculty and students launch new companies or work on their new technologies with existing tech giants.
As the University of Washington’s vice president for innovation strategies and head of the UW CoMotion program, which pairs the research resources of the university with the business resources of the private sector, Jandhyala has already been pushing to make that vision come to life.
“CoMotion’s role is to be a hub, an innovation hub where we can get all these ideas out from the university into the community,” Jandhyala explains.
As Central District gets whiter, new barriers to health care
Last week while lawmakers in Washington, D.C., were gnashing their teeth over what health insurance in the U.S. should look like, patients and providers in King County were wrestling with some of the same challenges they faced before the Affordable Care Act was in place.
In 2014, students in King County who are black, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander or American Indian/Alaskan Native were twice as likely not to have had a yearly dental check-up.
First UW Livable City Year project reports delivered to the City of Auburn
Teams of University of Washington students have been working throughout this academic year on livability and sustainability projects in the City of Auburn. The yearlong Livable City Year partnership has given students a chance to work on real-world challenges identified by Auburn, while providing Auburn with tens of thousands of hours of study and student work.
Livable City Year connects UW faculty with projects based in Auburn, which are then incorporated into their classes. The program started this year, partnering with Auburn for the 2016-2017 year. This fall marked the first quarter for the program, when students in seven courses tackled 10 separate projects. The final reports from these projects are now complete.
“The very first Livable City Year projects were a success due to the hard work of our students and faculty, along with crucial guidance from Auburn city staff. It’s been an exciting process of co-creation,” said Livable City Year faculty co-director Branden Born of the Department of Urban Design and Planning. “The student teams working on these projects have worked to provide real benefits for the residents of Auburn, while also gaining real-world experience and a connection to the community.”
Students in Livable City Year courses spend at least one quarter working on a specific project identified as a need by Auburn. The student teams work with Auburn staff and community stakeholders as they conduct research and work on the projects.
Fall projects included assessments of Auburn’s work in reducing homelessness among the community, educational strategies to reduce pet waste and improper household items in wastewater, cultural city mapping, city values outreach, work on community place-making, and more.
“The projects that these students have taken on are at the core of many of our city’s major initiatives,” Auburn mayor Nancy Backus said. “Their work and dedication through the Livable City Year program has helped us make major strides forward in areas that are critical to the health, safety and happiness of our residents.”
After the quarter’s research work is completed, a student or student team works with Livable City Year’s editor and graphic designer to prepare a final report for the city, including any recommendations or possible future steps. By having several coordinated student teams across disciplines working on various projects, the Livable City Year program provides the City of Auburn with ways to enhance sustainability and livability elements within existing and future projects and programs.
While the fall project teams have completed their reports, this winter students have been working on projects including reducing food waste in school cafeterias; researching the costs, challenges and benefits of low-impact development stormwater technology; and better connecting Auburn’s residents socially, culturally, and economically.
Senior Ariel Delos Santos was one of the students in Born’s fall class which looked at connectivity and community place-making in Auburn.
“Working with the LCY program brought a novel component to our educational experience. Instead of a standard classroom setting where our homework is only seen by the professor, our final products were intimately tied to the city and its community members - which greatly motivated us to do more work and be more attentive to those who will be affected,” said Delos Santos, a senior double major in Community, Environment & Planning and Aquatic Fishery & Sciences. “As a student, I loved how closely I was able to work with my peers regularly and the camaraderie that we built. I definitely learned how to maintain professional relationships, accountability, communication, and my natural role in team settings.”
For more information, contact Born at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-543-4975; LCY program manager Jennifer Davison at email@example.com or 206-240-6903; and Jenna Leonard, Auburn’s climate and sustainability practice leader, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 253-804-5092.
Julian Agyeman, Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University, will be delivering a talk at the University of Washington on February 28 at 7:30pm. Agyeman was originally trained as an ecologist and biogeographer before turning to critical urban studies and environmental social science. Agyeman’s scholarship challenges basic notions of sustainability through his concept of ‘just sustainabilities,’ which aims to enhance equity and justice for both humans and ecosystems, now and into the future. In anticipation of his visit, Urban@UW has compiled a brief reading list.
Julian Agyeman and Duncan McLaren challenge the notion that connectivity, apps, and sensors mean enhanced livability for everyone by indicating they can also risk sidestepping inclusive politics. Agyeman and McLaren argue that truly smart cities need to use technology that bolsters possibilities for political participation, sharing, and inclusion, instead of market driven solutions that threaten urban equity.
Agyeman traces the evolution of and responses to the term environmental justice across international lines in response to differing racial, social, and classist circumstances surrounding inequalities. Agyeman posits that environmental justice is increasingly becoming a human rights issue rather than an American-centric civil rights issue
The emergence of food justice has had profound implications for both theory and activism. Food justice’s aspirations for going local in order to challenge the inequities of large-scale agri-business can unfortunately create its own fields of exclusion through high craft, expensive, local food items or cultivate a culture around local food that is available only to those with the financial means. Agyeman and Jesse McEntee argue that urban political ecology can offer a lens to critically focus on possibilities for retooling approaches to the food justice problem.
Compiled by Andrew Prindle & Urban@UW.
Working with community to tackle homelessness
Seattle’s rapid rise in homelessness, coinciding with increasing costs in housing and living, have brought significant challenges to economically vulnerable populations in the Puget Sound. In spite of a sense of urgency regionally and in many areas of the country, sufficient resources, effective systemic fixes and broad support still have not come together to end homelessness.
As a research and teaching institution, the University of Washington seeks to develop strategies to address the problems facing citizens experiencing homelessness. These efforts include developing rigorous research questions and projects, analyzing the barriers to housing, and working with practitioners and civic leaders to find sustainable solutions.
University of Washington faculty and students are now looking to how we might expand our capabilities and our connections with communities to collaboratively work to mitigate the effects of homelessness, improve access to and retention of housing, and contribute to ending homelessness.
As policymakers, communities, and practitioners consider changes in priorities and services to address the recently accelerated rise in homelessness, new research questions and needs arise requiring ethical monitoring and the implementation of productive and effective measures. This presents both an opportunity and challenge for the University of Washington.
