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.
Reducing failed deliveries, truck parking time could improve downtown Seattle congestion
In Amazon’s hometown, people turn to their computers to order everything from groceries to last-minute birthday presents to the odd toothbrush or medication forgotten from the store. If online shopping continues to grow at its current rate, there may be twice as many trucks delivering packages in Seattle’s city center within five years, a new report projects — and double the number of trucks looking for a parking space.
“Seattle is the perfect laboratory to find better ways of managing commercial truck parking and delivering packages in urban settings,” said Anne Goodchild, SCTL director and UW professor of civil and environmental engineering. “By testing data-driven solutions on our streets and in our buildings, we hope to reduce traffic in congested areas of the city as well as missed deliveries that frustrate consumers and retailers alike.”
Do you have questions about transportation in Seattle? Here are a few answers
Since The Seattle Times Traffic Lab launched a year ago, they’ve heard from scores of readers about getting around Here are a few:
Q: Do Uber and Lyft worsen Seattle’s traffic congestion?
A:A study in New York City said the growth of the app-based ride services could work against cities’ goals of unclogging streets and reducing vehicle emissions, as well as potentially undermining other transportation options, such as public transit and taxi services. Uber and Lyft dispute the New York report’s findings, pointing to the companies’ service of taking people to and from transit stations, for instance, and their support for proposals to grow public transportation.
According to University of Washington professor and traffic expert Mark Hallenbeck, Seattle’s dense neighborhoods have more at stake in terms of how the app-based services clog roads. People in those areas rely more on the companies compared with those in the suburbs — to evade parking hassles, for example. Read more.
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.”
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.
Does the big boss really matter in big-city school districts?
School district superintendents are often nice people, but boring. They rarely have much effect on what happens in classrooms, where the most interesting and productive changes occur. But because the nation’s two largest districts, New York and Los Angeles, are looking for new superintendents, I forced myself to read a trenchant new guide for superintendent success by two scholars who think the man or woman at the top is important.
Can Paul Hill and Ashley Jochim of the University of Washington save NYC and LA from fractious politics and stopgap solutions? Probably not. But they offer enough shrewd insights to help us decide whether new superintendents in those cities and your city have any hope of progress.
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
Should Seattle declare war on parking to fight climate change?
Make no mistake: The rising cost and declining amount of on-street parking downtown are part of a much bigger plan to reduce Seattle’s carbon footprint.University of Washington traffic engineer Mark Hallenbeck is adamant that Seattle should not go down the same road as Oslo. “Removing parking might have an environmental benefit, but the backlash from it might be so bad,” he said, that drivers will be up in arms, and they’ll punish elected officials for it.
But Hallenback admits there may be a case for phasing out on-street parking in parts of Seattle, if it means a better future with more options and more transit mobility. “Do I get bus lanes, bus rapid transit that actually moves and isn’t stuck?” he asks, “you’ll get way more people in the bus because people can zoom through the city on that bus.”
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.”
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.
UW researchers analyze effects of minimum wage on seattle food prices
Many states and localities throughout the U.S. have adopted higher minimum wages, and higher labor costs among low-wage food system workers could result in higher food prices. However, this study finds no evidence of change in supermarket food prices by market basket or increase in prices by food group in response to the implementation of Seattle’s minimum wage ordinance. This paper is part of a broader Minimum Wage Study at the University of Washington.
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
Justice Dept. rules intensify crackdown on sanctuary cities
The Justice Department escalated its promised crackdown on so called sanctuary cities in late July, saying it will no longer award coveted grant money to cities unless they give federal immigration authorities access to jails and provide advance notice when someone in the country illegally is about to be released.
Under old rules, cities seeking grant money needed only to show they were not preventing local law enforcement from communicating with federal authorities about the immigration status of people they have detained.
Does commercial zoning increase neighborhood crime?
In the run-up to the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump toldTheNew York Times that America’s urban centers are some of the “most dangerous,” crime-filled places in the world. Even though experts were quick to point out that violent crime has actually declined in all but a handful of America’s largest cities and urban areas, the view of cities as dense, dirty, and dangerous and suburbs as spread out, pastoral, and safe has long pervaded American culture.
Three years ago, Seattle became one of the first jurisdictions in the nation to embrace a $15-an-hour minimum wage, to be phased in over several years. Over the past week, two studies have purported to demonstrate the effects of the first stages of that increase — but with diverging results.
