Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman is an urban anthropologist working to create better cities for people through the lens of anthropology. Currently her work is focused on Philadelphia, where she is a SmartCityPHL Data Fellow, working on the implementation of the SmartCityPHL Roadmap.
As an anthropologist, Katrina is curious about us – homo sapiens – and why we behave the way we do in society and spaces. As an urbanist, she’s passionate about our cities – our unique manufactured habitats – and how we can make them better for us mentally and physically. As an urban anthropologist, she’s committed to applying anthropological principles, research methods, and the lessons learned from our collective history to the present day. To this end, she has built her career around the specialization of behavior in public space: observing interactions between people and the built environment in the spaces between buildings.
But as a human being and woman, Katrina has also made it her goal to advocate for this shift in thinking – toward a more humanist approach to the building and management of our cities. With so many ideas out there about tech-centered “smart” cities, Katrina believes that we need now more than ever to reevaluate our shared ideals for our urban future. It is her hope that through meaningful measurement, evidence-based design, and humanist intent, we can create better cities for all of our fellow human beings. She is especially proud to have been included in BBC’s 100 Women list for 2019 for her advocacy on women and girls in our urban environments.
Katrina previously worked as the communications manager at Project for Public Spaces, as an urban anthropologist for wayfinding company City ID, as the project manager at the Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation, and in various research and education roles in an academic and non-academic context. She has a Bachelor’s in Anthropology from Arizona State University and a Masters of Urban Studies from Portland State University with a focus in Public Space.
For more information on Katrina, you can visit Think Urban.
Read the podcast transcript here
Eve Picker: [00:00:05] Hi there. Thanks for joining me on Rethink Real Estate. For Good. I’m Eve Picker and I’m on a mission to make real estate work for everyone. I love real estate. Real estate makes places good or bad, rich or poor, beautiful or not. In this show, I’m interviewing the disruptors, those creative thinkers and doers that are shrugging off the status quo in order to build better for everyone. And speaking of building better, I’m very excited to share that my company, Small Change, is now raising capital through a community round that is open to the public. Small Change is a leading equity crowdfunding platform for impact investment in real estate. For as little as $250, anyone 18 and over can invest in Small Change, helping to fuel our growth as we disrupt the old boys club of capital that routinely ignores so many qualified people and projects. Please visit wefunder.com/smallchange to review the full details of our raise and to make an investment if you can. And remember, investing is risky. Don’t invest more than you can afford to lose.
Eve: [00:01:36] My guest today is Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman. She’s an urban anthropologist. What’s that you say? As an anthropologist, Katrina is curious about us and why we behave the way we do in society and in spaces. As an urbanist, she’s passionate about our cities and how we can make them better for us mentally and physically. Katrina is applying anthropological principles, research methods, and the lessons learned from our collective history to the present day. Observing interactions between people and the built environment in the spaces between buildings. This is what an urban anthropologist does. Listen in to learn more. If you’d like to join me in my quest to rethink real estate, there are two simple things you can do. Share this podcast and go to rethink real estate for Good Echo, where you can subscribe to be the first to hear about my podcasts, blog posts and other goodies.
Eve: [00:02:46] Hi Katrina. Thank you very much for joining me today.
Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman: [00:02:50] Thank you so much for having me.
Eve: [00:02:53] So, you’re an urban anthropologist and you’ve even been included in BBC’s 100 women list for your advocacy on women and girls in our urban environment. So, congratulations for that. I can’t wait. I can’t wait to hear more about that. But first, I’m really fascinated by the title Urban Anthropologist. What does that mean?
Katrina: [00:03:16] So, a fun story. I actually have this title because I like having people ask me that question. I kind of consider part of my role as an everyday advocate to that extent, but really it just means I’m an anthropologist that specializes in cities. Some people focus on linguistics, some people are archaeologists, but there’s no degree for this. So, I have an undergraduate degree in anthropology and a graduate degree in urban studies, and I focus on people and human behavior in public spaces.
Eve: [00:03:48] So, what came first? Which degree.
Katrina: [00:03:50] Anthropology.
Eve: [00:03:51] And what led you to urban studies?
