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.
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.
What would a truly disabled-accessible city look like?
To David Meere, a visually impaired man from Melbourne, among the various obstacles to life in cities is another that is less frequently discussed: fear. “The fear of not being able to navigate busy, cluttered and visually oriented environments is a major barrier to participation in normal life,” says Meere, 52, “be that going to the shops, going for a walk in the park, going to work, looking for work, or simply socialising.”
That’s what makes an innovative project at the city’s Southern Cross train station so important to him. A new “beacon navigation system” sends audio cues to users via their smartphones, providing directions, flagging escalator outages and otherwise transforming what previously a “no-go” area for Meere.
Take the hilly city of Seattle, where several neighbourhoods have no pavements at all, and many streets have a slope grade (or tilt) of 10% or even 20%. The University of Washington’s Taskar Center for Accessible Technology has a solution: a map-based app allowing pedestrians with limited mobility to plan accessible routes. AccessMap enables users to enter a destination, and receive suggested routes depending on customised settings, such as limiting uphill or downhill inclines.
UW, Seattle & King county join forces for new academic health department
The University of Washington Schools of Public Health and of Nursing have formalized an alliance with Public Health – Seattle & King County that seeks to encourage collaboration and resource sharing through a new academic health department. The three-year partnership will provide a foundation for increased training and other opportunities for students, faculty, researchers and staff of the participating organizations.
“Academic public health departments make for great collaboration. Our faculty and students can engage in meaningful service while being exposed to state-of-the-art public health work,” says Joel Kaufman, Interim Dean of the UW School of Public Health. “It’s another great example of how our School is involved in the community and not huddled in the ivory tower.”
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.
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.
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.”
“In 2015, Seattle and King County each declared a homelessness State of Emergency. Both have made commendable efforts since then to intensify outreach, coordinate services, facilitate permanent housing and expand safe temporary shelter options. However, these efforts are still too little and too slow.
The 2017 “Count Us In” homeless tally identified 3,857 people living without shelter in Seattle. In 2017, Seattle added two shelters and three permitted encampments, which have the ability to serve 385 people. Amazon contributed space to shelter 200 women, children and families. Still, thousands of unsheltered neighbors continue to live in scattered overhangs, tents, vehicles and empty buildings.”
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.
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.
People of color exposed to more pollution from cars, trucks, power plants during 10-year period
A new nationwide study finds that the U.S. has made little progress from 2000 to 2010 in reducing relative disparities between people of color and whites in exposure to harmful air pollution emitted by cars, trucks and other combustion sources.
The groundbreaking study led by University of Washington Professor of Civil and Environmental EngineeringJulian Marshall estimated exposure to outdoor concentrations of a transportation-related pollutant — nitrogen dioxide (NO2) — in both 2000 and 2010, based on neighborhoods where people live. It found disparities in NO2 exposure were larger by race and ethnicity than by income, age or education, and that relative inequality persisted across the decade.
College of Built Environments’ David de la Cruz partners with communities for environmental justice
David de la Cruz has a question about power. “When we think about toxic sites and where they’re placed in relation to where people live, who’s left out of making those decisions?” “Often,” he answers, “it’s the people who live there. It’s low-income communities, working-class communities and communities of color who don’t have a say. They’re the ones who have to deal with the consequences of living close to a grain mill facility that constantly sees truck traffic, or living close to a yard that has trains passing back and forth.”
And while these communities have some autonomy, he says, people are moving into areas that are already extensively polluted. There’s often no decision to be made — pollution is part of the package. Where you live affects how you live.
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
Why Architects should care about public health
Andrew Dannenberg, an Affiliate Professor at the School of Public Health and the College of Built Environments, writes about the importance of architects recognizing human health: while architects have long recognized the importance of human health —including physical, mental, and social well-being — as part of their mission, implementation sometimes reflects a spirit of compliance more than of aspiration. Design that is limited to preventing harm by meeting building codes and standards forfeits the full range of design possibilities that could enhance the health and quality of life of a building’s occupants and visitors. There are many major societal trends for which architects can contribute health-promoting improvements: obesity, housing and social inequities, an aging population, hazardous chemical exposures, urbanization, nature contact deficit, energy poverty, water shortages and excesses, natural disasters, and climate change.
Your neighborhood may be driving you to drink: study
A new study shows that living in poor, “disorganized” neighborhoods matters more when looking at how much alcohol a person drinks than their proximity to bars or stores that sell booze.
