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The Center for Sustainable Communities conducts research and provides leading practice training and technical assistance for local government stakeholders.

Attendees at a SunShot SolarOPS workshop

Current Projects

National Brownfields Conference 
SunShot Solar Outreach Partnership
Local Government Environmental Assistance Network 
ICMA 311/CRM Technical Assistance Services
Advancing Social Equity Goals to Achieve Sustainability
Small Towns, Rural Communities and Sustainability
Local Food Systems
Choice Neighborhoods 
Energy Star and Local Governments 
CharMeck Community Sustainability Plan Feasibility Study

Sustainable Communities Fellowship Program

Similarly, other ICMA units also work with federal agencies and other funders on sponsored sustainable communities work.  ICMA International's CityLinks program is focused on climate change, food security and water and sanitation projects in the developing world.

Project Archive

Brownfields, Smart Growth, and Land Revitalization

Brownfields Research and Outreach--Beginning in the 1990s and continuing through 2004, ICMA developed many seminal publications on brownfields cleanup and redevelopment appropriate for local government decision makers and practitioners.  Various projects were funded by EPA's Office of Brownfields and Land Revitalization and focused on such topics as environmental justice, 

National Brownfields Conference--Starting in 2003, EPA selected ICMA to be the lead non-federal cosponsor through two cooperative agreements (2003-2008 and 2009-2011).  During this time conferences were held in Portland, OR (2003); St. Louis, MO (2004); Denver, CO (2005); Boston, MA (2006); Detroit, MI (2008); New Orleans, LA (2009); and Philadelphia (2011).  Under ICMA's leadership, the conference has grown from less than 3,000 registrants to featuring more than 7,000 attendees, 200 exhibitors and more than 100 educational sessions.  In conjunction with the conference, ICMA also manages an exhibit hall and trade show as well as a sponsorship program.  ICMA continues as the lead non-federal for future conferences.

New York State Brownfields Workshops--In partnership with Empire State Development, ICMA organized two statewide training workshops on New York's new brownfields law.  The workshops were held in Syracuse and Schenectady and were attended by several hundred registrants.

Brownfields Technical Assistance and Green Building Training for Women in the Construction Trades--With funding support from EPA's Office of Brownfields and Land Revitalization, ICMA developed a training curriculum for the City of Portland that was designed to help apprentices in a program run by the Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc. The training helped support the redevelopment of a corner gas station that was being converted into a neighborhood center.

Smart Growth Network—ICMA supported the Smart Growth Network through several cooperative agreements with EPA’s Office of Smart Growth (now the Office of Sustainable Communities).  Through these contracts, ICMA developed several seminal publications that are still widely used by smart growth practitioners around the United States and the world, including:

ICMA’s smart growth program reached out to local governments and communities to promote awareness, understanding, and leading practices. ICMA served as the organizational “home” of the Smart Growth Network (SGN), a partnership of more than 40 organizations dedicated to principles of smart growth and to fostering development policies that promote economically and environmentally sustainable growth. In this capacity, ICMA recruited SGN members and coordinated membership, produced Getting Smart!, the quarterly SGN newsletter, and provided information and technical assistance to facilitate the implementation of smart growth in communities across the country.   ICMA also developed several trainings and symposia on Smart Growth.

Community Building and Revitalization in Saginaw, Michigan --With funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, ICMA worked with the City of Saginaw, Michigan to promote citizen engagement and community revitalization.  The project involved multiple community meetings and visioning sessions to discuss and plan new approaches for community improvement.

Best Practices to Enhance the Transportation Land Use Connection in the Rural United States --  A research team from ICMA and the Renaissance Planning Group worked with an advisory panel of experts from across the country to identify innovative approaches to addressing rural community needs by integrating transportation and land use planning. The final report is availalbe on the Transportation Research Board's website.

Healthy Communities

Leadership for Healthy Communities--ICMA was involved in Leadership for Healthy Communities, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, formerly known as Active Living Leadership. The goal of the program was to support state and local government leaders in efforts to reduce childhood obesity through public policies that promote active living, healthy eating, and access to healthy foods.  Local governments play an influential role in improving residents’ access to healthy foods and their ability to be physically active through a range of policies and program as well as with their land use and zoning authority.  ICMA supported government leaders in their efforts to create and implement policies, programs, and places that achieve these goals. ICMA partnered with the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the American Association of School Administrators (AASA) to promote collaboration among local governments and schools in their efforts to combat childhood obesity.

In addition to articles, educational sessions, trainings and a periodic e-newsletter, ICMA produced two publications:

Public Engagement Demonstration Project: Pandemic Flu Preparedness -- Pandemic influenza planning requires making difficult decisions about several important topics. Many of these decisions are values-oriented as opposed to technical in nature and there is often no “scientifically right” answer which can be put forth. For example, pandemic planners must decide who should first be vaccinated in the early days of a pandemic when vaccine supplies will be limited.  ICMA partnered with the Meridian Institute with funding from the Centers for Disease Control to provide technical assistance and direct services to state and local public health officials, and other community stakeholders in the states of Washington and Hawaii who will be carried out the public engagement activities related to pandemic influenza flu planning.  The outcome of this process was a collective public viewpoint or societal perspective on the preferred option to move forward on the decision in question.

Water Resources

The Value of Water -- Red Oak Consulting and ICMA, were selected by the American Water Works Association Research Foundation (AwwaRF) to identify benefits, key messages, and techniques for successfully communicating the true value of water to stakeholders, including appointed and elected officials.  ICMA conducted a series of interviews and focus groups among local government leaders and decision makers (elected and appointed officials) to: (1) understand their perceptions and knowledge about the true value of water (2) identify current leading efforts/strategies that effectively communicates the value of water to the public by the utilities and local government decision makers; (3) identify needs for improving communication of the value of water to the public by the utilities and decision makers; and (4) discern the challenges for improving communications among local decision makers and utilities. 

Security Training and Technical Assistance Medium Sized Community Water Systems--With funding from EPA, ICMA  assisted community water systems in their capacity to conduct vulnerability assessments and emergency response planning through 15 training workshops held throughout the United States.  

Chesapeake Bay Program and Local Government Engagement--ICMA facilitated local government involvement in the Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) through the Local Government Advisory Committee (LGAC), the Bay Local Government Information Network (Bay LOGIN), and other mechanisms, and has provided technical assistance to local officials throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. ICMA’s efforts have provided resources for local officials to implement the Local Government Participation Action Plan (LGPAP) and fulfill their crucial responsibilities for the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay.

Technology, Innovations and Engagement

Employee Mobility and Sustainability--In partnership with Runzheimer International, ICMA coordinated a project that was focused on innovative strategies for local governments to manage their mobile employees and mobility assets.  The project included focus groups and a "management perspective" entitled Mobile Workforce Management

Shared Services and Inter-Municipal Agreements--With funding from ICMA Strategic Partner, HR Green, ICMA coordinated a project that included a survey on strategies that communities are using to become more financially stable.

311 and CRM Systems--The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation funded ICMA to conduct a multi-year research project on 311 and customer relationship management systems.  Funding from the foundation resulted in anumber of publications and resources for local government managers