Katrina: [00:03:55] Yeah, honestly, it’s a pretty funny track because I actually started as an artist. So, I was thinking I was going to be a fine artist. I did a year of fine arts degree in Massachusetts. And then I just sort of realized it wasn’t very lucrative sounding. And so, of course, I became an anthropologist, which is exactly the same problem. But really, I’ve always just been very interested in culture and, you know, I thought art history would do it for me, but not really. And so, I dabbled in sociology and archaeology, did a dig in Cyprus. And then my last semester of my anthropology undergraduate degree, I took a class on our earliest cities. So, I learned about how we got to be where we are now because we didn’t always live in cities like this. And, you know, it’s a very interesting story for us as humans collectively. And then I learned about Jane Jacobs and Holly White, who in the public space world were basically the pioneers of making good places for people. But they were basically anthropologists, they just didn’t know that they were.
Eve: [00:05:04] And they were women, right, those pioneers. We’re going to come to that later.
Katrina: [00:05:07] Yeah.
Eve: [00:05:08] So, that’s really, it’s really interesting. So, I’ve got to ask, are there are lots of urban anthropologists out there?
Katrina: [00:05:17] Not a lot. No, we are sort of few and far between. Most of them are professors. So, I left after my grad degree to go out into the world and try and apply anthropology to the world of urban planning and architecture.
Eve: [00:05:29] So, that’s really interesting. So, then where have you worked?
Katrina: [00:05:33] A lot of different kinds of places actually, which is really interesting. It’s been a good experience over the last ten years. So, I’ve worked in nonprofit placemaking sectors, wayfinding design companies, let’s see, academia, research labs, looking at sort of more the systems thinking, back end of things. And then right now I actually work for the city of Philadelphia, where I live as a data fellow, trying to create best practices for how to have data privacy and equity, especially in places like our public spaces.
Eve: [00:06:07] Okay, so you’re a data fellow. What does that work look like? Can you give us a little more detail?
Katrina: [00:06:13] So, when you’re in a public space, right. A park, a plaza, a street in any city, especially in some cities more than others, there might be sensors around you. So, there might be cameras. There might be some of them might be private, but some of them could be owned by the city. For instance, some of them are monitoring things like air quality. Maybe some of them are trying to do like traffic counts to get a better idea of that street. And so, there are a lot of public private partnerships that deal with the management of things in spaces in a city. So, the city itself as a government might be working with a tech company in order to buy and then manage these sensors. So, what does that mean for you? Right. Your data might be gathered to that extent, it might be anonymized, it might be kept safe. But, you know, if you’re a normal person in a city, you may not even know any of this information. So, having some kind of policy in place and an understanding with the public of what the city is doing and prioritizing their privacy is super important. So, I’m doing a lot of investigatory research on other cities best practices, policy language and specific projects, and some of them didn’t go very well in some cities. So, we can learn a lot from how that negotiation happened so that Philadelphia can do better for its people.
Eve: [00:07:34] But I imagine the data that you collect can also teach you a lot. What does that look like?
Katrina: [00:07:40] Well, the government’s a big beast, and this is my first time working for a city government. And there’s a lot of bureaucracy behind the scenes, and there’s a lot that the city can and cannot do. So, normally I’m dealing with the people side, doing surveys or observing people in public space. I’m kind of a professional people watcher, so going behind the scenes, looking into these details, it still gets back to the people. But it’s hard sometimes to draw that line. You know, like the city is so focused on trying to put out fires literally all day, you know? And so, it’s really important to think about, okay, how does this impact the person on the ground and what kind of perception do they have about the city if this is or is not happening? Because a city as I advocate, as I give talks, because I also give a lot of talks about things not just everyday advocacy, but, you know, talks at conferences and so forth. The issue with our separation right now, with our divide, especially in this country, is about trust. You know, it’s hard for a normal person walking down the street to feel a level of trust and confidence in a city if there’s garbage everywhere. Right. You know that kind of an idea, that impacts everybody all the day, like all the time, every day. And you just might not think of it that way. But if you know, if you have a better understanding that the city is thinking about you and caring for your needs, then maybe that also makes you a better citizen, quote unquote. Right.
Eve: [00:09:07] So, I’m gathering fellow is a limited stint, right? You have a company called ThinkUrban. What type of projects were you doing there?
