Stuart Cohen

Ashoka Fellow
Oakland, California, United States
Fellow Since 2010


This profile was prepared when Stuart Cohen was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2010.
The New Idea
Stuart sees that creating vibrant, healthy and affordable communities requires bringing together diverse stakeholders to achieve systematic change at many scales. His first victories were at a regional scale, leading efforts for a smart growth visioning and winning billions for public transportation. The smart growth vision pointed to a better way and was quickly replicated in other major regions of California. Stuart then built diverse campaigns and partnered with agencies to raise over $6 billion toward new public transit, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and affordable homes near transit.

Stuart and his team are now creating new tools and incentives to align the needs of citizens and neighbors, city planners and developers. The first major effort is to make community voices a constructive heart of planning a neighborhood’s future, and help avoid the oppositional dynamics that blunt progress. Through the Great Communities Collaborative, tools, training, and technical assistance help neighbors identify not just what they want to preserve, but what they may want to make more complete communities, whether safer streets, parks, or more services like health or childcare facilities.

A more recent innovation is a third-party certification for buildings, called GreenTRIP, which supports cities and developers that plan for low-traffic, low-carbon developments. GreenTRIP certification is given to projects that are designed to cut traffic, with incentives like free transit passes or CarSharing on-site, instead of excessive parking. This certification helps foster community support to get the best developments approved while giving property owners a marketing edge. Having emerged from pilot projects in the Bay Area, Stuart’s team is now spreading the approach to other regions in California, where the policy environment is supportive, and then to other parts of the country.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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