A research-based approach
San Francisco, March 2023

The development of methodologies for the analysis of stakeholder feedback can bring consistency and robustness to public participation processes. Communities invest time, energy, and wisdom in civic engagement efforts; their contributions should be ethically examined and communicated to advance equity goals and ensure collective effectiveness. +

Approaches and tools
San Francisco, March 2023

With several public participation strategies underway, we can take a step back to reflect on our approach, and the tools we are shaping along the way.+

The civic agency project: field observations 2022
San Francisco, February 2023

Addressing equity in civic engagement is essential to advance equitable community outcomes. This shared understanding has energized our collaborations and grounded our experimentation with small group participation strategies. We have organized focus groups and interviews to elevate —and amplify— the voices and priorities of frontline communities. These "mini-public" strategies have proven to be adaptable and effective participation tools. Their deliberative nature can hold complexity and deliver valuable insights, but the energy created around them dissipates quickly. How could they evolve to sustain deeper, long-term collaborations? +

The civic agency project: field observations 2021
San Francisco, May 2022

Back in 2019 we set out to explore the practice of civic agency to help communities and public agencies find new ways to navigate complexity and plan for uncertain futures. The underlying racial and social inequities exacerbated by the pandemic brought a sense of urgency to this task, and what started as an informal assessment of public participation practices in San Francisco, led to opportunities to test new approaches.+

Milwaukee green infrastructure overpass challenge
Design competition, February 2021

In partnership with Lotus Water, incommon was one of three teams selected for the 2020 Greater Milwaukee Green Infrastructure Overpass Challenge. The design competition, funded by the Tellier Foundation and administered by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, is focused on reducing and treating polluted stormwater runoff from interstate overpasses. Located at the confluence of three rivers and Lake Michigan, Milwaukee holds deep connections to water. Our design approach recognizes the interconnections between ecosystem and community health and proposes replicable and scalable solutions at the intersection of infrastructure, innovation, and placemaking. Our proposals integrate constructed wetlands and bioretention elements to restore wildlife habitats, enhance connectivity, and re-imagine underutilized spaces.

The civic agency project: Latinxs and the Environment
San Francisco, October 2020

A powerful sense of possibility lies beneath the wave of bold, collective action of 2020, prompting an urgent review of key institutions. But tackling complex economic, social, and environmental issues, will require sustained efforts, meaningful institutional transformation, and the emergence of a cultural context where new civic frameworks can take shape.+

The civic agency project: building broader and deeper coalitions
San Francisco, July 2020

Solving complex environmental and social problems for an uncertain future will require new civic frameworks that can foster broader and deeper coalitions. Essential public infrastructure, with its reach and transformative power, is ideally positioned to pioneer such frameworks.+

The civic agency project: fostering solidarity and cooperation
San Francisco, April 2020.

Last year we wrote about the future of participatory processes in Mexico in the context of large public infrastructure projects. Our article explored how an environmental justice lens could support a bottom-up approach, deliver just outcomes, and strengthen communities from within. From the Yucatan Peninsula to the Bay Area, the context of participatory processes varies widely, but similar underlying environmental and social pressures bring into focus the need for new models of cooperation that can solve complex problems with local and global dimensions. +

Notes from Liverpool
Liverpool, UK July 2019.

In 2010 Liverpool's Pier Head and Canal Link won the prestigious RIBA Public Space Award. From 2006 to 2009, as a young landscape architect, Erika was dedicated to the implementation of this project. Ten years later, she made a trip to Liverpool and saw a familiar place in a new light. +

Embracing forgotten shorelines
Redwood City, May 2019.

Many cities in California and around the world are re-orienting their urban fabric to embrace not only their forgotten shorelines, but also their forgotten natural and human histories. We joined Redwood City stakeholders to explore how culture and design can help re-connect. Embracing forgotten shorelines is the last of a 3-part speaker series organized by Redwood City's Parks and Arts Foundation.

Latinxs and the environment
Berkeley, April, 2019.

We joined academics, policymakers and community organizations to discuss the intersection of climate change, urban planning, environmental justice, health and environment. Latinxs and the Environment is a University of California, Berkeley initiative led by the Center of Latinx Policy Research and the College of Natural Resources.

The future of public outreach in Mexico
Published in Animal Político, March, 2019.

Our recent column published in Animal Politico, discusses public outreach processes in the context of a political renaissance taking place in Mexico. We discuss the implementation of large infrastructure projects that have resulted in a legacy of environmental and social pressures felt most deeply by the communities where the projects are implemented, while the benefits are enjoyed afar. An environmental justice lens applied to public outreach processes would support a bottom-up approach, strengthening communities from within, building local capacity, and creating platforms to analyze and solve complex problems.

Read full article in animalpolitico.com

Rumbo Malecón: a collective outlook
Design competition, Havana, Cuba

Rumbo Malecón brings to the foreground proud Cuban ideals that prioritize investment in collective benefits. An integral approach to mobility, water management and open space seeks to mitigate sea level rise and flooding, improve public transit and community well-being, and restore marine ecosystems.

Beyond the concrete threshold once built to protect the city of Havana from the sea, El Malecón (Havana's waterfront promenade) is a universal point of reference for Habaneros and visitors navigating the City. El Malecón is a "rumbo": a boundless place embracing the City and the sea, announcing arrival through a leisurely frame of mind. Culture and nature converge at the El Malecón, providing Habaneros with an endless source of joy and a familiar call to rumba...

Design Competition 2018, Eleven Magazine. Rumbo Malecón is a collaboration with Mike DeGregorio and ECONCRETE marine experts Shimrit Perkol-Finkel and Andrew Rella.

Making the invisible visible
San Francisco reimagines water and resource recovery

If, to quote Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, "what is essential is invisible to the eye", water infrastructure projects will need to harness architecture, art, and education to strengthen the civic partnerships that will make these essential projects possible and attain a new kind of visibility that embodies cultural meaning and inspiration.

Making the invisible visible narrates the journey of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission as they embark on a once in a generation opportunity to transform San Francisco's largest wastewater treatment plant into a 21st Century Resource Recovery Campus. Speaking at WEFTEC 2017 in Chicago, we explore how the alignment of city-wide environmental goals and local community aspirations can render infrastructure investment as a cultural and social process beyond its technical boundaries.

Water Environment Federation National Conference (WEFTEC)
Chicago, 2017. Conference abstract.