One effort to build on the UW’s work includes Urban@UW working in collaboration with the West Coast Poverty Center and other key partners to catalogue existing homelessness-related projects and research across the University’s departments and centers, in order to gain insights into strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. A faculty retreat in fall 2016 brought together researchers and practitioners from across UW’s three campuses to share information and develop new projects.
Connecting researchers from various and occasionally disparate fields is essential to fostering new collaborations capable of advancing thinking at a rate commensurate with the challenge at hand. By building a network of current initiatives we aim to facilitate the development of new opportunities for those interested in participating; and foster research that improves data analytics, evaluates policies and strategies, and addresses the barriers to housing for the diverse populations experiencing homelessness.
As part of increasing research and data analytic approaches to homelessness, Urban@UW organized a workshop at the 8th International Conference on Social Informatics conference in downtown Bellevue, WA in November 2016. Local and national researchers presented their work on technological and data-driven solutions to improve services, understand population processes, and develop effective community interaction with persons experiencing homelessness.
Additionally, on January 17 and 18, the MetroLab Network, a national city-university network hosted by the City of Seattle and the University of Washington, met in Seattle City Hall for a Big Data and Human Services Workshop. Keynote speakers and breakout discussions explored ways to direct research and technology to improve services while addressing income inequality, health, mobility, and homelessness. The School of Social Work will be Urban@UW’s partner in addition to others as we move forward in this arena.
Many UW faculty staff and students work, and many have worked for decades, in different ways to end or ameliorate the effects of homelessness. Urban@UW takes the challenge of how to propel this work forward and, though smarter collaboration, increase effectiveness. As UW and Urban@UW build a collective homelessness initiative, we look forward to more opportunities for community stakeholders to participate. Keep an eye out for updates from Urban@UW and the University of Washington regarding these issues. If would like more targeted communication about homelessness, please consider joining our mailing list, or our listserv for urban-related information and events. Any questions may be sent to email@example.com.
Written by the staff of Urban@UW.
December Recap - TC3, Urban Environmental Justice, Tech, and other Highlights
December concludes a complicated year. The past month has seen a variety of changes, new research, and reflections on life in Seattle, the tech world, urban environmental justice, and our campus.
Reflections on Urban Environmental Justice in a Time of Climate Change
On November 7th and 8th Urban@UW, in collaboration with the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group (CIG), hosted a symposium to begin transdisciplinary conversation on the multifaceted dynamics and consequences of Urban Environmental Justice in a Time of Climate Change (UEJ). Below are some reflections from this event, and a sample of the resources we’ll be sharing from our time together.
Urban environmental justice has been impacting cities for centuries, if not millennia, where unequal power distribution creates disparate living conditions that typically fall along racial, ethnic, and class lines. Climate change is expected to accelerate already existing injustices in vulnerable communities. Flooding islands and coastlines, drought conditions, erosion, aridity, and soil loss are already impacting multitudes of marginalized as well as traditionally subsistence and agricultural communities.
Jacqui Patterson, Director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program, argued during her Walker-Ames lecture that these communities are the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, but that impacts will not be isolated to such communities. Rather, given time and continued inaction, people of all races and classes will invariably experience the hardships wrought by the adverse conditions of climate change.
Given the scale of impacts of these challenges, a major goal of the UEJ symposium was to gather community leaders, academics, and the public to begin learning from each other on the topic of urban environmental justice: what are you studying, what are you finding, what’s working and what’s not, what partnerships could be made? Perhaps most critically, how does academia engage with communities and institutions in a way that is not only respectful, but collaborative and community-driven?
While academics have been working on environmental justice issues for decades, this work too often tends to operate within the confines of the academy and overlooks stakeholder input. Speakers at the UEJ symposium, experts in this field, explained that this tendency leads to insulated input from those most affected, and further confines data and analysis to traditional quantitative information such as geospatial data, census results, and other forms of ‘hard data.’ This pattern thus restricts the inclusion of “non-traditional” forms of data, notably those understandings drawn from the lived experiences of those most affected. Therefore the goal is not simply to include more types of information, but to combine quantitative and qualitative data through collaboration between researchers and communities in order to more robustly and comprehensively document injustices in a way that allows legibility, participation, and engagement of a greater diversity of people, scholars, and community members.
A further challenge comes in addressing the deep structural issues of racism, sexism, and classism that pervade the behavior of some communities as well as larger social and political institutions. Tom Goldtooth, director of Indigenous Environmental Network, spoke to us via live audio feed from Standing Rock and made clear to the audience that although the scale of this particular protest may be significant, this is just an example of the repeatedly lived experiences for disenfranchised peoples wherein the needs and actions of state actors and/or corporations are able to avoid repercussions of land seizure, pollution, or treaty infringements.
Furthermore, the scope of injustices is not simply urban. While cities have increasingly been the focus of a trove of writing on the topic, a more accurate perspective must recognize that urban does not simply mean “city” – but should better refer to the regions that urban, peri-urban, and rural communities all participate in. While cities may have denser populations, environmental justice persists across the entire spectrum of environments. Julie Sze, professor and Chair of American Studies at UC-Davis, explained the demarcations of neighborhood, town, or city all fail to account for the scale of consequences of climate change effects and environmental injustices, and argued for the necessity of deep, inclusive collaboration and communication.
Many visiting scholars and panelists, including Mia White, Rachel Morello-Frosch, Kim Powe, and Jill Mangaliman, indicated that environmental injustices are not rooted in isolated moments of conflict, but rather are the result of a sustained conflict where market forces and structural disenfranchisement may repeatedly infringe upon sovereignty, food systems, human health and well-being, and environmental integrity. Discovering points of action in these complex issues will require that academics and others collapse the usual barriers of collaboration and information access.
Looking forward, the conversation among scholars, activists and other attendees argued that a failure to reach across usual lines—of discipline, sector, class, race, gender, and other differences—will effect the continued, critical loss of skills and experiences for both students and scholars, that may be compounded by a collective loss for the academy and their communities to know and learn from each other. Scientists, policymakers, community members and others can make it so their work is not only collaborative, but inclusive and broadly informed.