What the bond between homeless people and their pets demonstrates about compassion
A video camera captures an interview with a man named Spirit, who relaxes in an outdoor plaza on a sunny afternoon. Of his nearby service dogs, Kyya and Miniaga, he says, “They mean everything to me, and I mean everything to them.”In another video, three sweater-clad dogs scamper around a Los Angeles park, while their companion, Judie, tells their backstory. And in still another clip, Myra races her spaniel mix, Prince, down a neighborhood street.
The images have an every-person quality — a collection of random pet owners, explaining why they love their dogs. And that’s part of the point of the series: The people featured are homeless, and a focus on their relationships “humanizes” a population that is often neglected or shunned, according to University of Washington Department of Geography professor Vicky Lawson.
Lawson and her colleague, Wesleyan University postdoctoral researcher Katie Gillespie, studied these videos from the multimedia project My Dog is My Home, created by the New York-based nonprofit of the same name, and wrote about its essential themes for the journal Gender, Place and Culture. Their article, published online June 14, is a call to action, not only for services for homeless people and animals, but also for new understandings of them.
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 email@example.com or 206-543-4975; LCY program manager Jennifer Davison at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-240-6903; and Jenna Leonard, Auburn’s climate and sustainability practice leader, at email@example.com or 253-804-5092.
New report on driverless cars highlights potential challenges, solutions for Seattle’s roads
Over the next decade, driverless vehicles will make their way along Seattle roadways, possibly bringing relief to one of the most congested cities in the United States. Or, according to a new report out of the University of Washington, they could make things worse. UW’s Tech Policy Lab has partnered with Challenge Seattle to develop this research.
Originally published on GeekWire by Jillian Stampher
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by the staff of 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.
UW, City of Seattle and MetroLab Network to host workshop on big data and human services
On January 17, 2017 the City of Seattle, MetroLab Network and the University of Washington will convene experts from local government and universities to discuss common challenges and propose collaborative, data-driven solutions to human service issues. Work will continue after the meeting as members focus on opportunities for collaborative research, and scalable projects. The workshop will also consider which tools and materials (data sharing standards, white papers, software) would be broadly beneficial to city- and county-university efforts.
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.
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.)
Expand the frontiers of urban sustainability
Manhattan skyscrapers, rather than rustic rural towns, are quickly becoming the picture of sustainable living in the twenty-first century. San Francisco, Copenhagen and Singapore each top their regions in the Green City Index. As sites of innovation and economic dynamism, these places exemplify a blend of density and livability that large, prosperous cities in the ‘global south’, such as Mumbai in India and São Paulo in Brazil, increasingly emulate.
A few decades ago, cities were seen as sustainability problems rather than solutions. Then, as concerns about suburban sprawl, shanty towns and climate change grew, so too did awareness that clustering people in energy-efficient buildings and walkable, shady neighbourhoods makes cities more pleasant to live in and better for the global environment.
But the prevailing model of urban sustainability is too narrow. Although the social, economic and ecological issues behind sustainability problems are regional or global in scale, urban policy usually addresses single ecological issues in individual neighbourhoods. Focusing on dense cities and their affluent areas ignores social movements and their advocacy for quality-of-life issues such as housing and commuting, which have direct ecological consequences. Targeting specific districts ignores the often negative regional and global impacts of local environmental, or ‘greening’, improvements.
Spatially, sustainability research and policymaking should shift focus from city centres to urban regions and global networks of production, consumption and distribution. Socially, policymakers should incorporate equity into every stage of the urban-policy process, from research to formulation to implementation.
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.
This book seems a summing-up of elements of your career so far — including your views on the powerful effect of humans on ecosystems — as well as the work of many others. How long was this book in the making and how did it come about?
M.A.: I have been curious, since my early days as a student, about the role of imagination in scientific thinking. I believe that scientific progress is achieved through the discipline of observing and listening — without judgment — to both what it is and what can be. The book begins by imagining the future.
The way we think about the future has significant implications for the choices we make in the present — the strategies we devise to address new emergent problems. Imagine New York City — or London or Beijing or Ho Chi Minh City, or Seattle. Our present decisions as citizens and as planners will depend on whether we envision a future that follows the current trajectory of development, characterized by continuing growth; or one that predicts crossed thresholds, tipping points, and irreversible regime shifts triggered by climate change; or whether we imagine that we will be able to adapt to climate change by investing in green energy and infrastructure.