The link between poverty and alcoholism is established. But the new research out of the University of Washington throws quality of life into the mix.
“Is there something about the neighborhood itself that can lead to problems?” posed Isaac Rhew, a co-author of the study, and Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Adjunct Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology . “As we learn more about those neighborhood factors that are relevant, then this might point to strategies to improve the environments where people live.”
The researchers believe that putting programs in place to fix this “disorganization,” which includes crime, drugs and graffiti, can deter lawbreaking, physically clean-up the streets and help a neighborhood afflicted with problem drinking.
Bellevue, Renton Among Top 100 U.S Cities for Livability
Watch as King 5 News brings in Branden Born to shed light on the weighting mechanisms employed by a survey recently published on livability.com which ranked Renton and Bellevue among their top 100 cities for livability.
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.
How future superstorms could overwhelm today’s wastewater infrastructure
The current Seattle rainstorm, and many like it this year, are overwhelming our city’s wastewater pipes, and some sewage may be dumping into the Puget Sound as we speak. But even in a normal year, King County dumps about 800 million gallons of raw sewage into its waterways. That’s because, when it rains too much in too short a time, “pipes start to flow too full,” School of Public Health professor Scott Meschke says, “and so they start to back up. And, in order to prevent that, you have the overflow. If you didn’t have the [overflow], it would go into people’s basements, or out their toilets.” And with greater probability for extreme weather, this phenomenon will increase, as Guillaume Mauger with UW’s Climate Impacts Group explains.
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.
Big Data and Human Services: A Brief Annotated Reading List
The combination of civic and public entities leveraging data for increased efficiency and novel applications. These new approaches create occasionally contested territory where calls for transparency and openness are met with deep concerns over privacy and security. Calo, et al, engaged in “cross-disciplinary assessments of an open municipal government system” using Seattle, WA as a case study for future possibilities.
Crosscut offers a profile of Trish Dziko, co-founder of University of Washington’s Technology Access Foundation, looking at the impacts of her career in technology and working to collapse gaps in gender and race in the world of technology.
A podcast, produced by The Department of Better Technology, which assists governments in enhanced software delivery systems and platforms, interviews Justin Erlich of UC Berkeley and Special Assistant Attorney General to the California Department of Justice, discuss Kamala Harris’s OpenJustice platform and the implications of open data for justice transparency issues.
Amen Ra Mashariki, Chief Analytics Officer in New York City’s Office of Data and Analytics, is interviewed by GovTech Magazine about New York City’s data explorations and impacts on businesses, efficiencies, and potential evolutions.
Shannon Mattern, associate professor in the School of Media Studies at The New School, offers a critical perspective on possibilities for smart cities through a discrete focus on how citizens might physically interact with these systems.
Barbosa et al. explore the emergence of open urban data initiatives across North America. An analysis of over 9,000 open data sets considers data integration opportunities and data quality issues associated with this new approach to public information.
This paper describes the inaugural offering of the eScience Institutes Data Science for Social Good program, modeled after the University of Chicago program of the same name. Writers reflect on the process of organizing and structuring a program that brings together students and practitioners with varying backgrounds and experiences to design, develop, and deploy new solutions to high-impact problems in the Seattle Metro Area.
NextCity highlights benefits and important considerations in regard to tools developed by nonprofit data analytics firm SumAll, which uses data to help social workers decide where to focus their efforts.
City of Chicago Chief Data Officer, Tom Schenk Jr., opines in Open Resource Magazine that similar to start-ups and large companies, cities are poised to leverage big data - from Twitter to the Array of Things, to improve efficiency of their services.
In 2015, the Metrolab Network was announced as a part of the Obama Administration’s new “Smart Cities” Initiative to help local communities tackle key challenges such as reducing traffic congestion, fighting crime, fostering economic growth, managing the effects of a changing climate, and improving the delivery of city services.
UW professor: Seattle exposed to most ‘chronically high noise levels’ of any city in US
How Seattle’s development is impacting your health and, more specifically, your ears is not something being taken into account by city leaders, according to a University of Washington professor. And changing an ordinance that mutes construction’s noise pollution to match other cities from around the country might be a potent elixir, he says.
Eliot Brenowitz, a professor of psychology and biology at UW, co-authored a piece for Crosscut that says Seattle residents are “being exposed to some of the most chronically high noise levels from construction of any city in the nation.” And while he is concerned, he told KIRO Radio’s Jason and Burns that the title of the Crosscut piece, “Seattle’s construction noise is out of control — and deadly,” is not what he had in mind.