Katrina: [00:09:18] So, under ThinkUrban, which actually started as a blog way back in the day, somehow, I was one of the first sort of female urbanists blogging and again, really kind of trying to speak up about the subject before Twitter was very big, which makes me feel really old, but I’m not that old. But yeah, you know, ThinkUrban was a blog and I wanted it to be this sort of think tank, but really, it’s just my umbrella LLC for anything that I do, so, if I give talks or consultations in that way. So, I’ve worked on a couple of projects, like a grant funded project by the Knight Foundation for South Street here in Philadelphia as well. In that project, we basically did a lot of engagement, me and two partners, around the neighborhood, business owners and residents to try and Pedestrianize South Street. So, it’s a very like core commercial corridor.
Katrina: [00:10:15] There are a lot of different kinds of businesses. It has a huge history. It’s very famous. You know, people used to come to Philly and come to South Street along with the rest of the tourist attractions like Independence Mall and so forth. So, during the pandemic, there were so many outdoor activities like Parklets in the parking spaces for people to eat outside streateries or whatever they called them in each city. So, we look to see, can we make South Street an actual sort of thriving pedestrianized, outdoor, you know, like Main Street. It was the right time to try it. It was really successful in a lot of different ways; it is not permanently pedestrianized right now. It’s a very difficult process just in general. Again, now I understand that better from the city side, but that’s an example of something that we were trying to do.
Eve: [00:11:07] Interesting. So, over the years, is there a theme that’s emerged that really most interests you?
Katrina: [00:11:16] Yeah, Yeah, there sure is. And it’s really funny because I took a while for this theme to come out. Definitely, Women in Cities. I learned that from my workplaces and my personal experiences, my friends, really just paying attention more to who was in the limelight, like who is being featured, who’s being hired, who’s speaking, who has books, etc. And that’s predominantly men in the urbanist world. Whatever you’re looking at, architecture, planning, economics, etc. That’s basically all white men of a certain age or background, and that’s it. So, that’s a big piece of what I have focused on. It’s why I’ve been featured in things and why people want me to give talks and so forth. But moving beyond just gender equity, the thing that I’ve noticed the most, I’ve been to a bunch of different cities, I always observe wherever I am, basically every day too, just on the street what people are doing and also what people leave behind. You know, what people are writing, posting up in places like objects. Kind of like an everyday living archaeology. And the thing that I find the most in all places, that I think is really telling, is I just see little hearts, you know, just everywhere.
Katrina: [00:12:31] People just draw hearts all the time. Not just kids, you know what I mean. Like, people just think it’s kids, like hearts and smiley faces and stars, you know? But honestly, I see it carved into pavements, made in snow, even in pitch, like, literally, tar on the ground in Stockholm once, I found I heart you. And I just see all these, like, positive messages. And I think that, I think we lose track sometimes. We fall into a pattern of cynicism, and I think we lose this sentiment like we lose the feeling of a city and a feeling of our fellow humans in that way. And I think it’s important for us to remember that the core condition of human beings is kindness, that it’s not some kind of competition like we see today. It’s not really like this consumerism that we see today, we really do come together when we need to. And I think that we can be doing that every day in our cities.
Eve: [00:13:27] So, where does that lead you? What’s the next gig going to look like?
Katrina: [00:13:33] I feel like you just called me out.
Eve: [00:13:36] No, I mean, I’m still trying to wrap my head around, you know, urban anthropology. And it’s got to be useful because you’ve made a career out of it. So really, what would be the next gig for you?
Katrina: [00:13:48] Well, it is still challenging because even just direct observation, even just looking to see what people are doing and asking them what they’re feeling and thinking in a place before and after making changes to that place. That’s not standard. That’s not, it’s not built into the urban planning process. Like engagement is, but engagement can be a lot of different things, you know, and there are a lot of issues with that, too, and so…
Eve: [00:14:17] Because some people, if you engage, you know, if you have engagement, people will tell you that they want a certain thing or certain behavior, but it’s not actually the way they behave and they may not be aware of it. Is that what you mean by that?
Katrina: [00:14:30] Yeah, correct. And that’s very astute because not a lot of people really understand that a lot of what they’re doing is just an instinct. I mean, this is just an instinctive reaction. So, you know, unless you’re really in tune, and I also teach people this in terms of workshops and things like that, try being more in tune and then try putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s sort of a design thinking exercise, but like go into a plaza and just think, okay, where would I go in this place right now? Like, try not to think of it first, then try to think of it more overtly, then try to think of it in a different situation. And you’ll be really sort of, I think, pleasantly surprised by your reaction.