Below is a selection of readings from the speakers who joined us for this event. More resources, including video from the event, will be published soon.
Tom Goldtooth,Why REDD/REDD+ Is Not a Solution, No REDD Papers Volume 1, edited by Hallie Boas,13-25, Indigenous Environmental Network and Carbon Trade Watch, 2011.
Julie Sze, “Exploratory Concepts, Case Studies and Keywords for Teaching Environmental Justice and Climate Change from the Humanities”,Teaching Climate Change in Literary and Cultural Studies, edited by Stephanie LeMenager, Stephen Siperstein and Shane Hall, 184-190. Routledge, 2017.
Urban@UW hosted the Urban Environmental Justice in a Time of Climate Change Symposium together with the Climate Impacts Group, and was a sponsor for the Graduate School’s Walker Ames lecture featuring Jacqui Patterson.
Livable City Year releases RFP, invites cities to partner for 2017-8 academic year
The University of Washington’s Livable City Year initiative is now accepting proposals from cities, counties, special districts and regional partnerships to partner with during the 2017-2018 academic year.
UW Livable City Year (UW LCY) connects University of Washington faculty and students with a municipal partner for a full academic year to work on projects fostering livability. The municipal partner will
identify a selection of projects in their community that could be addressed by UW LCY courses. Areas of focus include environmental sustainability, economic viability, population health, and social equity, inclusion and access.
Urban@UW is a foundational supporter of Livable City Year. This article was originally shared on the Livable City Year website, written by Daimon Eklund.
NYC, Chicago mayors join Seattle’s Ed Murray is support of “sanctuary cities” for immigrants
SEATTLE — Democratic mayors of major U.S. cities that have long had cool relationships with federal immigration officials say they’ll do all they can to protect residents from deportation, despite President-elect Donald Trump’s vows to withhold potentially millions of dollars in taxpayer money if they don’t cooperate.
New York’s Bill de Blasio, Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel and Seattle’s Ed Murray are among those in “sanctuary cities” who have tried to soothe immigrant populations worried about Trump’s agenda.
“Seattle has always been a welcoming city,” Murray said Monday. “The last thing I want is for us to start turning on our neighbors.” In Providence, Rhode Island, Mayor Jorge Elorza, the son of Guatemalan immigrants, said he would continue a longstanding city policy of refusing to hold people charged with civil infractions for federal immigration officials, and Newark’s Ras Baraka echoed that, calling Trump’s rhetoric on immigration “scary.”
During the campaign, Trump gave an immigration speech in which he promised to “end the sanctuary cities” and said those “that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities will not receive taxpayer dollars.” He blamed such policies for “so many needless deaths.”
Trump didn’t elaborate further on his plans for cracking down on the cities, and in a “60 Minutes” interview broadcast Sunday, he said his administration’s immediate priority will be on deporting criminals and securing the border.
The BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico is one of the most significant environmental disasters in recent memory for the United States. Patterson examines the incident in terms of its challenges to family health, economic access, domestic violence, and the disproportionate burden on women in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
“The effects of climate change threaten everyone, but they do not threaten all people equally. Women are disproportionately affected by natural disasters, which are on the increase, as they experience higher rates of mortality, morbidity and post-disaster diminishment in their livelihoods.”
The Annie E. Casey Foundation to Support MetroLab Network’s Big Data + Human Services Lab
The Annie E. Casey Foundation, which aims to improve delivery of human services to children and families by focusing on big data solutions with cities, countries, and universities, will support MetroLab Network’s Big Data + Human Services Lab.
MetroLab Network is pleased to announce that the Annie E. Casey Foundation will be supporting the formation of its Big Data + Human Services Lab, which will bring together city policymakers, university researchers and other experts to accelerate big data and analytics approaches focused on human services.
The Lab is part of MetroLab Network’s effort to coordinate research, development and deployment projects underway across its city, county and university members. It will offer a venue – through in-person workshops and site visits and virtual discussions and exchange – for its members to collaborate and explore opportunities for scalable approaches. The Lab will include representatives from local government, universities, industry, nonprofits, and other experts.
The Data + Human Services Lab will kick off with a workshop in Seattle hosted by the City of Seattle and University of Washington on January 17 and 18, 2017. It is part of a series of Labs hosted by MetroLab members across the country. The other Labs will focus on Water and Green Infrastructure; Traffic and Transportation; and Urban Sensing.
“We are really excited about this important partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation,” said Governor Martin O’Malley, who serves as Senior Fellow at MetroLab Network and is convening and chairing its Advisory Council. “Too often, our human service interventions arrive long after the damage is done. The proper use of big data and predictive analytics can save a lot of vulnerable young lives, and heal a lot of families.”
“Our Foundation develops innovative solutions to help all children, families and communities succeed,” said Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Casey Foundation. “We value our partnership with MetroLab Network because these efforts recognize that public systems serving the most disadvantaged families need better data to identify areas of concern, and they must work collectively to ensure that neither race nor zip code is a barrier to opportunity.”
“The term smart cities is often associated with the most effective sensors or most energy efficient streetlights,” said Ben Levine, Interim Director of MetroLab Network, “While those technologies provide important benefits, local governments must also be focused on opportunities to enhance the critical services that they provide. We are excited about the opportunities that partnerships with universities can offer to government agencies focused on improving the lives of their residents.”
Stay tuned for more information, as Urban@UW is proud to be working with the MetroLab Network!
(This article was drawn from a press release courtesy of the MetroLab Network.)
PARK(ing) Day+ and Little Collective’s “Bees and Salmon”
Today you may notice some new public spaces in your neighborhood; but look fast, because they will be gone by Sunday. Now a global phenomenon, PARK(ing) day is a few hours per year when cities endeavor to convert city spaces into public places called parklets. The parklet’s origins are tied to ReBar, a San Francisco based studio, that converted a single parking space into a micro park. This first parklet lived for just a few hours in 2005. Since that day, cities around the globe have taken up this tradition of reassigning road space to the public domain by allowing designers and citizens to creatively remake their streetscapes.
