Our Distinctives

Our Framework: Human Ecology Framework

We understand cities not to be merely collections of autonomous individuals, nor to behave in predictable or fully manageable ways. Rather, cities are complex, asymmetric, and dynamic social systems that both empower and constrain their residents.

Our Human Ecology Framework attends not only to the many elements of a city individually, but also to the relationships between them, which together create the distinct urban ecosystem.

This framework is organized around six realms of civic life—which we call “endowments”—that form the building blocks for human thriving. Each endowment is comprised of the combined impact of the leaders, institutions, resources, and places that constitute it. Only by attending to the health of each endowment, and the relationships between them, are the conditions for thriving created in cities.

Our Process: Civic Design Process

Our approach to cities is informed by the conviction that to nurture thriving cities, leaders must constantly devote themselves to four fundamental tasks: ongoing city assessment, deliberate city leadership formation, alignment of city institutions, and the creation of holistic and human-centered infrastructure and material design. Together, these tasks comprise the Civic Design Process.

Our Tools

Our Tools

We employ a variety of tools meant to both inform and equip all stakeholders in a city - from the average resident, to the leader, to the powerful institution.

  1. The Indicator Explorer is a data discernment tool that directs practitioners to the best available data for city assessment.

  2. The pathways catalogue maps the critical “upstream inputs” and “downstream outcomes” of the indicators used in the Indicator Explorer for city stakeholders and decision-makers, illuminating the inputs likely to influence a particular indicator, and highlighting the probable outcomes of addressing a specific indicator.

  3. The Baseline of Thriving is a discrete but holistic set of indicators used to assess a particular neighborhood’s ability to secure the basic conditions necessary for thriving, and compares that with other local neighborhoods and similar communities across the country.

  4. City Profiles are comprehensive field reports for city leaders that paint an integrated picture of a place through weaving together unique histories, identities, and cultures of a specific city.

  5. The Community Field Guide is a tool for residents that integrates important geographical features of a city, community statistics rendered through data visualizations and infographics, and narrative stories to help communities tell the distinct story of their place and own a local and shared vision of civic thriving.

  6. Case Studies examine unique institutions and organizations that illustrate cross-sector collaboration and serve as exemplars for institutions seeking to do the same.