Showcasing The CREATE Initiative: Sharing in the Benefits of a Greening City

Showcasing The CREATE Initiative: Sharing in the Benefits of a Greening City

As social movements leaders remind us, in the midst of all the work that needs to happen in the world, we must celebrate our wins. After over two years of deeply relational research and product-generation, the CREATE Initiative hosted a public showcase to celebrate these “wins”: contributions made by staff, students, and community partners to address the urgent question of green gentrification.  

Hosted at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs in mid-February, the showcase was an opportunity to share all of our work over the last few years as a unified body of research. We highlighted the contributions from our 2019 CREATE Scholars cohort, presenting products that are resourcing our partners in Minneapolis, Atlanta, and Nassau County, Florida. An interactive mapping demonstration allowed attendees to experiment with layering data about housing, racial covenants, environmental toxins, and park investments to understand first-hand how these systems of housing and environmental (in)justice interact across space. Attendees also left with copies of our recently-published policy toolkit for mitigating green gentrification entitled Sharing in the Benefits of a Greening City. 

A panel of CREATE partners from our Policy Think Tank and the Mapping Prejudice Project offered up a series of generative reflections on the importance of community-engaged research, the pitfalls of working inside and with University institutions, and the urgency of centering marginalized forms of knowledge in research. Moderated by CREATE Co-Director Bonnie Keeler, the panelists were particularly adamant about the connection between process and product, a fundamental relationship that has been central to the CREATE Initiative ethos. As panelist, Policy Think Tank member, and professor at St. Cloud State University Iyekiyapiwin Darlene St. Clair told the audience, authentically relational research is essential to engaging the humanity not only of the community research partner, but of the academic researcher as well. In other words, when we forgo attention to process, we lose something of ourselves as well. 

The sold-out showcase presented an important opportunity to step back and view our work as a collection rather than individual products. In doing so, we were able to articulate moments of connection that we had not previously verbalized. Furthermore, this showcase allowed us to reflect as a team on where this project started. As we wrote in the showcase introductory statement: 

When we began this work, some scholars and public officials wondered to us whether there was anything that could be done about the way that green initiatives sometimes displace vulnerable communities. The work we are presenting here is our attempt to answer that question affirmatively: yes, there are things that can be done to ensure that everyone shares in the benefits of a greening city. Our goal was not to offer a one-size-fits-all solution, but rather to mobilize the resources of the research university to take stock of how communities understand these problems and develop creative, if at times partial, solutions, and to support the ongoing efforts of our collaborators to make just, green futures a reality. 

Our ongoing conversations with community organizations, public agencies, and institutional partners have made clear that these questions are not going away any time soon. There is just as much, if not more, demand for clearly articulated and accessible analysis of green gentrification as ever. If anything, CREATE’s collaborative research process has only spread interest in this question through a growing network of stakeholders. 

As CREATE continues to deepen our research into the historical and contemporary relationships between green infrastructure investments, racial exclusion, and housing displacement, we will hold these reflections as a place of re-grounding and, as Darlene wisely insisted, look for ways to make this research a place from which to deepen our own humanity. 

All work products highlighted at the showcase can be viewed on our website. A full version of Sharing in the Benefits of a Greening City is available for download here. If you would like to request a physical copy of the toolkit, to borrow the interactive maps we have generated, or to coordinate a presentation about this work at your organization, please email create@umn.edu

For more, you can read, listen, and watch recent coverage of the CREATE Initiative here. 

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