And how would our decisions differ, if we could imagine our city able to reinvent itself by redefining its relationships with natural processes?
I suggest that by navigating through time, we can uncover our biases about what we know and challenge the too-often-implied notion that scientific discovery has reached its end or that we’ve exhausted our capacity to learn. I propose that we can learn from the future. And more importantly, we can learn by asking what it is that we are unable to imagine.
What do you mean by “navigating through time” in this context?
M.A.: You do not need to travel very far in time to uncover the bias that past observations can place on our predictions. Current climate variables are very well outside the historical variability. Humans are changing the environment outside the range of values and conditions that Earth’s ecosystems have experienced throughout their evolution. And our past experience can also limit our imagination. Imagine you were among the first Seattle dwellers. Could have you imagined the current trajectories of urban growth?
The emergence of a new urban science that aims to uncover universal rules of how cities work and the remarkable availability of real time data and new sensors are key to envisioning such transformation. But science and data answer questions we are able to formulate. To build sustainable, resilient cities requires that we both refine our predictions and expand our imagination. Expanding the imagination is what made Einstein envision gravitational waves one hundred years before they were detected.
Your notion of “thinking like a planet” builds on ecologist Aldo Leopold’s idea to expand the scale of land conservation by “thinking like a mountain.” How have you built on that, and what does it mean, briefly, for a city to “think like a planet”?
M.A.: I suggest that we need a new ethic: to “build cities that think like planets,” so that we might face the challenge of cities in the context of planetary change. For Aldo Leopold, “thinking like a mountain” meant expanding the spatial and temporal scales of land conservation by incorporating a mountain’s dynamics. I suggest that we need to build on Hirsch and Norton’s idea of “thinking like a planet” (“Ethical Adaptation to Climate Change: Human Virtues of the Future,” 2012, MIT Press) to expand the time and space dimensions of urban design and planning to the planetary scale.
Cities that think like planets are cities:
where humans are key players in nature’s game
where humans bio-cooperate with, not simply bio-mimic, natural processes
that operate on planetary spatial and time scales
that rely on “wise” citizens, not simply smart technologies
You depict a hypothetical city planner saying it’s helpful to imagine varied futures, even knowing none will come true: “As we prepare our city for every collectively imagined scenario, we shape ourselves into a resilient city able to withstand whatever our ultimate reality delivers.” What role might human creativity and ingenuity play in preparing cities to meet the future?
M.A.: Cities are where innovation has historically occurred. The key role that cities have played in the development of science and technology and in the generation of inventions and innovations — intellectual and material, cultural and political, institutional and organizational — has been well documented by scholars in a diversity of disciplines.
While rapid urbanization accelerates and expands human impacts on the global ecosystem, it is the close interactions of diverse peoples that make cities the epicenter of both social transformation and technological innovation. Yet innovation is tightly linked to the capacity of urbanizing regions to adapt and evolve in a changing environment. For human civilization to achieve its full potential, it is essential to place technological innovation and social transformation in the context of local and global environmental change.
“If we are to think like a planet, we must deal with scales and events that are far removed from the everyday human experience,” you write. This implies “expanding the scale of design and planning” from decades to centuries, and from a human scale to considering ecologies of whole regions. Do examples already exist of this type of long-term, unfettered planning?
M.A.: Throughout history, people in societies faced with the prospect of deforestation or other environmental changes have successfully engaged in long-term thinking. Consider, for example, the Tokugawa shoguns, Inca emperors, New Guinea highlanders and 16th-century German landowners or, more recently, the Chinese efforts at reforestation and their bans on logging of native forests.
Many European countries and the United States have dramatically reduced their air pollution while increasing their use of energy and their combustion of fossil fuels. Humans have the intellectual and moral capacity to do even more when they tune in to challenging problems and engage in solving them.
Several Northern European cities have adopted successful strategies to cut greenhouse gases, combining these strategies with innovative approaches that allow the cities to adapt to the inevitable consequences of climate change.