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.
‘You can’t escape’: Clouds of filth are choking Asia’s cities
The winter air in Tehran is often foul but for six days last week it was hardly breathable. A dense and poisonous chemical smog made up of traffic and factory fumes, mixed with construction dust, burning vegetation and waste has shrouded buildings, choked pedestrians, forced schools and universities to close, and filled the hospitals.
Anyone who could flee the Iranian mega-city of 15 million people has done so, but, say the authorities, in the past two weeks more than 400 people have died as a direct result of the pollution, known as the Asian “brown cloud”.
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.”
Cars vs health: UW’s Moudon, Dannenberg contribute to Lancet series on urban planning, public health
Automobiles — and the planning and infrastructure to support them — are making our cities sick, says an international group of researchers now publishing a three-part series in the British medical journal The Lancet.
University of Washington professors Anne Vernez Moudon and Andrew Dannenberg are co-authors of the first of this series that explores these connections and suggests several planning alternatives for better health.
The Lancet published the series on Sept. 23 and launched it that day during an event at the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Titled, “Urban Design, Transport and Health,” the series involved researchers in several nations and fields.
“Most of the negative consequences of city planning policies on health are related to the high priority given to motor vehicles in land-use and transportation planning,” said Moudon. “City planning policies supporting urban individual car travel directly and indirectly influence such risk exposures as traffic, air pollution, noise, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, personal safety and social isolation.”
Moudon is second author and Dannenberg a co-author on the first of the three papers, titled “City Planning and Population Health: A Global Challenge.” Billie Giles-Corti and Mark Stevenson of the University of Melbourne are lead authors of the series, and Corti is lead on this paper, together with several international experts in public health and transportation planning as co-authors. Over two years, the team reviewed 20 years of literature as well as their own research on the health impacts of city planning through transportation mode choice in cities.
The verdict of their lead article: Automobiles are central to the problem of urban planning and human health.
Individualized motor travel in cities is the “root cause,” Moudon and fellow authors write, “of increases in exposures to sedentarism, environmental pollution, social isolation and unhealthy diets, which lead to various types of injury and disease outcomes.”
The lead paper suggests eight major interventions that city and transportation planning can employ to make cities more “compact” and promote health.
At the local urban design level, these ideas include walkable and bikable environments, shorter distances to common daily destinations, mixing housing with commercial developments and services and making common destinations more readily available to citizens. Parking demand would be managed by reducing its availability and increasing its cost.
“Together, these interventions will create healthier and more sustainable, compact cities,” the authors write, “that reduce the environmental, social and behavioral risk factors that affect lifestyle choices, levels of environmental pollution, noise and crime.”
Stevenson is the lead author on the second paper, which focuses on the links between land use, transport and health benefits in compact cities. The third paper, whose lead author is James Sallis of the University of California, San Diego, looks at using science to guide city planning policy and practice for healthy and sustainable cities.
Overall, the series quantifies the health gains that could be achieved if cities incentivize a shift from private car use to cycling and walking, and promote a city model in which employment and amenities — including public transportation — are within walking distance.
Series author Giles-Corti placed the multinational research into historic and global perspective, noting that with world population heading to 50 billion by 2050 — and three-quarters of people to be living in cities — city planning must be part of a comprehensive solution to adverse health outcomes.
“City planning was key to cutting infectious disease outbreaks in the 19th century through improved sanitation, housing and separating residential and industrial areas,” Giles-Corti said. “Today, there is a real opportunity for city planning to reduce non-communicable diseases and road trauma and to promote health and wellbeing more broadly.”
Other co-authors on the first paper in the series are from the University of California, San Diego; Washington University in St. Louis; Pontifical Catholic University of Parana and Federal University of Parana, in Brazil; Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia; the University of Western Australia in Perth, Australia; and the Australian Catholic University, Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute and Swinburne University of Technology, all of Melbourne, Australia.
Funders for the paper authors included Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council and Centre for Excellence in Healthy Liveable Communities, the Australian Prevention Partnership Centre, the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia, VicHealth, as well as the U.S. National Institute of Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
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.)
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.
Data Science for Social Good 2016
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.”
(Originally published by The Seattle Times and JoNel Aleccia)
Rethinking Data Science for the Social Sciences: Urban Sociology
On Wednesday, May 4th, an interdisciplinary panelwill explore the intersections of data and cities. Rethinking Data Science for the Social Sciences: Urban Sociology will look at how the availability of new forms of data has transformed the way researchers may approach their work across disciplines. This panel will bring together experts from data science and the social sciences who are utilizing new and exciting forms of data to discuss the opportunities and challenges of using these data to study fundamental question in urban sociology.