Katrina: [00:15:09] Because I’m a white female of a certain age, you know, and if I’m alone, etc., whatever, have you, there’s a lot of different things that come with me along with everybody else. We all have our biases and our experiences. So, my experience walking into that place, I’m like, oh, I don’t want to go over there. That looks like a creepy place, or I don’t even want to enter this place because there’s just literally just men in that space or something like that. Who knows? Or there’s nobody in that space like, okay, now I’m not going to go there either. But then you think about like, oh, what would I do if I was this kind of a person or whatever? What are the kids doing? Are there elderly individuals here? Like what are they doing and so on.
Eve: [00:15:46] So, I would think this would be enormously useful for all the public place planning that’s going on right now after the pandemic. There’s a wave of thinking about how to use public spaces. Are any architects or public space planners turning to urban anthropologists for help.
Katrina: [00:16:06] Thankfully, yes. And there are more larger architecture companies now and also real estate development companies. I mean, there’s also, depending on the world you’re in, obviously they blend together quite a bit in some cases. So, the larger companies, especially the international ones, do tend to have sort of research departments and research. It could be external research; it could be internal research onsite or for consulting projects. And those kinds of teams do have folks more in line with my experience, more of that multidisciplinary kind of approach to things. So, that’s definitely hopeful. And then there are a couple other companies that really do feature that very prominently in their work, like Gehl Architects is a great example, and they have from the beginning done that kind of observational work. They just call it behavior mapping. So, depending on where you’re at, that’s what it’s called.
Eve: [00:17:03] Yeah, I think it would really help because sometimes you walk into an urban space, and you wonder how it ever became that it’s really not a very pleasant space to be in.
Katrina: [00:17:13] Welcome to my life.
Eve: [00:17:15] Yeah.
Katrina: [00:17:17] It’s kind of a problem.
Eve: [00:17:19] So, okay, now I want to veer off on, I read one of your very provoking articles called “Urban Planning has a Sexism Problem,” where you write about the overwhelming Y-chromosome bias in the architecture and urban planning fields is that’s like been my life. I’ve certainly noticed that. How bad is that Y-chromosome bias?
Katrina: [00:17:43] Well, it’s pretty bad and it has been bad or the same for actually about 5,000 years, which is very interesting to think of it.
Eve: [00:17:53] That’s a long time.
Katrina: [00:17:53] It is. It’s not a long time in terms of like all of human evolution. So, technically speaking, there was a lot more time that it wasn’t like this. But, as I like to tell people, if you imagine that human evolution was like a clock, so like 24 hours of a day for literally the entirety of that day, from morning till night until about 11:30, actually it’s probably like 11:d59 and 30 seconds, like that, extremely small little click of the clock. Then we were in cities the entire rest of the time we were hunter gatherers, so we were constantly just like a normal sort of animal on this planet, moving around from place to place, a part of the ecosystems. And then suddenly we decided about 10,000 years ago to settle down. And there are various reasons people think that this happened.
Katrina: [00:18:45] But I mean, we basically, once we settled down, it just spread across the globe. And now we have settled down since then, and now we’re majority urban for the first time. But after the earliest cities, just the first ones where it was more like a commune, it seemed to be more gender equitable. It seemed to be less violent, or not violent. It had no major hierarchy. There was no commerce system. It was just literally like a commune. After that point, at some time, we then made larger cities. We had kings, we had wars, we created slavery, we created economies. And that’s the system that we’ve been living in for the last 5,000 years. So, no city now has ever been made or managed by primarily women. Every city on this planet has been just male dominated.
Eve: [00:19:37] So, any space I go into that’s a city space is likely to have been designed by a white man?
Katrina: [00:19:46] At the very least, it’s influenced by the status quo also. So, there are obviously more companies coming up that are women led or there are cities now that have women mayors and so forth. But really, the structure of the city as we see it today is based on sort of that ideal. It’s like the ideal family unit. This is the ideal city based on that male idea.
Eve: [00:20:12] But that’s long gone now, right? That family unit is not, no longer the majority family unit, right? So, things are changing rapidly.
Katrina: [00:20:20] Everything is now on the upswing from that other side, we’re about to crest a hill, as it were, and the majority of people are in this other new mindset, whatever it is, for the future of humanity. But we still have a long way to go because the built environment, as you know, with real estate, with buildings and so forth, that takes a long time to change.
