Thematic Essays

The Quest for Thriving Communities

This blog has one abiding concern: What does it mean and take for a community and its residents to thrive?

The Problem of Assessment: Part I

Stephen Macekura

Understanding the nature of thriving in cities requires tackling challenging questions about how to identify, conceptualize, measure, and assess urban life. This is Part I of three posts exploring such inquiries.

The Problem of Assessment: Part II

Stephen Macekura

In our last post, we highlighted some of the recent historical changes surrounding assessments. How do all these measurements help us understand what it means to thrive in today's cities? Part II of III

The Problem of Assessment: Part III

How do we know if a city is thriving? This post, the final in a series of three, reflects on that question by exploring the history of urban assessment. It exposes some downsides to past approaches, while also highlighting some promising alternatives.

Faith in the City: Part I, The Evangelicals are Coming!

Andrew Sharp

There is a movement afoot among evangelical Christians that may not only surprise you but might also signal one of the biggest shifts in their orientation for at least a generation. Evangelicals are coming back to the city.

Faith in the City: Part II, Will the New Urban Evangelical Change Cities?

Andrew Sharp

Will the new urban evangelical movement make a lasting impact on cities? The real test will be in whether evangelicals consistently partner with Christians across the traditions who, unlike many evangelicals, stayed in the inner city and consistently maintained ministries to the urban poor.

Silver Bullets: Cyclical Efforts to Bring the Private Sector "Back In"

Brent Cebul

While city planners and their allies across the public, private, and voluntary sectors often enthusiastically tout the latest development plan for struggling neighborhoods, the history of Euclid Avenue in Cleveland shows that officials often draw upon too narrow a menu of policies and initiatives.

Nashville and the Future of Civic Engagement

Stephen Assink

Transportation debates, like the famed battle between Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses over a proposed expressway through Manhattan, have historically been a local affair. This may be changing. Recent events in Tennessee show that even a local transportation project with widespread support from citizens across the political spectrum is not immune to the ideological politicization that has gripped our national discourse.

Faith in the City: Part III, City Soul—An Interview with Cardus' Milton Friesen

Andrew Sharp

Religious institutions in their varied forms are to the social fabric of cities what swamps and bogs are to the ecological landscape. Cities that are serious about attending to the various social challenges in their communities cannot afford to be snobbish about a scarce resource.

California's Flyover Country

Stephen Assink

Though one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world, the San Joaquin Valley is now one of the poorest and poorly educated places in the country. Why California’s flyover country's best hope may be to invest in the education of its children.

Do Cities Tear Us Apart?

Stephen Assink

For a long time, urban sociologists saw cities as culprits of social isolation and fragmentation. Although this view had certain justifications, its shortsightedness of urban life has opened up opportunities for new methods for urban thinking.

Public Health and the City: Talking With Nisha Botchwey—Part 2

Stephen Assink

Part 2 of our video interview with Professor Nisha Botchwey, an expert in public health, the built environment, and community engagement.

Assessing Urban Complexity: Thriving Cities Conference Recap

Stephen Assink

Last month, the Thriving Cities Project gathered together practitioners and scholars from around the country for a two day conference to recap and assess research, project goals, and current findings.

Do Cities Tear Us Apart?—Part 2

Stephen Assink

In part 2 of this series, Andrew Lynn investigates two dominant trends of urban life that will have tremendous consequences for the future of cities.

Urban Renewal Syndrome—Part 1

Stephen Assink

Urban renewal programs, along with the social welfare policies of the Great Society, became a symbol not just of the collapse of urban America but also of the failure of progressive government action—perhaps even of liberalism itself.

Do Cities Tear Us Apart?—Part 3

In part 3 of this series, Andrew Lynn addresses "skyboxification" as a barrier to flourishing cities.

Richmond and the Future of Local Food

Guest Blogger

More than ever we need locally based solutions to transform our communities, and nowhere is this more clear or powerful than with our food.

Faith in the City: Part IV—American Muslims and the Civic Good

Guest Blogger

The historic growth of urban American Islam has led some Muslims to respond in innovative ways to the issues and challenges of urban life.

Urban Policy: Part 1—Lessons From the District

Guest Blogger

Analysts who head straight for urban policy jobs in Washington without first working within their own local communities are probably not going to be able to understand the perspective on the ground, or what real communities need.

Urban Policy: Part 2—Lessons for Small Towns

Guest Blogger

The Feds to small city officials: Have you tried working with your neighbors?

The Millennials Are Coming, But Who Cares?

Stephen Assink

With 80 million—the largest generation ever—leaving home and descending into society, scholars, think tanks, and especially corporations are intent on understanding the inner life of a twenty something. Despite the attention that millennials are garnering, important questions surrounding community engagement are being let out.

Was there ever a truly natural city? The Byzantines thought so.

Andrew Sharp

The Greeks believed humans could only achieve their full potential in the context of a city and perhaps no city built by Greeks aspired to this goal more enthusiastically than Constantinople. As a truly natural city, could this former Byzantine capital serve as a paradigm for sustainable urbanization and green growth in cities today?

Urban Policy: Part 3—Lessons From History

Guest Blogger

Tracing the development of urban policy in the United States is an often-vexing affair in historical wayfinding. Urban policy in the United States has been, like our metropolitan areas themselves, something of a sprawling mess.

Harnessing Big Data to Democratic Ends

Guest Blogger

Can we have the benefits of Big Data without the drawbacks? Is there a way to harness the democratic power of information while also promoting democratic open-mindedness and popular empowerment?