Speakers include: Megan Comfort (Senior Research Sociologist, RTI International), Karen Seto (School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale), and Sarah Brayne (Department of Sociology, University of Texas at Austin).
Event Sponsors: UW Stice Family Lecture Series, eScience Insitute, Urban@UW, Center for Statistics and the Social Sciences, Information School.
2016 Urban Studies Forum: Alternative Visions of Livability Choices, Costs and Consequences
February 25, 2016
8:30am to 1:30pm
William W. Philip Hall
1918 Pacific Avenue
Tacoma Washington 98402
For a city or a suburb to be livable, we assume certain characteristics and experiences. What are these and how do we define a livable place? Is there an agreement on what defines livability? The 2016 Urban Studies Forum will focus on these questions and what they might mean to the South Sound. In two separate panel discussions, we will focus on both the built environment dimensions of livability, as well as cultural and sociopolitical processes that produce them. Our panelists will debate various aspects of urban form, governance, social equity, and cultural productions that shape our perceptions of ‘livability.’
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.
What motivates people to walk and bike? It varies by income
Lower- and middle-income King County residents who live in denser neighborhoods — with stores, libraries and other destinations within easy reach — are more likely to walk or bike, according to new University of Washington research.
But neighborhood density didn’t motivate higher-income residents to leave their cars at home, the transportation engineers found. Of the environmental factors they studied, the only one that significantly influenced how frequently that group walked or biked was how attractive they found their neighborhoods to be.
Dimensions of “attractiveness” that motivated the higher-income group included seeing other people when they walk in their neighborhoods, the attractiveness of buildings and homes and having interesting things to look at.
SPH Faculty Tap into New UW Effort to Create More Livable Cities
A new University of Washington initiative is thinking “upstream” when it comes to creating safer, healthier and more livable cities.
Urban@UW aims to bring together UW faculty, staff and students from different disciplines with city decision-makers and citizens to wrestle with urban issues such as housing and poverty, growth and transportation, and food and economic disparity. The program is funded by the UW Office of Research.
Organizers held a recent kick-off event to brainstorm possible pilot research projects that would be funded by Urban@UW. Faculty members from the Schools of Public Health and Social Work were among the more than 150 people who took part.
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.
UW School of Social Work taps technology to help curb suicide and improve child welfare
Edwina “Eddie” Uehara, a University of Washington professor and Ballmer Endowed Dean in Social Work, is eager to facilitate cultural exchanges. Not exchanges of people from different countries or ethnicities, but from disciplines that can be worlds apart: computer technology and social work.
“It really is this moment,” said Uehara, “when all of us are pivoting toward harnessing what this region is good at.”
It’s bringing together the Puget Sound area’s tremendous technology skills, its devoted philanthropists and the academic expertise and community relationships of the UW’s School of Social Work. Each brings its own strengths, she said, with technology’s penchant for innovation, moving quickly and embracing change and the UW’s deep understanding of complicated social issues and trust from the community.
“Neither sector can do it on their own,” Uehara said.
And through these collaborations, the school is helping move social programs that have lagged behind technologically into the 21st Century.
Two projects currently underway highlight this new tech emphasis: One focuses on social media and suicide prevention, and the other is helping child welfare service providers in Washington more easily access information, coordinate care and evaluate their performance.
Earlier this year, the UW announced a partnership with Facebook to develop tools to help both people at risk of suicide and their friends and family. This week, Facebook representatives are returning to campus to meet with people who have lost loved ones to suicide. The goal is for the social media site to better understand the needs of people in this situation and to test tools for assisting them.
“There is a lot of potential for good with social media that often doesn’t get talked about,” said Jennifer Stuber, co-founder ofForefront, a suicide prevention organization within the School of Social Work, and one of the leads in the Facebook collaboration.
Facebook’s underlying purpose is to connect people and those connections are a significant “protective factor” in preventing suicide, Stuber said. “Social media is here to stay, so how can we shape that experience to have it be a positive one.”
Facebook has added tools to its site providing suicide prevention resources and guidance for concerned friends and family who want to help, but aren’t sure what steps to take. The resources include phone numbers for suicide prevention hotlines and tips for talking to someone at risk. The site has a link for Facebook users to report someone who could be suicidal.
