Greening the Rust Belt

R2G’s Process and Practices

R2G’s Action Research Process R2G NY uses participatory action research and place based design and planning methods which are, in and of themselves, “asset” building. Such approaches create scaffolding for democratic engagement, experimentation and innovative decision-making and action and are consistent with the fundamental concepts of sustainability: public engagement, transparency, ecological democracy and “green governance”.

Our work is framed by specific theories and practices, but is unbounded by our specializations and disciplines. We feel that one of the greatest contributions we can make is to play a role in knitting together, cultivating and mounting actions across scales and arenas. Different people, skill-sets, knowledge, research and action is needed for every project and through collaborative efforts we strengthen our ability to problem-solve, innovate and capacity build while connecting solutions to real places and contexts.  Therefore, R2G’s work is as much concerned with the processes that generate and foster resilience and sustainability as it is with its actionable projects and products.

R2G’s linked process and product approach is iterative and emergent and at times can even be messy and unpredictable.  When both “products” and “processes” emerge from community interaction and a deep dialogue with a place itself, the combined insights and contributions of both local and professional knowledge stand to dramatically alter and direct what gets produced.  In such a context, the “design” of products and processes to foster short and long-term decision-making- such things as scenario planning, for example- may be seen as even more valuable than the methods - like conventional master plans- that designers and planners often uncritically appropriate when working in, rather than with, communities.

Guiding Theories and Practices:

Community Based Participatory
Action Research
Community Based Participatory Action Research (PAR) identifies and implements action steps in concert with the community as a part of the research goal.

Placemaking regards the activity and process of making places as a "co-practice" collectively shared by all people- professional and non-professional alike. It also denies that planning and design expertise is privileged over all other forms of knowledge in any process of making or reimagining ones future. Placemaking asks professionals and non-professionals to "learn together," and exchange knowledge in the process of addressing a community's needs and challenges.

Places are dynamic, processual and complex totalities comprised of relational networks and flows interweaving inhabitants, over time, with the environments they shape and that in turn shapes them.

Livable cities are affordable, socially equitable,  environmentally sustainable, healthy, economically  vital, regenerative places that foster democratic citizenship and citizenry.

Sustainable Design
Sustainable Design integrates human and natural systems, developing new methods for constructing infrastructure and processes that promote a better quality of life for current and future generations.

Green Infrastructure
Green Infrastructure consists of conscientiously planned networks of functioning landscapes that preserve natural systems. Examples include: open spaces, wildlife corridors, porous surfaces and cleansing water systems.

Urban Resilience
Urban Resilience is a city's ability to withstand and adapt to change, under the understanding that they are susceptible to variances and disruptions.

Ecological Design Intelligence
Ecological Design  Intelligence includes  sensitivity to the many scales, micro and macro, of ecological systems and the way they interact with one another.

Academic Service-Learning
Academic Service-  Learning: a teaching and  learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities. (

Community based participatory research identifies and implements action steps in concert with community as part of the research goal. Here, R2G Civic Research interns work with community members to create a map of the dynamic social networks and patterns throughout the city.

Monday Nite Events in the Genesse Ally activate public space and bring people together, building community and social networks.

Community members participate in the making of mural. Actively involving the public in the creation of public space fosters place attachement and strengthens community investment in place.