The JPB, Knight, Kresge, and Rockefeller foundations have announced a $40 million initiative aimed at fostering civic engagement, economic opportunity, and environmental sustainability in four cities.
The four foundations will invest a total of $20 million, to be matched by local funding, in Reimagining the Civic Commons, an initiative aimed at revitalizing and transforming public spaces such as parks, trails, libraries, and community centers into places where people of all backgrounds can share experiences, exchange ideas, and address common problems. The cities of Akron, Chicago, Detroit, and Memphis will join Philadelphia — where a pilot project funded by the Knight and William Penn foundations was launched in 2015 — in a three-year demonstration of how investments in public spaces can reverse economic and social fragmentation while making cities more environmentally sustainable.
To help address the erosion of broad-based support for public spaces in cities that have become economically and socially segregated, the initiative will provide tools and resources needed to reknit those communities. It also will support a Civic Commons Learning Network to coordinate a learning agenda, impact assessment, and storytelling across the five demonstration cities; host cross-city learning opportunities; and create a series of how-to toolkits for urban officials and leaders.
"Our libraries, parks, community centers, and schoolyards once served rich and poor alike as neutral ground where common purpose among people was nurtured," said Kresge Foundation president and CEO Rip Rapson. "By creating more places where people share experiences with people who are different from themselves, we can begin to bridge longstanding economic divisions and create new opportunities."