Eve: [00:20:44] Well, even housing is out of the reach of most people. They want a starter home. So, I think we’re seeing more and more, you know, sort of fractional ownership of housing and people grouping together in ways that were just not seen 100 years ago, right?
Katrina: [00:21:02] Yeah. Yeah.
Eve: [00:21:04] So, you also said, you know, there’s this allergy to women led urbanism and further and outright resistance to urbanism led by women of color. I mean, how do we explain that? Like, surely, it’s not just because that’s the way it’s always been.
Katrina: [00:21:21] Yeah, but actually a lot of it does come down to change. I mean, we have a, we have a really excellent ability as humans to adapt. We are very adaptable and creative. I mean, like I like to say all the time, I like to remind myself and others, we created everything. We invented cities. We can reinvent them. It’s just a question of who is reinventing and making things and why, like what that purpose is, what their incentive is. And so, the fear of change, I think, is a fear that things will be worse than it is, because for a lot of people, for those folks in particular, those privileged individuals who have had that power up until now, it’s pretty good. You know, it works for them, and they’ve been able to make it to work for them. An excellent example is like, I love to use Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs as like this quintessential thing. I mean, most people know the story, but I see this story as really this like anti patriarchal battle.
Katrina: [00:22:19] I mean, she wasn’t just a little person against like a powerful individual. It was this woman, mother advocate, journalist against, you know, a non-elected, egotistical, power hungry, like, control freak and man. And he basically rewrote, like he literally redrew, lines in New York City to make it more convenient for him to live his life and for people like him to therefore live their lives. And so, the highway construction in the Bronx, the one that was not done away with by Jane Jacobs, that was not protested against in the same way, and it was lost. That cut through whole swaths of neighborhoods, of communities of color that were just destroyed for decades. And so, recovering from that is so difficult because you would have to tear down a highway again, you know, and rebuild.
Eve: [00:23:18] We have one of those in Pittsburgh.
Katrina: [00:23:22] Right. And we have them everywhere because of him. Like his influence was felt so far and wide because once people realize they could do that and get away with it and then have an easy commute, they did it.
Eve: [00:23:33] So, you and I believe that women can have a really positive influence in cities. And there’s been some women who have had that influence, like Jane Jacobs or Janette Sadik-Khan. I mean, her taking back of streets in New York City has certainly spread much wider than New York City, right. So, it’s possible and it’s happening. But still, we seem to be so resistant to women.
Katrina: [00:24:04] I know. And it’s, again, it’s easy to get cynical, it’s easy to feel, you know, sort of disparaged by it, I guess, which is why I think it’s really important to speak out about it. And I think it’s sort of like the elections. I think that’s probably the best example right now is like we need to be putting more people in these positions of power who are not what we have seen before. And that’s actually a whole diversity of individuals. It’s not just women as women identified, it’s also trans and non-binary individuals. It’s individuals with different abilities, you know, neurodivergent individuals and so forth. Like, there’s just so much diversity out there that can be infused into the process. And we know that a diversity of ideas and opinions and contributions is going to create a more positive output for everybody because all of that diversity will feed through and impact your life, even if you’re not on the same line as one of those individuals contributing. So, you know, I think they’re just afraid of not having the comfort. Yeah, and that change seems scary.
Eve: [00:25:16] So then, what can we do about this? How can we tackle these issues?
Katrina: [00:25:21] Well, the great thing about anthropology in particular, instead of just, you know, design or planning and so forth, is anthropology is actually really about culture. So, culture change is really about changing norms. And the word norms is now, it’s kind of an easier thing for us to understand, I think. But, you know, changing norms happens every day. Like we all literally impact each other every day in what we do. So, like if it’s just on the job, if it’s waiting for the bus, if it’s, you know, picking up your kid at school, whatever it is, you know, you are having an impact on the people around you. And it doesn’t have to be huge. It doesn’t have to be a stump speech every time. But it’s just that kind of like raising the bar on the expectations, right. So, if you have a position in your job where you actually can hire people or something like that, or you’re on a board and you have decision making abilities, that recruitment can be different, you can do a better job at that, right? So, that’s something that actually makes a huge difference because then that person is changing the culture of the place that you’re working in, which then impacts the product, whatever that might be. That’s like one example, right?
