Believe the hype! EcoDistricts Summit is sure to please

To mark the 10th Annual EcoDistricts Summit coming to Pittsburgh, I recorded a chat with evolve’s co-founder Christine Mondor about what to expect at the upcoming Summit. Find full audio clips below or read the summary text.

Research Forum

DK: So, Christine, what’s in store for this year’s Ecodistrict Summit?

CM: Well Daniel, it’s going to be really exciting this year. We’re a city of neighborhoods, so bringing people from across the country to talk about neighborhoods and districts is going to be great. We have studio tours that are going to local neighborhoods where transportation is a key issue, where affordable housing is a key issue, where social equity and building communities of action is important.

We also are doing something really exciting this year– a Research Forum– where we’re going to have major academic institutions with us to discuss how community embedded research benefits institutions and the communities that they work in. Many of our universities have a strong commitment to community-embedded research, yet each of us goes about it somewhat differently. We’re going to talk about how communities get the most out of it, how they set their expectations, how they set their problem statements to engage institutions and their resources to help solve their problems, but also how the universities, faculty and students understand and respect those communities and become a part of them. We’re inviting community members and researchers to a national conversation on this topic.


What can visitors learn from us?

DK: Christine, what does Pittsburgh have to share or to teach visitors from other places when it comes to ecodistricts?

CM: Daniel, as you know, many other places also consider themselves a city of neighborhoods. But we’re unique because we have had to bootstrap many things for so long. Our communities have stepped up and taken the reins on things that in other cities are considered part of what a public agency or government system does. Thus, we have very strong community development organizations. Sometimes those organizations are the best way to deliver district-scale sustainability. So they’re going to share their knowledge, and certainly passion about that. However, they’re also going to share some of their limitations.

In the past five to six years we’ve done a good job of building up our governmental infrastructure in planning to take on various scales of infrastructure and development in a way that allows community groups to get to an impactful scale. So instead of just building a unit of affordable housing, which we were doing for many many years, we are now also incorporating ecodistricts frameworks into making policies for affordable housing. I think Pittsburgh is able to speak to that continuum of grassroots to implementation in a very special way.


What can we learn from others?

DK: Christine, for people that are based in Pittsburgh, what do you think we have to gain from the Summit as far as learning from others who will be visiting?

CM: You know, every time I travel, I always come back saying “Oh my gosh, I saw so many amazing ideas!” I wish I could take everybody back to these places to show them. The Summit is a great opportunity for those ideas to come to us. I think we’re going to learn a lot from seeing how other people are dealing with similar issues. It helps us realize we’re not alone in our challenges, that many other places are facing them. And there are so many inspiring examples of how people have implemented projects—whether it’s community-based projects, institutions, or other agencies taking a leading role, or cities that are implementing policies and guidelines and structuring more ecologically sustainable, socially just, neighborhoods. I hope that everybody in the region understands that it really takes all of us together to make these things a reality, and we’ll hear lots of good stories from folks who attend.


Christine Mondor, FAIA is co-chair of the summit planning committee and is working with to host the event here in Pittsburgh. She is also leading the Research Forum on Sunday before the Summit. Find more information and how to register for both the Summit and Research Forum on our Events page.

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