About Us

one of site authors, Nancy Thompson

This website has only one purpose: to provide helpful information, insights, and perspectives for ordinary people who find themselves engaged with some aspect of the broad spectrum of activities we call community development. You might call it community improvement, betterment, or activism. Usually our articles serve as a starting point and orientation to a topic, in order to inspire readers to ask appropriate questions as they research their own local conditions.

This site is the work of four principal authors, although at this point the site's content editor, Nancy Thompson (shown here), now has assumed ultimate responsibility for content. All of us who started the site and drafted the initial articles have master's degrees in urban planning. In addition, each of us is active in our own communities, and have been appointed or elected to positions such as neighborhood association officer, zoning board of appeals member, and non-profit and community development corporation board member.

We still circulate new content among all of us to solicit alternate viewpoints, corrections, and suggestions. These professional collaborators bring specialized experience and a critical eye. We are quite diverse in our professional and personal experiences, so you can bet that at least one of us knows plenty about each topic we present.

Our common perspective and passion is to make sure that ordinary folks can understand the language and customs of planning, community development, activism, economic development, and environmental sustainability at the city or neighborhood scale. By increasing your understanding of basic concepts, you can multiply your effectiveness in public dialogue.

Nancy has achieved certification as a community planner, meaning she is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners.  She earned a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1979, and has served as a planning director in city and county governments in a variety of settings. Often her department has been responsible for capital improvements, community development projects, and code enforcement too. At the regional level, she was planning division manager at East-West Gateway Council of Governments. Recent specialized planning experience has included serving as Executive Director at St. Louis Association of Community Organizations and as a project manager and community outreach manager at Great Rivers Greenway. 

In addition to taking charge of moving this website forward, Nancy recently received a real estate license and  has served as a consultant, specializing in neighborhood plans, community development work, neighborhood leadership training, and non-profit strategic planning.  

Right now Nancy is tired of proper writing, even though she's won several competitive prizes for formal writing. So she and her three co-authors are really "telling it like it is" for a change. Whenever neighborhood folks are in danger of wasting their time, we say so. We expose any conventional wisdom about community work that doesn't pass the reality test.

At a recent team meeting in Chicago, we took time out to study urbanology in Grant's Park near Buckingham Fountain.  The other three authors, who need to stay anonymous for the moment because of the preferences of their employers, are shown here among the Segway crowd.  We don't really know who the other Segway tourist that strayed into our little circle might be. It seemed we finally had broken our string of gray days for meeting.

Earlier we had chosen our favorite photo of a rainy but beautiful New York, during the next-to-last face-to-face meeting we held.  We just can't bring ourselves to remove this photo; it represents all that is beautiful about big cities, don't you think?

rainy day New York

You can check out back issues of our almost-monthly newsletter, Community Development Plus, on our newsletter archive page.   Subscribe below.

We encourage fellow professionals to contact us to discuss potential collaborations or to challenge some of our necessarily very general commentary. We always welcome other perspectives, news about the latest research, and tips on community development resources that are helpful and accessible to our typical reader.

Our site is full of actionable ideas, whether you are puzzling about a big city, small city, village, or rural community development experience.  Below we're giving you another chance at searching the site to learn about something of particular relevance to your neighborhood or city. 

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