Eve: [00:26:39] That’s low hanging fruit, right?
Katrina: [00:26:40] Low hanging fruit. But at the same time, like a lot of that really does add up, you know, over time. And again, it’s like also stepping up into that position, like, you know, stepping up into that position of leadership or something like that. It’s just like run for something. You know, like if you have somebody in charge, then that is, you know, different and progressive and so forth, then they will be able to make things happen.
Eve: [00:27:06] So, who else, I mean, you’re tackling this, but do you have some examples of women or people of color who are tackling this particular issue?
Katrina: [00:27:16] Yes, I do reference this in the article, too, which was pre-pandemic, by the way. So, not to say that things have changed too much, but it’s all related. And I think streets are a really excellent way of thinking about this. Like you mentioned, Janette Sadik-Khan. The other one is Ada Colau, who is the first female mayor of Barcelona. And Barcelona is a wonderful city. It has a…
Eve: [00:27:40] It is, it’s fabulous.
Katrina: [00:27:41] It has this great old core but then it has this like modernist exterior, which was master planned, and very big blocks. And, you know, just, it’s very rectilinear, you know, or orthogonal. So, that whole system created a car centric situation because of the ease of getting around and so forth with those expectations. Ada Colau said, okay, no, we have too much pollution, air pollution, we have noise pollution. You know, cars are killing children. I mean, this is not, it’s not a joke, right? They’re very dangerous things on our city streets and they’re really not supposed to be there. And they’re very stressful for us as human beings in this environment. So, she made the bold choice as a woman speaking on behalf of a lot of these types of people in her city, to say this is better for everyone. I’m going to close down some of these streets. And so, they closed some of them down. They turn them into playgrounds, they put out benches. Of course, they have accessibility for local deliveries or individuals who need to use a car for mobility, that kind of a thing, but completely changed those streets, obviously. Superblock, they’re called super blocks. So, now air pollution…
Eve: [00:28:58] What’s her approval rating, you know?
Katrina: [00:29:00] Right? No, I know, right? But that’s the thing is, again, we’re so afraid of change until we experience it.
Eve: [00:29:05] Right.
Katrina: [00:29:06] I mean, once you actually realize, oh, like eating outside in this, that’s really nice, right? Not hearing car traffic all the time is actually really pleasant for my mental health. You know, once we experience it, then we like calm down a little bit. And that’s what we really need, is those kinds of people to take that bold step, just push it over the edge, just get people out of their comfort zone for a minute. And then after a little bit, they settle down and it’s okay. And it’s really no fault of anybody. This is just who we are as people. But Ada Colau will overtly say that this is an anti-patriarchal move that she’s making, that her motivations are that second class citizens, i.e. women, have not had the ability to do this until now.
Eve: [00:29:51] And they have an equal voice right.
Katrina: [00:29:53] Now she can, and now we can. And now we see what the repercussions of that are, which are, I mean, it’s just, it’s beautiful.
Eve: [00:30:00] That’s a great story. I haven’t been to Barcelona for a while. I’m going to have to go back there and check it out.
Katrina: [00:30:06] Yes.
Eve: [00:30:06] You also co-founded something called the Women-led Cities initiative, which sounds really fascinating. What is that?
Katrina: [00:30:15] Yeah. So, the article led to, and sort of my personal awareness of my own experiences, literally my bookshelf. I mean, it’s as simple as just, like, I just turned to look at my books, but like looking at your bookshelf and going, hang on a second, all of these were written by men. I have like five books written about cities by women, and most of them are about women and cities, because that’s what we have to talk about right now, right? So, which is great, but we have a long way to go. I get that. But in any case, the article led to starting this organization, also in Philadelphia, through a small grant to basically bring together women of different areas within the city, not just within city making, because I think that’s one of the other issues of the sort of, like, male-dominated city idea is just, it’s very linear, it’s very siloed and it’s very hierarchical. And its structure, which we can get to in a minute too. But this organization was meant to bring together women who were artists, who are advocates, who are also architects, of course, policy makers, you know, nonprofit leaders, people like that from a whole host of backgrounds, ages and experiences and so forth, just really talk about what a city is.
