Institute for Environmental Negotiation

Empowering communities to create shared solutions

Transforming Community Spaces: Bending the Arc of Memory Towards Healing and Justice

All over the world we see increasing conflicts over monuments, memorials, building names, and other sites identified with histories of harm such as violence, slavery, colonialism, and environmental disaster. Communities everywhere are struggling over whether to leave such spaces alone, alter, or reclaim them in entirely new ways. IEN’s Transforming Community Spaces (TCS) project, founded in 2016 to address these challenges, has had an active year in no small part thanks to contributions from several representatives from UVA's School of Architecture. 

IEN convened two meetings of the TCS national advisory committee, in December 2017 and May 2018. Robust, intense, and enlightening dialogue about history, design, cultural landscapes, and conflict, has informed the development of a draft toolkit for communities and institutions. Beth Meyer and Louis Nelson contributed substantially to these conversations as did alum Harriet Jameson Brooks, who drafted part of the Toolkit. 

The TCS pilot, “Charlottesville Acts for Racial Equity (CARE)”, got off the ground this spring with a packed forum titled “Confronting Racial Injustice in Housing and Neighborhoods.” This forum provided an opportunity for community members to connect with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and Charlottesville Low Income Housing Coalition. 

A pilot TCS training was held in early June in conjunction with a conference of professionals in environment and public policy conflict resolution. 27 people spent a day learning of the nature of conflict over these sites, cultural humility, trauma-informed facilitation, and other topics. IEN plans to expand a network of facilitators who can help communities and institutions design and convene inclusive, transparent, well-informed processes that lead to new understandings and new possibilities. In so doing, communities and institutions will be able to address contested spaces in ways that bring the community closer together, more connected to one another, and more caring of one another, than before. 

The Toolkit will be available online by the end of summer.