Each city takes its own approach by introducing themes, changing the scale of interventions, or even introducing moveable parklets, similar to parade floats. Seattle’s PARK(ing) Day+ offers an extra day (September 16-17) to enjoy these designs. Parklets raise awareness about public space access, the politics of right-of-way policies, and are a great way to engage communities—and this year a group of former University of Washington landscape architecture students are extending that conversation. The group is called Little Collective and is comprised of: Stevie Koepp, Roxanne Lee, Hilary Ratliff, and Katy Scherrer. Three of the women have recently graduated from the Department of Landscape Architecture and Koepp is staying on to complete a concurrent degree in the Department of Architecture.
Scherrer explained that the Collective’s goal is to combine social infrastructure with green infrastructure by using rain-garden parklets as a point of conversation about how urban runoff connects land-based pollution to the Puget Sound, the protected waters between Seattle and the Olympic Peninsula, stretching up into the San Juan Islands. The group’s “Bees and Salmon” approach is a way to communicate how land-based interventions such as rain gardens can be multifunctional by creating urban habitat in the city that can also have an effect on our local waters. Bees and salmon become a way to talk about how polluted storm-water from impermeable urban surfaces has direct and indirect effects on fish in the Puget Sound.
A key element of ecosystem resilience is insuring that entire systems are connected, and in the rainy PNW water is our great unifier. Key factors in the health of the Puget Sound include insuring water movement, balanced chemistry, and appropriate temperatures. Green storm-water infrastructure addresses these issues by ensuring urban run-off has opportunities to infiltrate for groundwater recharge, slowing movement to deposit sediment, and enhancing filtration which removes toxins—all of which are essential for the health of migrating salmon. This is the connection that is guiding Little Collective’s storm-water parklet installation at Capitol Hill Arts.
Little Collective was inspired while studying landscape architecture in Seattle and Copenhagen, DK, where they gleaned insights into land-water systems:
• Storm-water management is not only an essential ecosystem service, but can be integrated into truly inviting and valuable public space.
• Green storm-water infrastructure can take a very long time to implement.
• Bicycles can be a vital part of urban transportation networks.
“We started with this idea, ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could transport a rain garden on your bicycle?’ Rain gardens are a wonderful asset, but they can be cumbersome. From design, to review, to construction [it] can be a lengthy process,” explained Lee. Doing anything in Seattle streets can cause ire and the time dedicated to installing rain gardens can make the benefits feel intangible.
Often times public design forums or reviews involve time and labor-intensive graphics and extended conversation; but Little Collective is pursuing a different route, “by using easily assembled, acquired, and transportable materials as a way to expose people to rain gardens and their function in urban ecosystems as a vital component to clean water and mitigate runoff consequences,” explained Lee.
For Little Collective this modular system, and temporary approach to rain gardens is about “recognizing a potential gap in the system where we could capture people’s attention in order to educate and engage them to support productive permanent change in our storm-water systems. We like to think of it as an interactive micro-watershed.”
Ratliff acknowledged bringing people into the conversation about storm-water, streets, and the Puget Sound is a complex task. The group believes that small interventions at the human scale “can collectively generate larger social and environmental change.” Little Collective’s goal is to have “something tangible between thinking about and having a rain garden. Our modular, temporary approach is a way to expose and educate people, to get a jump-start on the ecological process before the actual installation.”
PARK(ing) Day offers an innovative, meaningful and human-centric way to embrace the complexity of urban water infrastructure. Storm-water and infrastructure are necessary for the health of both our city and the Sound, and Little Collective’s project aims to work towards that.
Check out Little Collective’s work, and many of the parklet designs popping up all over the city September 16-17. See the Seattle Department of Transportation Park(ing) Day website for more information.
Written by Andrew Prindle, Urban@UW Communications Coordinator
The library, the new happening place to be
Everywhere, people are deserting the public space.
They’re not standing in line at the bank: They’re banking online. They’re not shopping for clothes at the mall: They’re getting clothes mailed to them at home. The internet is enabling people to meet their needs without going out.
Librarians have seen this coming for years, and many worried the library could become another space devoid of humans. But the internet hasn’t been the death of the library. In fact, the web has become the revival of its mission. And the library buildings themselves are full.
The eScience Institute‘s Data Science for Social Good (DSSG 2016) research fellows concluded their summer with a rich symposium of research and strong media responses, including: The Seattle Times and ORCA card data, TechCrunch overviewed each project, GeekWire profiled the ORCA project and OpenSidewalks, and Geekwire published another piece showcasing connections made between Amazon reviews and food safety.
Crosscut concluded a very well-done 3 part series on Seattle’s homeless.
The National Endowment for the Humanities awarded $179,000 to fund a 2017 summer institute focusing on western cultural conceptions of urban/nature dynamics by using Seattle’s complex environmental history as a focal point to examine broader implications for global justice and health.
Urban@UW, the School of Public Health, UW Sustainability, College of Built Environments, and Undergraduate Academic Affairs are proud to be working with the University of Washington and the City of Auburn in the Livable City Year program. This new initiative combines the talents of civic and academic institutions to work collaboratively work towards actionable solutions.
Urban@UW compiles monthly recaps highlighting the urban research happening across the University of Washington.
UW student project taps ORCA cards, unlocks data trove
Students in a UW summer fellowship program called Data Science for Social Good work to coax valuable information from overlooked data, and one potential upshot might be improved bus service.
If you’re a regular bus rider, you might think that the area’s transit agencies use the information from your ORCA card to learn which buses are most crowded during rush hour, and to fine-tune the area’s routes.
You would be wrong.
Turns out none of the area’s transit agencies have ever made significant use of the trove of data from ORCA cards — the prepaid, plastic cards used to pay for more than 60 percent of all rides on the area’s nine regional transit systems.
So this summer, a team of Ph.D. students took 21 million ORCA-card readings and wrangled the data into a form that can be used to discover where, and when, we go when we ride the bus.
Uneven: Mobility, Sidewalks, and Maps (including a map-a-thon!)
