WEBINAR: Marta Berbés-Blázquez on Urban Futures and Environmental Justice


On Thursday, the 1st of December 2022, the PECS working group on collaborative governance and management hosted another webinar: Michael Schoon invited Marta Berbés-Blázquez to talk about ‘Reimagining urban futures from the lens of environmental justice‘.

For the past decade, cities have been looking to nature-based solutions to combat environmental issues that impact the quality of life of city dwellers. This presentation will introduce a university-community partnership to improve greenspace in Phoenix, AZ. Greenspace is an important component of combating climate change in this desert city as native vegetation can provide cooling, among other benefits. In this project, a group of researchers from Arizona State University partnered with a school teacher from Academia del Pueblo, a middle school that serves predominantly Latinx and low-income students, to imagine better and greener futures for their community. Through the use of participatory action research techniques such as photovoice, scenarios, and storyboarding, middle school students named concerns and strengths of the community and envisioned desirable futures. The researchers call the process ‘barrio innovation’, which is an approach to innovation based on design thinking but rooted in and driven by community. In this presentation, Marta Berbés-Blázquez reflects on the journey, which is emergent and continuously co-evolving, and invites others to reflect on the power of anticipatory tools in community settings.

Dr. Marta Berbés-Blázquez is the Caivan Communities professor at the School of Planning and the Faculty of Environment at the University of Waterloo (Canada), where she is part of the Future Cities Initiative. Formerly, Dr. Berbés-Blázquez was an assistant professor at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University with whom she continues to collaborate on projects related to urban resilience in cities in the United States and Latin America. Broadly speaking, her research considers the human dimensions of environmental change in urban and regional social-ecological-technological systems with an emphasis on perspectives from marginalized populations. She is a co-lead of the Futures and Scenarios team of the Central Arizona Phoenix Long Term Ecological Research that engages with a variety of actors to envision positive urban futures in the Phoenix valley. Her international collaborations include work with the Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network, NATURA, and Biosphere Futures. Locally, she has developed a variety of research partnerships with community members and organizers to catalyze change toward environmentally just futures.

You can listen to the recording of the webinar here.

All other past webinars hosted on behalf of the PECS Collaborative Working Group are available here.

Text by Michael Schoon/ Upload by Johanna Hofmann