One example is the Copenhagen 2025 Climate Plan, which lays out a path for Copenhagen to become the world’s first carbon neutral city through efficient zero-carbon mobility and building. They’re building a subway that will place metro stations within 650 yards of 85 percent of the city’s residents. Nearly three-quarters of Copenhagen’s emissions reductions will be realized as people transition to less carbon-intensive ways to produce heat and electricity: biomass, wind, geothermal and solar. Copenhagen is also one of the first cities to adopt a climate adaptation plan that will reduce vulnerability to the extreme storms and rising seas expected over the next century.
The Netherlands, also, is exploring ways to allow people to live with the inevitable floods. Strategies include floating communities and adaptive beach protections that take advantage of natural processes. New York is setting an example for long-term planning too, by combining adaptation and transformation strategies into plans for building a resilient city.
What do you think cities that “think like planets” will look like?
M.A.: Although I have ventured to pose this question in the book, I do not attempt to provide an answer. In fact, no single individual can. The answer resides in the collective imagination and evolving behaviors of peoples of diverse cultures who inhabit the vast array of regions across the planet. Humanity has the capacity to think in the long term.
A city that thinks like a planet is not built on previously set design solutions or planning strategies. Nor can we assume that the best solution would work equally well across the world, regardless of place and time. Instead, such a city must be built on principles that expand its drawing board and on collaborative actions to include planetary processes and scales that integrate humanity into the evolution of Earth.
Such a view acknowledges the history of the planet in every element or building block of the urban fabric — from the skyscraper to the sidewalk, from a backyard to the central park, from residential side streets to mega-highways.
It is a view that is curious about understanding who we are and about taking advantage of novel patterns, processes and feedbacks that emerge from human and natural interactions.
It is a city grounded in the here and the now and simultaneously in the different temporal and spatial scales of human and natural processes that govern the Earth. A city that thinks like a planet is simultaneously resilient and ready to change.
For more information about “Cities that Think Like Planets,” contact Alberti at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ma003.
(Originally published by Peter Kelley and UW News.)
Minimum Wage Study: Effects of Seattle wage hike modest, may be overshadowed by strong economy
The lot of Seattle’s lowest-paid workers improved following the city’s minimum wage increase to $11 in 2015, but that was more due to the robust regional economy than the wage hike itself, according to a research team at the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy & Governance.
Although the ordinance appears to have boosted wages for the city’s lowest-paid workers, the benefits of the increase may have been partly offset by fewer hours worked per person and slightly less overall employment, the Seattle Minimum Wage Study research team found. Estimated income gains for the average worker were modest – on the order of a few dollars a week – and sensitive to methodological choices.
The team presented its findings in an update to the council this morning (July 25).
The ordinance took effect April 1, 2015, raising the minimum hourly wage from $9.47 to $11. Under the law, businesses with fewer than 500 employees are scheduled to reach the $15 an hour wage in 2021. Employers with 500 or more employees, either in Seattle or nationally, will reach that level in three years, or 2017.
The challenge of this report, Vigdor said, was to isolate the effects of the wage increase ordinance from all other concurrent economic factors, chiefly the surging regional economy. This enables the researchers to compare Seattle to what it might look like today had the minimum wage ordinance never happened — knowing, too, that the strong economy was slowly pushing wages up regardless of the ordinance.
For their research, the team used employment, hours and earnings records from the Washington Employment Security Division going back to 2005 to create a model of how the local labor market works. They also viewed data on other nearby regions that did not increase their minimum wage, to better understand how rising property values, expanding tech employment and even the weather might have influenced what the team observed in the city itself.
The research sought to answer two questions: What has happened to Seattle’s labor market since passage of the minimum wage ordinance? And more crucially, what has been the effect of that ordinance on the labor market?
The first question involves simple comparisons of yesterday with today. But, Vigor said, “To imagine what a higher minimum wage might accomplish in a region not enjoying a significant economic boom, or what might happen in Seattle next year if the boom should wear off, the second question is the only one that matters.”
The researchers found that:
Seattle’s lowest-paid workers saw larger-than-usual paychecks in late 2015, but at most, only 25 percent of the observed income gains — a few dollars a week — can be attributed to the higher wage.
Businesses relying heavily on low-wage staff showed signs of cutting back, though they too benefited from the strong economy. They added jobs at about the same rate as businesses outside the city, but employees’ working hours in the city lagged by an average of about one hour per employee per week.
