social sustainability

Create Communities of Opportunity

  On March 23rd, members of Schemata Workshop attended the Housing Development Consortium (HDC) 4th Annual Luncheon; HDC is a professional association and advocate for providing affordable housing in King County. Schemata Workshop is a sponsor and member of HDC and we are advocates for their cause. At the luncheon we were fortunate enough to have Angela Glover Blackwell, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of PolicyLink, as the keynote speaker. Her speech was so inspiring that we were compelled to take notes summarizing the key components to create communities of opportunity.

First, Angela described the St. Louis, MO community where she grew up and how the neighborhood children played together in the front yards and streets without fear of danger. A community where her mother anxiously watched, perched out on the front porch, as she made her way to the corner store for the first time. It was an economically diverse community of doctors and lawyers living next to the single parent receiving food stamps. It was a community that fostered opportunity.

However, not all of our society experienced the same upbringing as Angela and members of our society have children that run the risk of not succeeding to their full potential. As Angela said, in these economic times, this is the first time that children are not expected to have the same opportunities as their parents. In addition, she emphasized that one’s housing determines so much more than we think. It determines the type of education and healthcare one can receive; also it determines what types of jobs are available. Those who work on housing and housing policies are indirectly working on health, education and job policies as well.

After painting the picture of an excellent community and emphasizing the need and importance of successful housing, Angela began to identify the key components to create communities of opportunity.

Creating Communities of Opportunities – 5 steps

1. Place matters

  • Creating a sense of place contributes to a sense identity for the community


2. Access to reliable transit

  • Provides the opportunity to seek better jobs, health care, and education


3. Integrate income levels and promote racial diversity

  • Provides richness of life and opportunity


4. Sustainability

  • Provide all 3 components of sustainability – environmental, social, economic equity


5. Inclusion

  • Integrate yourself in the community to understand their needs


The key components to create communities of opportunity are not new ideas individually, but we often forget that we need to take into account all components to provide successful housing. Angela ended her speech with the statement “Don’t be nostalgic for a time that never was.” However, I think we can use nostalgia to create goals for achieving communities of opportunity.


Cohousing Down Under

[caption id="attachment_976" align="aligncenter" width="413" caption="Earthsong Eco-Neighborhood"][/caption] Last summer I was contacted by Jeremy Rose of Radio New Zealand to do an interview for his radio program called Ideas.  At the time, I'd never done a phone interview for radio and I recall feeling like I was rambling on and on about cohousing...but he did a good job editing it down to a coherent interview and including other "experts" who are local to their island nation.  You can listen to the full interview here:

Also featured on the program was Earthsong Eco-Neighborhood, a cohousing community based on principles of permaculture.  They were established in 1995.  Great to see people realizing their goals for social and environmental sustainability.