Katrina: [00:31:38] And so, this project had a couple of workshops in Philadelphia and then also did some workshops in other places like South by Southwest, again, all pre-pandemic. And I mean, basically the conclusion was that all of these women talking about a lovely city, it really is mostly the human centered, very tangible, not low tech, but just very hands-on normal experience that everybody wants. We want it to be calmer and quieter. Also bustling, of course, like a city is exciting, but we want to be less stressed. We don’t want to be like unsafe. We want to be safe, obviously. We want to have places to play, we want to have places to eat, we want to be able to ride a bike, we want to be able to walk places and have a diversity of options. I mean, it’s just, it’s literally what we all know that we need. It’s just that it’s not necessarily being done.
Eve: [00:32:34] So, can I join? Sounds great.
Katrina: [00:32:41] Thank you. No, I know. So, the project was ended also, like because of the, in part because of pandemic problems. And because, again, grant funding, you know, this kind of thing is very, it’s not a commercial enterprise. But the fun thing is, is that these kinds of groups had started to exist around the same time that I was doing mine and especially now. So, really, honestly, anybody could start something in their city that is sort of a women led X, Y, Z. I was even in Torino, in Turin, in northern Italy for a conference in October, just recently for Utopian Hours. I give a talk on all of these things we’re talking about, it was a wonderful experience and I had a lunch and got to meet the women in charge of basically, within focus, Turin, you know, as a city. And the woman in charge of that, Anna Pratt, basically the Janette Sadik-Khan of Milan and northern Italy, right? I mean she’s just done so much good work for that region and has now brought together women in the same way that I was doing, but completely independently. I mean, this is just, it’s clearly a need and it’s something that I really highly encourage.
Eve: [00:33:59] It’s just bubbling up.
Katrina: [00:34:00] Exactly. And I encourage everybody to start something like that if you can.
Eve: [00:34:04] So, what excites you most about the work you’re doing?
Katrina: [00:34:08] Oh, wow. That’s actually a hard question.
Eve: [00:34:11] It is a hard question. Sorry.
Katrina: [00:34:13] No, it’s okay. I’m just surprised it’s a hard question because I normally have an answer for everything. That’s just me personally. I think that any work that I’m doing, what really excites me is being able to potentially solve a problem. And, you know, I think it kind of, it sort of, honestly, it kind of is maddening to me personally when there is a solution to a problem that has happened already. You know something we’ve already figured out that we’ve done before or that somebody else has figured out that is just not being implemented. That’s my personal hell. Like if there is, if there’s a level of hell for me, it’s just everybody knowing the solution and nobody doing anything about it. So, which is really nerdy. That’s my… Anyway, I’m going to think about that later.
Katrina: [00:35:03] But the point being, you know, it just takes a little bit of time and thought. And then, of course, you need the leadership and willpower to push it forward. But, you know, it’s just like our ancient cities. I mean, if we have archaeological records and we’ve done this work, we can see that we once lived in whatever you want to call it, harmony. You know, we came together in this way, so why aren’t we doing it now? And I think asking those questions and just being really curious and thoughtful about coming up with some kind of, co-creating some kind of answer to that and some future that is better. Really, that’s my jam.
Eve: [00:35:48] Well, it’s really fascinating, and I can’t wait to see where you land next, because it sounds like the government gig is going to end and then you’ll be on to the next stage. So, I really appreciate the work you’re doing. I think it’s great. And it’s got me writing notes about women-led initiatives. There’s such a huge need.
Katrina: [00:36:08] I’m so glad.
Eve: [00:36:09] Really, women and minorities have been left so far behind, it makes me want to gasp. So, it’s pretty awful. So, thank you very much. And yeah, keep in touch. Let us know what else you’re doing.
Katrina: [00:36:24] Thank you so much. Take care.
Eve: [00:36:34] I hope you enjoyed today’s guest and our deep dive. You can find out more about this episode or others you might have missed on the show notes page at RethinkRealEstateforGood.co. There’s lots to listen to there. You can support this podcast by sharing it with others, posting about it on social media or leaving a rating and review. To catch all the latest from me you can follow me on LinkedIn. Even better, if you’re ready to dabble in some impact investing yourself head on over to wefunder.com/smallchange, where you can invest directly in Small Change and our mission to democratize capital formation to create impact in commercial real estate development. A special thanks to David Allardice for his excellent editing of this podcast and original music, and a big thanks to you for spending your time with me today. We’ll talk again soon. But for now, this is Eve Picker signing off to go make some change.
Image courtesy of Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman