Now more than ever, surely, we need such gatherings to share effective tools and strategies to make better cities and towns
Dear friends and colleagues,
It’s hard to believe that this year marks the 35th year of the International Making Cities Livable conference series. So much has changed for cities and towns since its beginnings by Suzanne and Henry Lennard, and so much was accomplished by them – and yet so much remains to be done. We know more now about the nature of the challenges we face for cities and towns, and we have seen many new effective tools and strategies in recent years. There is much to build upon.
Suzanne and Henry were always passionate about making better-quality, more humane and more livable cities and towns. They did it by learning from the best places, and by bringing some of the best minds together across continents to share the best ideas and expertise. Over the years, they built a remarkably broad community around the IMCL. (The current Facebook group alone is some 3,000 members.) That social capital is a valuable resource to build upon, surely.
That’s why, in compliance with Suzanne’s final wishes, we, her friends and colleagues, have established the Suzanne C. and Henry L. Lennard Institute for Livable Cities in hers and Henry’s memory and honor. It is an educational non-profit ("public benefit") corporation registered under US 501(C)(3) laws. Our mission is to take forward what the Lennards started so ably:
Our purpose is to improve social and physical health, enhance well-being, strengthen community resilience, and increase equity and civic participation, by sharing effective tools for reshaping the built environments of our cities, suburbs and towns. (IMCL Mission Statement)
Distinct from other organizations dedicated to improving cities and towns – but also complementary to many – the IMCL focuses notably on two groups, city leaders and leading academic researchers. We want to do more than share observations or toss around good ideas. We want to know, how can we actually make great cities and towns? What are the most effective tools and strategies, and how can we develop, share, and apply them to drive real progress? What does the evidence show us?
To ensure that happens, city leaders and academic researchers (and other actors too) need to come together across disciplinary silos, and across state and national borders. That’s what the IMCL does, facilitating a rich peer-to-peer exchange of actionable knowledge. You might say that our goal is “research into practice, practice into research.” Let’s share what we know about what works, and how we can apply it effectively. Let’s learn from the best cities and towns of human history up to the present, and from the best new insights and approaches to emerging challenges.
So we will certainly continue that inspiring legacy. But we also want to explore new frontiers – and that’s where we are seeking your ideas and involvement. What are the most timely and urgent issues that we need to cover more thoroughly? What additional people and activities should we involve? In addition to the conferences and the books, should we do study tours, other publications, videos, or other resources? How can we learn more from the greatest places – in Europe, in the USA, and elsewhere – and better learn how to make more of them? Especially as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and its painful lessons, how can we help to develop a new generation of livable, healthy, equitable cities and towns?
This 57th conference, in Carmel, Indiana. June 8-12, will explore these topics. It’s certainly a wonderful chance to honor the memory of the Lennards, and to continue their great legacy. We hope you will join us for that reason alone. But it’s also a moment for us to explore new directions, and confront new challenges. This will be a major topic on the agenda as we meet in person, many of us for the first time since the pandemic. So we hope you will come, and bring your ideas, and your passion for great cities and towns.
If you can’t come, I hope you will consider supporting this next phase of the IMCL, a reborn non-profit with a venerable legacy. Your donation of a registration fee (or more if you can) will go towards someone else who cannot afford to attend – perhaps a city leader or an academic facing budget problems, or a promising young student. It will also support our growth into the next phase of life for the IMCL, and for the Lennards’ enduring legacy.
I welcome your questions, comments and ideas!
Michael W. Mehaffy, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Lennard Institute