Much has been said about sidewalks as theaters of urban life. Productive democratic friction between strangers is one of the hallmarks of good city building, yet this vision of a grandly equitable platform for urban life is not without flaws. Sidewalks may appear to be benign slabs of concrete or brick, but as platforms for daily life they are inextricably bound to the politics of urban areas. In rapidly growing cities such as Seattle, these challenges can often come to the forefront.
Our conception of sidewalks is being expanded by the integration of a variety of transportation right of ways, parklets, as well as café and restaurant seating. As we seek to inject green spaces, bike corridors, and social business facades into confined spaces between buildings and streets the politicality of sidewalks becomes more legible.
The spatial density of sidewalks isn’t just an issue of integrating various right of ways, there are also very real implications for personal mobility.
When faced with navigational questions most of us are quick to ask a passerby, or perhaps more likely now, to pull out a phone and open an app. However, this solution relies on having a cellphone and is woefully inadequate for people with limited mobility. Perhaps you’ve confronted the flaw in this reflex in your own adventures across town, or when helping a relative or friend with an assistive device, or even when riding your bike. Suddenly you find yourself having to pay very close attention to surface conditions and curb cut availability. Inadequate pedestrian and navigational infrastructure can be a nuisance to anyone, but for people with mobility limitations or low vision these conditions can not only be extremely frustrating, but hazardous.
The event does not require people to have any experience in data collection, GIS, or coding. OpenSidewalks and Taskar representatives will guide you through some quick tutorials, and you are encouraged to bring your phone, a laptop and mouse if you have one, but there is ample opportunity for field mapping, using an old-fashioned pen and paper as well. Not to mention there’s free pizza and refreshments AND this is child friendly event.
This sort of civic engagement with our public space is essential, particularly in a city like Seattle. Our combination of wet winters, along with a mix of soft sandy soils and heavy glacial till can lead to sidewalks heaving and becoming uneven over time. Bike lanes have been used as parking zones, and seemingly ubiquitous construction often results in sidewalk closures or revisions that are not always easily navigable.
In light of the city’s ongoing development there has been frustration and concern as to who has priority in these pubic right of ways, and who is being affected. Sidewalk closures and rerouting present challenges to any pedestrian, and these issues are amplified for people with low vision and mobility restrictions. Seattle Weekly quoted Jacob Struiksma, a blind resident of the Roosevelt neighborhood, about the numerous challenges, delays, and general unpredictability created by widespread construction projects.
The integrity of sidewalks is not only a matter of temporary inconvenience, the Weekly also indicated it can curb people’s transportation preferences, shrinking walking range to what is explicitly known and immediate. Closures and alterations are necessary aspects of developing cities and this complex relationship highlights one of the reasons collaborations like that of the OpenSidewalks project, King County Metro, and the broader community are so important.
Those in poorer neighborhoods often face sustained complications in regards to pedestrian infrastructure. Governing magazine covered this issue in depth in 2014, finding that poorer areas have approximately double the pedestrian fatality rates of wealthier areas. This problem is created by a perfect storm of structural inequality patterns where more disenfranchised areas of a city often have: poorly maintained infrastructure, less transportation options, and are frequently either bounded or divided by major roads or highways. Further compounding these infrastructural conditions, residents in such neighborhoods are often the ones who depend most on walking and public transportation. The lingering effects of disinvestment and redlining unfortunately manifest in mobility issues for minority or disenfranchised communities. The Washington Post interviewed Kate Lowe, assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, about her study of New Orleans sidewalks. Lowe looked at the continuity of sidewalks between bus stops in neighborhoods and found that areas with low poverty rates, particularly white communities, were most likely to have continuous sidewalks. Those with high poverty rates were most likely to have intermittent sidewalk coverage.
Correlations between SAT scores or college acceptance rates and zip codes demonstrated strong correlations between citizen well-being and location, and as it turns out even the conditions of our sidewalks can be found to indicate inequities across urban space.
The need for both better information about access and pedestrian mobility is necessary as we attempt to transition from a completely car-centric culture to a city embracing multi-modal, equitable transportation systems. But cognizance of sidewalks’ importance for mobility across different communities may unfortunately remain an issue and illustrates that urban environmental justice concerns even seemingly benign sidewalks.
Written by Andrew Prindle, Urban@UW Communications Coordinator
Midsummer in Full Swing, A July Recap
While we are in the midst of a beautiful summer, things at the University of Washington and at Urban@UW are moving right along. We’ve seen some original writing, research, and even a podcast come out of community covering topics from marine noise pollution to data science and minimum wage to police reforms.
Urban@UW compiles monthly recaps highlighting the urban research happening across the University of Washington.
Jeff Shulman and the Seattle Growth Podcast: An Office Hours Visit
Jeff Shulman moved to Seattle a decade ago to begin his career at the University of Washington. In that short time, he’s watched Seattle’s dramatic and ongoing growth transform the city. This former South Lake Union resident has put together a thirteen-episode, in-depth look at how Seattle’s changes have affected real people. With nearly 100 interviews done to create the series, Shulman is looking forward to the July 26th launch of the Seattle Growth Podcast. We sat down with Jeff to see what it was like to make this podcast, and what we might take away from it.
Jeff Shulman is an associate professor and the Marion B. Ingersoll Professor in Marketing at the Foster School of Business at the University of Washington.
(This piece is part of an ongoing series of interviews Urban@UW is doing with urban researchers, designers, and thinkers.)
Urban: With so many platforms available, what motivated you to do a podcast? Is this your first one? JS: It actually is my first. I figured there’s a growing number of people listening to podcasts, and I think it’s a media platform that will continue to grow. As we bounce back from the limitations of Twitter and changes in journalism generally, I think people are increasingly looking for quality, long-form presentations of ideas. Given the polarization around growth, I felt it was the right way to do this. You know, we all tend to share conversations with similarly minded people and as soon as someone really opposes your view, you tend to tune out. So, I wanted to tell a story without a slanted angle, a way to explore what these changes meant to people of all walks of life in Seattle.