Even amid a relative boom, Seattle’s lowest-wage earners show signs of “lagging behind” a control group drawn from other parts of the state. The employment rate was down about 1 percentage point for workers who earned less than $11 an hour in mid-2014; their average hours declined, and the proportion switching from jobs in the city to elsewhere ticked upward by 2 to 3 percent.
“Our report indicates that Seattle’s track record after increasing the minimum wage is neither as negative as some had feared nor as positive as some had hoped,” Vigdor said. “While the vibrant local economy is boosting employment and incomes up and down the economic ladder, the positive effects of a higher minimum wage are being at least partly offset by cutbacks in hours.”
The researchers cautioned, however, that their findings are statistical averages that could mask distinctions among different types of workers. The findings address only the short-run impact of Seattle’s wage hike to $11 an hour and don’t reflect the full range of experiences for thousands of individual workers in the Seattle economy.
Next, the research team plans to incorporate more detailed information about workers by linking employment records to other state databases. This will provide the capacity to determine, for instance, whether the workers benefiting most from higher minimum wages are more likely to be living in poverty.
Other coming work will include:
Extending the analysis to Seattle’s second wage increase, in April 2016, when the ordinance began distinguishing between businesses of different sizes
Collecting additional survey information from Seattle businesses and conducting more interviews with a sample of workers tracked since early 2015.
The team expects to make its next report to the city in September; that report will focus on how the minimum wage hike has impacted Seattle nonprofit organizations.
The research was funded in part by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development grant to the UW’s Center for Demography and Ecology. Funding also was provided by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation and the City of Seattle.
For more information, contact the research team at firstname.lastname@example.org or J. Paul Blake, Evans School director of media and external relations, at 206-543-3958 or email@example.com.
(Originally published by UW Today & Peter Kelley.)
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.
Unlikely Allies: Future of Cities Festival - Seattle, July 5-6th
July 5 - 6, 2016 – Seattle, WA, USA
What happens when you bring a diverse group of global and local citizens, innovators and entrepreneurs from 80+ cities around the world into a city, inspire them to scale and improve their solutions for city challenges and connect them to make these changes lasting and transferable to other cities across the globe?
Unlikely Allies is a two-day festival that takes place in one new city each year, bringing together global and local thought leaders, changemakers, inspired citizens and their unlikely allies: the hackers, artists, policy makers, activists, corporate innovators and designers needed to make real change happen on key issues of our world today.
The Unlikely Allies festival departs from the conventional “I talk, you listen” conference by creating a living laboratory inside the city with activities based on live participation, creative exchange and lasting collaboration. Enjoy a multitude of inspiring experiences over the course of two days:
A City Solutions Laboratory: hosting high-level discussions, engagement and networking by thought-leaders, innovators, experts, practitioners and change-makers from Seattle, from across the US and from all over the world, on-site;
Learning Expeditions across the city of Seattle;
and a neighborhood Unlikely Allies in the Park that will highlight the importance of local neighborhood innovation in the future of cities.
Urban@UW compiles monthly recaps highlighting the urban research happening across the University of Washington.
UW aids city of Seattle on open data initiative
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.
How a rising minimum wage may impact the nonprofit sector
As the income inequality discussion continues to simmer across the country, municipal minimum wage ordinances have become hot topics of conversation in many cities. In January 2016, Seattle will implement its second step-up in the local minimum wage in 9 months, reaching $13 for many employers in the city and edging closer to a $15 an hour minimum that will apply to most firms by 2019. San Francisco will reach a $15 an hour minimum by July 2018. Yet cities as diverse as Birmingham, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Louisville have enacted or proposed similar minimum wage laws. It is too early to discern true impact of these local wage ordinances, but speculation abounds regarding whether or how the higher wage will affect firms and the earnings of low-wage workers.
Less prominent in debate and discussion about the minimum wage is the potential impact that higher minimum wage rates may have for nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits perform many critical functions in our communities—often serving the most at-risk and disadvantaged. Yet, fiscal constraints often place a low ceiling on what many nonprofits can pay frontline staff. As a result, many different types of nonprofit organizations—child care centers, home health care organizations, senior care providers—pay staff at rates near or below the targets set by the recent crop of local minimum wage laws. Our popular image of a minimum wage worker is the teen-age cashier at a drive-through window or the sales clerk at a retail store in the local strip mall, but many workers in these “helping professions” are being paid low wages.
