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Creating Inclusive Public Spaces: Lessons from Barcelona and Beyond for Local Leaders in the United States

Access to quality parks and other public spaces can unlock numerous economic, environmental, and mental and physical health benefits. However, millions of Americans, particularly people of color and people with low incomes, lack sufficient access to quality parks and green space. The COVID-19 pandemic has both underscored the urgent need for equitable access to public spaces and created a rare opportunity to adopt innovative approaches to long-standing challenges.

Communities aren’t starting from scratch, however. Innovative approaches from around the world, like Barcelona’s “superblocks” model, are helping people reimagine public space. In so doing, these models are inclusively transforming access and maximizing benefits for residents. Lessons from such innovative policies and programs can inform ongoing efforts by local leaders in the US.

Join the Urban Institute for a virtual event exploring Barcelona’s model and how lessons from Barcelona and elsewhere relate to efforts underway in cities across the US. This session goes beyond reviewing policy language and design decisions to focus on thorny questions of political will, inclusive processes, social cohesion and resiliency, and measuring and communicating impact.

This conversation builds on a recent Urban Institute brief, “From Streets to Citizen Spaces,” and is part of a larger project identifying lessons from abroad for an inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.



  • Matthew Eldridge, Policy Program Manager, Research to Action Lab, Urban Institute
  • Maria Sisternas, Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer, Mediaurban
  • J. Nicholas Williams, Director, Oakland Department of Parks, Recreation, and Youth Development
  • Sam Zimbabwe, Director, Seattle Department of Transportation
  • Kimberly Burrowes, Technical Assistance Manager, Research to Action Lab, Urban Institute (moderator)


Support for this event is provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. For more information on the Urban Institute’s funding principles, go to

We strive to host inclusive, accessible events that enable all individuals, including individuals with disabilities, to engage fully. Please email [email protected] if you require any accommodations or have any questions about this event.

Image credit: Ave Footage/Shutterstock


Date & Time Thursday, November 18, 2021

  • Training and Technical Assistance Senior Manager
  • Senior Policy Program Manager