Urban: You came to the city around 2006. Given the topics you’re covering, what have you observed since your move here? Did those observations catalyze the podcast? JS: I moved here in 2006 and lived in South Lake Union. I moved out in 2012. The SLU I lived in is unrecognizable. When I go there now, almost every building near my old complex is new and that helped me realize I had only a ten-year history here to compare to. I was really curious how these changes were perceived by long-term residents—whether they were city officials or homeless people, how different this was from previous times of change and, really, I wanted to know how they felt about it.
Urban: As you pointed out there is some divisiveness on the topic of growth. How did you navigate this and what roadblocks came up? JS: Very few, actually. People were eager to talk to me—I was welcomed into a number of homeless communities, city hall, Seattle Municipal Tower, and in artist communities. I think that by presenting the opportunity to be listened to, to be heard, really resonated with people. And more importantly I found that people were curious too; they wanted to know what other people were thinking and feeling.
Urban: Having met with so many different people, were there any commonalities that surprised you? JS: There were a lot of little things along the way. A hot dog vendor and white-collar worker were excited about Seattle becoming a 24-hour city. A homeless person and tech worker both amazed at the number of opportunities they now had. There were some unique commonalities where you just wouldn’t expect people to share the same perceptions. But the biggest one that kept coming up was community. It didn’t really matter who I talked to, community came up a lot and the question was often whether growth was a problem or solution for the further development of community. People were really concerned and excited about what this might mean for their community and the city’s community at large.
Urban: Can you give an example? JS: When I was talking to Tent City 7 residents, some were really anti-growth and two men told me about how they have money but when they walk around and look at stores or restaurants they can’t afford to buy anything. Growth just keeps putting things out of reach. When I told them that many in the tech community are excited about the growth they became really curious: they wanted to know what others were thinking and feeling. And this trans-group curiosity happened a lot. That was what really struck me. People in all communities, of all kinds, knew what was impacting them but they were all curious what it was like for other people. So while this is a divisive issue, the fact that community is the near-universal concern was really something to me. I think we share a lot, and while we all lead different lives, the fact is that Seattle’s culture understands community as being unilaterally important. I am excited to bring the diverse voices of the community together with hopes of finding common ground in addressing the key issues facing everyone in a growing city.
You can subscribe to and follow Jeff Shulman’s podcast on iTunes or the podcast website starting July 26, 2016.
Written by Andrew Prindle, Urban@UW Communications Coordinator
Study: Perceived threats from police officers, black men predict support for policing reforms
At a time of intense national attention on law enforcement and race, a new University of Washington study suggests that racially based fear plays a role in public support for policing reforms.
The research, conducted by UW postdoctoral researcher Allison Skinner and published online July 12 in the open-access journal Frontiers in Psychology, used a series of experiments to gauge participants’ level of support for policing reforms in relation to whether they felt threatened by police officers or black men.
The study found that the degree to which participants viewed police as threatening was linked to their tendency to support reformed policing practices, such as limiting the use of lethal force and requiring police force demographics to match those of the community. By contrast, when they perceived black men as threatening, participants were less likely to support policing reforms.
“This speaks to the potential influence of racial biases in attitudes about policing policy reform,” said Skinner, a researcher in the UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences. “Racial attitudes are tied up into people’s policy positions and how they feel about these seemingly unrelated topics.”
This summer we are thrilled to be supporting the eScience Institute’s Data Science for Social Good (DSSG) program.
Modeled after similar programs at the University of Chicago and Georgia Tech, with elements from eScience’s own Data Science Incubator, sixteen DSSG Student Fellows have been working with academic researchers, data scientists, and public stakeholder groups on data-intensive research projects. This year’s projects specifically focus on Urban Science, aiming to understand and extract valuable, actionable information out of data from urban environments across topic areas including public health, sustainable urban planning, education, transportation, and social justice.
Topics being addressed this summer include a community based approach to improving accessible pedestrian way-finding, mining online data for early identification of unsafe food products, enhanced transit system operations and planning, and tool development for effective poverty estimation. For more information on the work being done this summer check out the DSSG project descriptions.
Now entering their 5th week, students with backgrounds ranging from applied math and data visualization to international relations and landscape architecture, are not only learning new approaches to data challenges, but interdisciplinary collaboration. Student fellows have been exploring new data science tools, as well as a broad range of ethical considerations with support from the Human Centered Data Science Lab. Read more about the fellows, and their reflections on the program as it moves forward on the DSSG blog.
Access To Nature In Urban Areas Is Key To Healthier Living
Mental illnesses and mood disorders are more prevalent in urban areas partly due to reduced access to nature, according to a new study.
Researchers probed the rising tension between the critical role of urban areas and these cities’ debilitating aspects that disconnect people from nature – and even raise mental illnesses.
“There’s an enormous amount of disease largely tied to our removal from the natural environment,” warned study author Peter Kahn of University of Washington, citing that children in megacities grow up without seeing stars and achieving feelings of “awe, restoration and imaginative spark” from it.
In their perspective study, Kahn and Terry Hartig from Uppsala University in Sweden pointed to signs that cities can cause emotional and mental strain on their residents.
The little or no contact with nature is creating so-called “environmental generational amnesia,” coined by Kahn to describe how new generations are concocting new ideas of what is “environmentally normal” based on their childhood experiences.
UW-led study pinpoints how air pollution harms your heart
Dr. Joel Kaufman of the University of Washington led a 10-year study of 6,000 people in six cities that found air pollution accelerates deposits of calcium in heart arteries, a known cause of heart attack and stroke.
Scientists have known for years that long-term exposure to air pollution raises the risk of heart disease, but a highly anticipated study led by a University of Washington environmental health expert finally explains why.
In a decadelong analysis involving more than 6,000 people in six states, Dr. Joel Kaufman found that people living in areas with more outdoor pollution built up calcium in the arteries of their hearts faster than those who lived elsewhere — increasing a known risk for heart attack and stroke.
“On average we found a 20 percent acceleration in the rate of the calcium deposits,” said Kaufman, 54, director of the UW’s occupational and environmental medicine program. “I would say the results are a little more clear-cut and dramatic than I expected when I started this.”
Urban@UW compiles monthly recaps highlighting the urban research happening across the University of Washington.