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.
Have you been wondering what exactly is going to happen with the Seattle / UW partnership under the MetroLab initiative?
The three “named” projects from Seattle will be the Array of Things partnership with Chicago, Private data sharing with the Tech Policy Lab, and a smart grid study of the relationship between temperature and power organized by UW’s Electrical Engineering department.
Check back for progress on these and other smaller projects as well.
For a little background information the goals of MetroLab Network are to:
Enable the city-university partnerships to share their projects to ensure their broad dissemination and adoption, including the development and sharing of the infrastructural tools required to support the scaling of promising solutions and deploying best practices across the network
Identify common issues shared by multiple metro areas that can best be solved by multi-city, multi-university collaboration.
Create a platform for Network members to jointly plan and seek funding resources to support multi-city projects.
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 project focuses on fines and fees that create ‘prisoners of debt’
Criminals are meant to pay their debts to society through sentencing, but a different type of court-imposed debt can tie them to the criminal justice system for life and impact their ability to move forward with their lives.
Though debtors’ prisons were eliminated in the United States almost two centuries ago, a modern-day version exists in the dizzyingly complex system of fines and fees levied against people as they move through the court system.
Offenders are charged for everything from DNA samples to electronic monitoring devices, jury trials and even room and board while imprisoned. The fees can add up to thousands of dollars, and those who fail to pay are routinely jailed.
Little is known about how such fines and fees differ among or even within states, but a new University of Washington-based initiative will provide new insight on the issue. , an associate professor of sociology, is the principal investigator of a five-year research project on monetary sanctions in eight states. The $3.9 million project, funded by the , will be the first systematic study of how multiple states implement court-imposed fees.
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.
1st International Workshop on Smart Cities & Urban Analytics (UrbanGIS)
Now Taking Submissions!
CALL FOR PAPERS:
The 1st International Workshop on Smart Cities and Urban Analytics (UrbanGIS) 2015 in conjunction with ACM SIGSPATIAL 2015 Seattle, WA, USA - November 3, 2015 http://engineering.nyu.edu/urbangis2015/
About half of humanity lives in urban environments today and that number will grow to 80% by the middle of this century; North America is already 80% in cities, and will rise to 90% by 2050. Cities are thus the loci of resource consumption, of economic activity, and of innovation; they are the cause of our looming sustainability problems but also where those problems must be solved. Smart cities are leveraging advanced analytics solutions, usually with spatio-temporal data, to support urban management and more informed decision making. Big urban data, if properly acquired, integrated, and analyzed, can take us beyond today’s imperfect and often anecdotal understanding of cities to enable better operations, informed planning, and improved policy.
Despite many efforts in tackling challenges of smart cities through big data and spatio(-temporal) analysis, there is no standard spatio(-temporal) data infrastructure able to support the wide range of requirements in different problem areas. This workshop will provide a forum for researchers from various domains to present their results and to work together toward developing such an infrastructure. This includes, but not limited to, techniques, policies, and standards required to acquire, process, and use spatio(-temporal) data,particularly in the urban context.
We are soliciting papers (including significant work-in-progress) that describe academic research efforts as well as applications and prototypes that leverage spatial or spatiotemporal data analysis to address urban challenges. Areas of research include but are not
Application and experimental experiences in smart cities
Data indexing techniques for massive spatio-temporal dataset
Human mobility modeling and analytics
Large-scale visualization of urban data
Machine learning for predictive models
Parallel and distributed computing of big urban data
Safety, security, and privacy for smart cities
Smart buildings, grids, transportation, and utilities
Social computing, sensing and IoT for smart cities
Streaming/realtime processing of spatio-temporal data
Submissions should be at most 8 pages for full papers and at most 4 pages for short papers or work-in-progress, formatted according to ACM formatting guidelines. Papers will be evaluated by the program committee members for the significance and relevance of their research contributions, as well as their presentation. Short papers are expected to be work in progress or of smaller scale but the same evaluation criteria will be applied as for full papers.
Huy T. Vo, New York University
Juliana Freire, New York University
Claudio T. Silva, New York University
Charlie Catlett, Argonne National Lab & University of Chicago