If Facebook deems the concern is credible, the person at risk will receive messages in their news feed suggesting where they can get help. The site is also providing more targeted resources for higher-risk populations including veterans and the LBGTQ community.
There has been some backlash to the suicide prevention effort, with people accusing Facebook of Big Brother snooping and unwanted tracking of people who could be suicidal.
Stuber said that’s not what she’s seeing, and in fact wishes they’d do more to proactively identify people who could be suicidal and share resources in everyone’s news feed.
The suicide prevention resources can be tricky to find on the social media site. A Facebook user can go to the drop-down menu to the right of privacy shortcuts icon on the tool bar at the top of the page, click on the “Report a Problem” link, select “Abusive Content” and then “Report Something.”
From there, suicide prevention resources are provided under “Special Types of Reports.” Alternately, they can choose the “Report Post” link when reading a specific post, then check “I think it shouldn’t be on Facebook” and then “It advocates violence or harm to a person or animal” or “It’s threatening, violent or suicidal.”
“[Facebook is] trying to walk a fine line of providing support and resources without being overly intrusive and invasive,” Stuber said.
Facebook declined to share with GeekWire information about how many people have accessed the resources or reported potentially suicidal users.
Since 2000, suicide rates have been increasing nationally and more than 40,000 people took their own lives in 2013 – most of them men. If Facebook “can connect people to people who care, and provide resources, that’s a big deal,” Stuber said. “And I get the sense that they are genuinely trying to do it.”
A new focus for the partnership is supporting friends and family after a suicide, Stuber said, and addressing the ‘contagion’ phenomenon where someone considers suicide after someone else takes their own life. Because people use Facebook as a place for memorials and sharing grief, it provides an important opportunity for guiding people to support and preventing additional loss.
The Facebook partnership with the UW’s Forefront program “is a great example of the direction the school is going in,” said Uehara, dean of the School of Social Work. “It’s not an anomaly. It’s part of the movement we’re developing.”
Also part of that movement is a child welfare project launched by the UW’s Partners for Our Children center. A $16.5 million program called Oliver is building software and apps that will help coordinate care and evaluate the effectiveness of services for kids temporarily in foster care and homeless teens.
The foster care app is already being tested in Spokane, and Tacoma providers are going to begin testing this week. The Oliver app will help coordinate court-ordered, supervised visits between kids temporarily living with foster families and their parents. There are 8,500 kids in foster care in Washington, some of whom are meeting with their parents two or three times a week.
“There is a lot of planning that takes place,” said Ben de Haan, executive director of Partners for Our Children. “The visits are monitored by private companies, and there is transportation that is involved and a lot of paperwork.”
The new tool should make the coordination as straightforward as online booking for a flight on Alaska Airlines, de Haan said, where you select routes and choose your seats.
The second project underway is trying to bring some order to the web of services available to homeless youth. The major challenge is the lack of a central authority managing services for the teens, services that can come from the state, county and city. It’s difficult for anyone to know who is getting which services where.
The Oliver project has support from the Gates Foundation, Connie and Steve Ballmer and others. The goal is to make the project self-sustaining within five years through low-cost user fees. Early analysis shows that the new technology can cut the time spent on paperwork by 40 percent, freeing those resources for interactions directly with the children and youth.
“Software and new tailor-made software are incredibly expensive and the people using it are working with some of the poorest people in our society,” de Haan said. The nonprofit groups providing the services don’t have the resources to invest in technology that will improve efficiency, so “we’re trying to help folks catch up.”
While the Oliver project has focused on social services for children in Washington, the software should be readily adaptable for other states to use.
“Seattle is well known as being a hotbed for technological innovation and the University of Washington is well known for its research,” de Haan said. “It’s only natural that Seattle would come together to use technology to solve social problems. You can see why it would happen here.”
Strong Communities Successful Kids by Kevin Haggerty
Presented at the June 1st Urban@UW Launch
eScience Institute’s Data Science for Social Good Projects Announced
eScience Institute’s Data Science for Social Good Projects Announced Bringing together data scientists to work on focused, collaborative projects designed to impact public policy. This Summer teams will be looking at:
Assessing Community Well-Being Through Open Data and Social Media - providing neighborhood communities with a better understanding of the factors that impact their well-being. http://thirdplacetechnologies.com/
King County Metro Paratransit - an on-demand public transportation program that provides a vital link to mobility for people with disabilities who are unable to use traditional fixed route services, picking up passengers at or near their doorstep and delivering them to their specified destination. http://metro.kingcounty.gov/tops/accessible/programs/access.html