One Year On, Seattle Explores Impact Of $15 Minimum Wage Law
NPR’s Ari Shapiro talks with University of Washington Professor Jacob Vigdor about the state of the minimum wage in Seattle, as California and New York move to lift their minimum wages to $15.
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Now, let’s dig deeper into what has happened in Seattle, one of the first big cities to pass that $15 minimum wage law. That happened in 2014. Joining us now is Jacob Vigdor, a University of Washington professor who’s running a city-funded study on the minimum wage law. Welcome to the show.
JACOB VIGDOR: Thanks for having me, Ari. It’s a pleasure to be here.
SHAPIRO: And so Seattle is phasing in the minimum wage law over time. It’s going to hit $15 an hour in a few years. So far, what have you seen with the wage hike?
VIGDOR: So far, as of January 1 of this year, the large employers in Seattle are now paying $13 an hour, and the smaller businesses get to pay a little bit less. So far, the impacts seem to be not too great here. We’ve seen some impacts on prices, but in terms of employment or other sorts of things, not too much.
SHAPIRO: So things are not costing a lot more. Employment is not dramatically dropping. It doesn’t look like people are getting laid off because of the wage hike. What about people who were making the minimum wage who are now making more money? Has it had much impact on them?
Making Disruption a Force for Good - A letter from President Ana Mari Cauce
We hear a lot about “disruption” these days as businesses and institutions—and universities are no exception—are faced with the prospect of an upstart coming along and disrupting a portion of, or their entire, enterprise or industry. Disruption is often seen as a side effect of innovation, particularly in technology. Each of us carries an example of a disruptive technology with us every day in the form of our cellphones. I wrote this letter on a tablet computer, another example of disruptive technology.
But for as much as we hear about disruption, we hear far less about the disrupted—those whose jobs, lives and sometimes entire communities are affected by innovation, and sometimes not for the better. Disruption is perhaps an unavoidable side effect of innovation and change, but the effects do not have to be unpredictable or negative. Nor must innovation be a top-down phenomenon, with little regard for its impact on our broader society.
That’s why inclusive innovation, a more democratic style of innovation practiced here in the Pacific Northwest and advanced by our own UW innovators and our CoMotion innovation hub, is such a powerful concept. This is where the UW’s commitment to the public good aligns with our role as the world’s most innovative public university. We’re taking innovation out of the narrowly defined box it’s so often placed in—those programmers in the garage—and opening it up to the broader community. At the same time, we’re taking innovation beyond technology, to address the broader range of issues we face as a society.
One of these issues is homelessness. Far too many of our neighbors go to sleep each night in cars or underneath bridges. There’s no one reason they’re on the street, and so there’s no one solution. That’s what makes homelessness exactly the sort of challenge that cries out for inclusive innovation.
Urban@UW is an interdisciplinary effort that’s not just studying the challenges faced by cities, including homelessness, it’s also working on collaborative solutions. Last fall, Urban@UW faculty and students partnered with CoMotion, Undergraduate Academic Affairs, and the eScience Institute to hold a four-day workshop on urban challenges called NextSeattle.
Faith Ramos, a senior at UW Tacoma majoring in urban studies, took part in the workshop. After 15 years working for social and environmental justice, including directing a documentary on the effects of gentrification, Faith has returned to college to pursue a bachelor’s degree.
During the workshop, Faith and her team of fellow students sought to combat the dehumanizing anonymity to which many homeless youth are subjected. Their solution? A digital platform that fosters a sense of community with photos and personal stories.
Innovation and innovators are everywhere. But we don’t always listen. Yet when we do, we can get the kind of disruption that’s truly meaningful. At the UW, we’re seeking to disrupt the cycle that keeps people malnourished and in poverty, as well as to disrupt the warming of our skies and acidification of our oceans. We believe we can disrupt cancer, Alzheimer’s and malaria, just as we can disrupt inequity and injustice. And we believe not only that we can do these things, but that our public duty demands it.
Inclusive innovation can make disruption a force for good and an extension of our public mission. It is that mission—our commitment to you and to our society—that guides and inspires us every day.
Ana Mari Cauce, University of Washington President
If people find it easier to get data from the city of Seattle going forward, they can in part thank the University of Washington.
A team of UW faculty members and doctoral students spent the past six months working with the city on a new open data policy unveiled last week by Mayor Ed Murray. The policy requires all city departments to make their data as accessible as possible to the public while upholding privacy and security considerations.
The UW team conducted focus groups to hear about the public’s wishes and concerns, assessed the city’s existing datasets and vendor agreements for security vulnerabilities, and held in-depth interviews with officials in eight city departments to identify their data processes.
“It was pretty intense,” said , head of the UW’s Urban Infrastructure Lab and one of the project’s leaders. “We wanted to take a really comprehensive approach, because we knew that the city wanted to take an innovative and large step forward in terms of tackling this issue.”
Murray signed an executive order Feb. 26 directing all city departments to comply with the new policy, which he said is intended to help “problem-solvers outside of government” find solutions to civic challenges.
Heterogeneity and American Ghettos with Dr. Mario Luis Small - 2/25
February 25th / 6:00-7:30pm / CMU 120
Dr. Mario Luis Small
Grafstein Family Professor, Harvard University
By the end of the 20th century, the dominant theories of urban poverty argued that U.S. ghettos had become isolated areas devoid of everyday institutions and disconnected from mainstream society. Dr. Small examines whether the conventional models have underestimated the extent of heterogeneity across U.S. ghettos and its consequences for the everyday experiences of those who live in them.
Sponsored by: Urban@UW, UW Simpson Center for the Humanities, & the West Coast Poverty Center
New! Urban Map Gallery
We’ve created a new urban map gallery to explore how other people and organizations are studying and visualizing data. The gallery features seven cities facing different social, economic, and geographic issues. This curation is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but rather provide insight and inspiration. Maps included track everything from sound to subway pathogens.
