Assembly: Design Meets Civic Life


  • Describe recent civic-engagement trends and summarize the value of place-based design in supporting civic life.
  • Learn how new data captured through surveys, experiments, and field research can illuminate the connection between public space design and civic life.
  • Identify how planners, designers, and policymakers can elevate civic engagement in communities and benchmark success, drawing from research and practice in New Orleans; St. Paul; Charlotte, N.C.; and Macon, Ga.


Communities across the United States face concerning civic-engagement trends, signified by low voter turnout and growing social and economic divides. Planners, designers, civic leaders, and residents alike are looking for new and innovative ways to use the design of place to rebuild trust, revitalize neighborhoods, and support interaction among diverse groups. With this in mind, the Center for Active Design (CfAD) fielded the Assembly Civic Engagement Survey (ACES) – the first study of its kind to examine how community-design features influence multiple measures of civic engagement. Looking to the pivotal role of parks, neighborhood maintenance, and civic buildings and spaces, this survey is informing a broader set of design guidelines that CfAD will release in 2018. This course builds on the pioneering Assembly initiative, highlighting key findings from ACES and other original research methods, and showcasing compelling stories from the field. It also spotlights examples from four cities that have leveraged the evidence-based ACES approach to address local civic-engagement priorities. Gain a better understanding of practical strategies for shaping public spaces that can enhance civic life in your own communities.