SERA launches the Institute for Civic Ecology

by | January 6, 2017 1 Urban Design + Planning

SERA Architects, a Portland, Oregon-based leader in sustainable architecture and urban placemaking, has launched the Institute for Civic Ecology as an initiative supporting our commitment to helping communities and organizations nationally and internationally implement and manage resilience initiatives. Conceived in partnership with local business associations, non-profits, governments, developers, religious organizations and institutions, and spanning rural, suburban and urban contexts, these projects have helped communities attain control over their resources, create enduring local wealth, enhance resilience, promote a sense of community and develop a living culture animated by systems thinking and strong democracy.

Based on SERA Principal for Urban Design and Planning Tim Smith’s award-winning research (Sustainable Communities in the Urban Rural Interface Progressive Architecture Research Award in 1989), the Civic Ecology framework continues to inform SERA’s work in community design, architecture and placemaking.

Over the arc of a few decades our Civic Ecology work has revealed a need for whole systems thinking and doing integrated with strong democracy in the service of making great places. To many, systems thinking and citizen democracy almost seem incompatible. Isn’t systems thinking something that scientists do and rationally/calculatedly apply to an entity? How does it relate to a community of people with varying levels of expertise and interests? How do you empower non-scientists, youth and other diverse groups to become systems thinkers and stewards of their shared place? Why is it important?

To continue our work addressing these questions, the Institute will provide a grass roots model for community resilience that is civic-public-private partnership based. Through training, facilitation and project work we aim to help communities create a shared vision of a prosperous future and then make it happen. This may seem a tall order in such a divisive era, but we have worked in some extremely polarized communities and found high degrees of cooperation when the core values are shared, the end goals clear and the projects of mutual benefit.

Learn more about the practice and the Institute for Civic Ecology at



One Comment

  1. Gregg Sanders says |

    This is a great opportunity to dive deep into the critical relationship between human behavior and the creation of a sustainable built environment. Congratulations Tim on bringing this important work to a new level!

Leave A Comment