The 2016 History Lecture Series focuses on Seattle’s fascinating history; complete the experience with a lively discussion of Seattle’s future. KCTS9’s Enrique Cerna leads a panel featuring nationally-recognized labor leader David Rolf, Technology Access Foundation founder and education advocate Trish Millines Dziko, social benefit entrepreneur Ruby Loveand sustainable development innovator Eric Carlson, ’70, ’76, to discuss the big questions: What will Seattle look like in 20 years? Can we keep this city vibrant and livable? Will the things that people love about Seattle today still be here? What does the future have in store for the Emerald City?
Presented by the UW Alumni Association and Office of External affairs
Leaders Gather at UW to Define Vision for Smart Communities
Smart city leaders from around the world are gathering at UW’s Seattle campus for a two-day workshop called the “NSF Visioning Workshop on Smart and Connected Communities Research and Education” to discuss the future of smart and connected communities on January 13-14, 2016. The UW Department of Electrical Engineering is organizing and hosting the workshop, on behalf of the National Science Foundation, with the goal of facilitating dialogue between stakeholders, including municipalities, states, cities, universities, industry, federal government and private foundations.
The concept of creating smart communities is emerging as a way to address a variety of problems facing both busy urban centers and rural communities. By utilizing data analytics, sensors and other technology, the goal is to overcome various challenges, such as power distribution, healthcare, transportation, air quality and access to education, shelter, water and food.
“I challenge all of us — students, faculty and staff, and my leadership team — to own both our personal responsibility for the culture of our campus, and the institutional challenges we need to address to combat the racism, both individual and institutional, that persists here and throughout our society.”
In April 2015, President Ana Mari Cauce called the University of Washington to action and invited us all to share in her commitment “to work in greater and more comprehensive ways to address the UW’s own institutional issues, and to strive for equity and fairness for all in our community.” She redoubled the University’s longstanding commitment to equity, inclusion and social justice with the launch of the Race & Equity Initiative.
UW initiative aims to tackle city, region’s most pressing urban issues
When Thaisa Way put a call out last spring to see if University of Washington faculty members working on urban issues wanted to join forces, she wasn’t sure what the response would be.
“There were a lot of people who said, ‘You’re not going to get anyone to show up,‘” said Way, a UW associate professor of landscape architecture.
But more than 80 people representing 12 of the UW’s colleges and schools turned up to the gathering, held on a Monday afternoon at the tail end of the quarter. The meeting launched the creation of Urban@UW, an interdisciplinary effort that has been incubating for more than three years to bring together UW researchers, Seattle officials and citizens to collaborate on the most pressing issues facing a rapidly growing city and region.
There are more than 200 UW faculty members working on urban topics, Way said, from geographers using GIS technology to address the complexities of homelessness to data scientists working on transportation challenges to teams of researchers working on food access and Seattle’s minimum wage.
Faculty members, particularly younger ones, are increasingly motivated by a desire for their work to have a real-world impact, Way said, and urban issues present a significant and compelling opportunity to make a difference in their own backyard, as well as around the globe.
“I think the generation of faculty who have come into the university in the past decade want to be part of a larger effort,” said Way, Urban@UW’s executive director. “Urban issues are a very visceral, very present challenge and a remarkable opportunity. That’s the fantastic thing about cities — they’re both our problem and our answer.”
UW President Ana Mari Cauce and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray will discuss the new MetroLab Network, a partnership between the city and university spearheaded by UW’s eScience Institute and Urban@UW. The collaboration, part of the White House’s new Smart Citiesinitiative, will focus on infrastructure, service delivery to citizens, democratic governance and increased civic participation and data-driven policymaking.
Following the presentations, more than 90 faculty members, city and county decision-makers and local stakeholders will brainstorm ideas for collaborative projects in six areas: disaster preparedness and response, food and economic disparity, housing and poverty, climate change and environmental justice, growth and transportation, and the MetroLab Network. Each topic will have a UW faculty lead and a designated community member going forward.
The goal, Urban@UW Program Manager Jen Davison said, is to develop pilot projects that will be launched over the coming year and supported by Urban@UW, anything from a series of conversations to a small-scale research project.
“We don’t want to be too prescriptive for what they come up with,” Davison said. “We want these projects to be driven by the needs of the community and the capacities of our researchers and teachers.”
Other universities have launched urban-focused initiatives, but Way said they tend to be more narrowly focused and involve fewer departments. Seattle is an ideal city for the effort, she said — small enough to be nimble but large enough to have big-city problems, a place where bold thinking and ambition thrive.
“We’ve got this creative, innovative community that can help us think about what it takes to do something differently,” Way said. “We have this wonderful opportunity to think across disciplines in a lot of different worlds and practices.”
The effort will take a holistic approach, Way said, with the goal of fostering well-being and opportunity for all Seattle residents.
“These problems are multifaceted, and that means cities can’t address housing without addressing where schools are, without addressing transportation, without addressing employment,” she said.
Urban@UW received funding for three years from the UW Office of Research and is working in partnership with CoMotion, the UW’s innovation incubator, as well as with UW’s eScience Institute. Its headquarters are in Startup Hall, just off campus, and Davison is its sole employee.
Way envisions Urban@UW becoming a hub that the mayor of Bellingham or an NGO in Bogota could tap into for expertise on a range of issues, and where urban scholars might come from around the world to build and gain knowledge that can be applied in other cities.
“We want to be able to show that we can be a resource for more than Seattle,” she said. “I hope we can continue to build these partnerships so that in ten years, we’re an internationally recognized center for innovative urban research and practice.”
UW students address urban issues, pitch innovative solutions at NextSeattle Workshop
How does a city grow? As more and more people are moving to urban centers throughout the world, what will the modern city look like? How will we ensure that all of its residents, rich or poor, are able to access public goods and services? And for all the creative energy that a city harnesses in one place, how will we make sure that no one is shunted to its margins, left to fall through the cracks?
These are just some of the questions students began to tackle at NextSeattle, an intensive four-day workshop sponsored by CoMotion, Urban@UW, Undergraduate Academic Affairs, and the UW eScience Institute. The workshop was at its core an academic course in which students “engaged a breadth of disciplines and practices as they explored how to work with diverse communities to foster a more inclusive, equitable and healthy city,” said Thaisa Way, the lead faculty and director of Urban@UW.