EcoDistricts Institute FAQ


What are EcoDistricts?

EcoDistricts are a comprehensive strategy to accelerate sustainable development at the neighborhood scale by integrating building and infrastructure projects with community and individual action.  They are an important scale to accelerate sustainability — small enough to innovate quickly and big enough to have a meaningful impact.

What is the EcoDistricts Institute?

The EcoDistricts Institute is a new executive level training and capacity building program for municipal and neighborhood community development leaders who want to develop integrated neighborhood-scale sustainable development projects (e.g. EcoDistricts) in their communities.

The program is built around PoSI's EcoDistricts Framework, which promotes a comprehensive approach to project development and collaboration among key local jurisdictions and key NGO, private sector and academic partners.  The two-day format includes a mix of interactive plenary sessions with expert practitioners in the field of urban planning and design, green infrastructure and project finance as well as facilitated work sessions with individual community teams to help construct specific EcoDistrict roadmaps.

The Institute is designed to be part of a comprehensive North American EcoDistricts pilot program to launch in late 2012.

Why an EcoDistricts Institute?

A growing group of municipal policy makers, urban designers and community development professionals recognize that the neighborhood is an important scale to test and implement “actionable” sustainability strategies.

However, there is a shortage of processes and tools created to support sustainable neighborhood development, requiring early adopter cities to go it alone. Implementation obstacles frequently have to do with a lack of information and institutional capacity to pursue sustainable strategies; the absence of collaboration among key sectors of government, private sector and NGO partners; the lack of consensus among community stakeholders; and conflicting or outdated laws, policies and regulations.

What will I learn?  What are the expected outcomes of the Institute?

The Institute trains key city, agency, utility and political leaders on PoSI’s comprehensive EcoDistricts implementation strategy.  This strategy emphasizes the integration of smart infrastructure, green buildings and community engagement and action.  It provides participants with an effective set of tools and best practices to promote integrated district planning and project development with an emphasis on key solution areas that include district utilities (e.g., energy, water and waste), multi-modal and smart transportation infrastructure, people and behavioral systems (i.e., demand management), and urban ecosystem services to name a few.

Each of the participating communities will:

  1. Learn about successful EcoDistrict engagement strategies and governance structures
  2. Be introduced to PoSI’s EcoDistrict Performance Areas and Assessment Method
  3. Learn about green neighborhood development best practices
  4. Begin to frame key project opportunities including finance and policy options to support implementation
  5. Network among leading municipal and community development innovators
  6. Develop a high level roadmap for the creation of a local EcoDistrict pilot

Who will be there?  Who are the faculty?

The Institute is open to municipal teams from across North America that have an interest and commitment to developing a green neighborhood development strategy in their community. PoSI is bringing together leading planning, design, infrastructure development and public policy experts in green neighborhood implementation as faculty and training facilitators. A final list of faculty members will be available 3-4 weeks ahead of the Institute.

    Will the Institute focus specifically on the EcoDistricts model or will other models and frameworks be discussed?

    The Institute will emphasize the following: 1) integrated green neighborhood development best practices and strategies and 2) PoSI’s EcoDistrict framework (approach, toolkits and lessons from Portland’s EcoDistrict pilot program).

    Will there be subject matter experts on hand to help assess the technical feasibility or challenges of cities' sustainability projects?

    Yes.  As part of our application and selection process, we will survey applicant teams about what type of assistance they need. This input will help refine the agenda and faculty.

    Can an academic, corporate or heatlhcare campus participate?

    Yes, but institutional applicants should have key municipal and neighborhood partners participate as applicable. For example, both Oregon Health and Science University and Portland State University are major landowners in two of Portland’s EcoDistrict pilots. Although they are driving much of the implementation, each institution works closely with neighborhood interests and city development, utility, and planning agencies.


    What are you looking for in the application?  What are the evaluation criteria?

    We are looking for teams deeply committed to developing EcoDistrict projects in their community.  A neighborhood’s momentum and potential will be important evaluation criteria. We will evaluate applications based on the strength of team members from the city (bureau directors, senior managers, etc) and the neighborhood (local CDC, business associations, etc).  In addition, projects will be selected to create a diverse mix of projects at the Institute (location, size, type).

    How many projects will be selected for the EcoDistricts Institute?

    We will select between eight and ten project teams.

    What information does my team need to provide?

    1. Provide pilot EcoDistrict Neighborhood Information
      For this question, please provide a description, boundaries, and key demographics for your district.  District maps, historical and contextual information, local governance, relationship with city, district assets and types of stakeholders are all helpful and important information.
    2. Describe why you’ve selected this neighborhood
      Why will your neighborhood be a success story? What makes the timing right for your project? Describe why your district has potential to make progress.
    3. What sustainability activities are currently underway in the selected neighborhood?
      Please provide plans, city involvement, or district designations (urban renewal area, business district, etc.)  Include any signs of momentum in your district such as community engagement or change of ownership.
    4. List the Project Leadership Team
      Describe leadership roles in the district/city for each team member and provide a primary point of contact to coordinate the team. The application may come from city staff or neighborhood leaders. Teams must include 4-5 senior officials and practitioners who have authority in the district. Below are examples of Leadership Team candidates:
      1. Senior municipal sustainability official
      2. Senior public redevelopment official
      3. Senior municipal and/or private gas, electric or water management utility official
      4. Senior land use planning official
      5. Senior transportation official
      6. Key neighborhood leaders (up to two).  Examples include business improvement districts, community development corporations and neighborhood associations.
    5. Provide 3 letters of support from key partners and stakeholder groups
      Community support for an EcoDistrict is very important to its success.  Letters are not included in the five-page application limit.
    6. Would you be interested in participating in a North American EcoDistricts pilot program to support implementation of an EcoDistrict pilot in your community?
      We are pursuing funding for a technical assistance program to help cities implement their neighborhood strategy through the EcoDistricts framework. More details will be available closer to the Institute.
    7. What type of programmatic assistance would be most useful to you?
      Please list what type of assistance would be most useful to you. It is helpful to describe the barriers your project is facing. Possible types of assistance might include: community engagement, governance, policy, and/or technical project expertise.


    I have travel restrictions from my city, how can you help me work around them?

    PoSI is providing a $500 stiped per person to help mitigate travel restrictions.  Please contact with additional questions about costs.

    What if I want to arrive late or leave early due to scheduling conflicts?

    Teams are required to attend the entire EcoDistricts Institute.

    Once our team is selected, how long do we have to accept?

    You will have one week to accept our invitation.  Each member of the Leadership Team will have to confirm attendance via email by April 13th.

    Critical Dates

    • March 16th: Deadline for submissions
    • April 4th: Participating cities selected
    • April 13th: Deadline for cities to accept
    • May 8-10: EcoDistricts Institute

    Where should we direct questions about the application?

    Please email questions to or reach her at 503.922.1661.