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Connecting the Urban-Curious

By Tarryn Landman

Economic developers and urban planners are well aware of how important collaboration and strong networks are for growing local economies. While conferences and professional development opportunities can build these connections for urban planners and economic developers, there isn’t much available for urbanists in other sectors or fields who aren’t engaged in formal structures. Which is where Claire Nelson stepped in.

Nelson is the founder of the Urban Innovative Exchange, an initiative to support Detroit’s growing innovation movement. With funding from the Knight Cities Challenge, she launched the Urban Consulate to promote “cross-city cultural and civic exchange by setting up a network of new ‘consulates’ initially located in Detroit, Philadelphia and New Orleans that offer events and an entrée into local culture.”

Essentially, these pilot projects aim to be spaces for local or visiting urban-curious people to engage around urban innovation and best practices. This takes place in the form of various events, including lectures and book clubs as well as cocktail parties and game nights. All of these are influenced by the needs of local communities. As well as fostering local conversations, The Urban Consulate aims to encourage more discussion between cities about ideas and solutions to common challenges. To facilitate this knowledge sharing, the Urban Consulate has sponsored exchanges between cities, allowing envoys to learn from other communities.

For economic developers, planners, and others involved in community building, the Urban Consulate offers an interesting model for building relationships and connecting around shared values and visions for local prosperity.

This post first appeared in TINAN 74. Subscribe to TINAN for the latest economic development news and resources.