CivicGreen follows professionals who engage as partners with communities, sharing knowledge and authority and working towards collaborative solutions. We recognize that this does not come easy for professionals with special expertise, who are often used to dictating solutions from above and ignoring or discounting local knowledge and the skills and insights that everyday citizens, residents, and workers might contribute.

Professionals also have understandable concerns that citizens are prone to suggest self-serving policies that do not take into account broad community needs, diverse perspectives, and other legitimate interests.

Civic practice in many fields, however, has challenged professionals to reimagine themselves as “democratic professionals.” While relevant to a variety of professions, such as education and criminal justice, our focus is on those professions whose work is essential to creating sustainable, resilient, and healthy communities in an era of climate change.

Thus, we profile the work of architects and planners who partner with communities in urban design, disaster professionals whose strategies make social capital and community participation central to preparedness and resilience, transportation engineers who work with bicycle and pedestrian associations to design safe, green, and equitable multimodal options.

CivicGreen will follow professional associations that are attempting to transform important fields of practice in ways that are democratic, sustainable, and just. We will profile important initiatives, toolkits, champions, best cases, and educational programs that are seeking to create the democratic professionals of today and tomorrow.

We also hope to inspire undergraduates and professional school students who seek meaningful careers with high impact, and yet who want to work in partnership with everyday communities and workers to create a more democratic and resilient world.

As Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells – Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District CEO, professional-of-the-year and past chair of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA) Stormwater Management Committee – framed her plenary presentation to the 2019 River Rally in Cleveland, “It is way more fun, way more exciting, and way more authentic for utility directors and staff to partner with communities, and to get on the right side.” Her emphasis: more fun and more authentic.

Indeed: vital to a democratic society confronting so many complex challenges and requiring high levels of expert knowledge, yet also in need of the collaborative work of everyday employees on the front lines and diverse communities struggling to ensure that potential solutions are responsive and just and do not reinforce racial and economic inequalities in the name of sustainability.

Professionals who work collaboratively with communities can enrich their own knowledge, enable co-production, and enhance the legitimacy of policy solutions.

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Design professionals have a well-marked trajectory towards democratic professionalism, especially since the civil rights movement of the 1960s, which inspired an explicit embrace of democratic values. In the decades since, the field has experienced reinforcing democratic influences over time as the proliferation of new methodologies and a series of civic movements within the profession influence broader practice through distributed networks of like-minded professionals.


Urban and regional planners are among the most important professionals working to make communities more sustainable, resilient, and just, and their capacity to align their technical skills with their civic ones will be indispensable to effective and democratically legitimate climate strategies. Since the 1960s, when communities pushed back vigorously against top-down urban renewal schemes, planners have developed a set of alternative planning cultures that are more responsive to demands for public participation and ecological design.

Urban and Community Forestry

Urban and community forestry is the field of practice that stewards trees and forests in cities, suburbs, and towns, often with substantial civic engagement and institutional partnership. Objectives encompass everything from maintaining and improving water quality, habitat, and biodiversity, to improving public health and safety and capturing carbon. Urban and community forestry has multiple origin points that are distinct, but often converge.

Check out our Glossary Entry on Democratic Professionals for more Information