Sustainable Communities
Capacity Center

Economic DevelopmentPlanning & Land UseEco-MunicipalityEnergy
Climate ChangeAgriculture & Natural ResourcesConsumer ChoicesCommunity Stories




Return to Tool Box

Tool BoxCommunity Development

While a growing number of community initiatives are emerging to address sustainability, there is often no clear understanding of how they can or should relate to each other. Community development must make the most strategic use of limited resources. It should know where to start and how to compare the alternatives. Communities need to determine the appropriate roles for the private and not-for-profit sectors. Communities need to build the capacity to understand and move toward sustainability on their own. This section will include links with information to provide answers to these questions, offer a variety of approaches for communities to consider, and provide examples.

For additional information regarding Community Development, contact Sustainability Team members:
  • Local Initiatives Support Corporation – Green Development Center
    LISC is the largest organization that supports community development in the United States. This web page focuses on sustainable development and communities.

  • Sustainable Floridians Master Volunteer Program
    The mission of this organization is to train a corps of volunteer to deliver information to residents on the significance of sustainability, on the value of lifestyle choices and its impact on the environment, and on the challenge to share the responsibility for protecting Earth’s limited resources.

  • Business, Environment and Social Responsibility
    The mission of the Business, Environment & Social Responsibility Program is to provide students, executives, and organizations with education, knowledge and practice tools to become leaders and drive innovation in sustainable enterprise.

  • Green Infrastructure
    Green infrastructure is an approach that communities can take to maintain healthy waters, provide multiple environmental benefits and support sustainable communities.

  • A Short Guide to Setting Up a City-Scale Retrofit Program
    This guide, which was developed by Green for All and the Center on Wisconsin Strategies (COWS) and released in July 2009, provides a model for cities to design and implement large-scale weatherization and retrofitting programs that address climate change, put people to work, and reduce working families' energy bills.

  • Climate Protection Toolkit for Small Communities
    International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) - Local Governments for Sustainability has released a free resource to help communities with 25,000 people or fewer launch and maintain climate, energy, and sustainability initiatives. ICLEI's Small Communities Toolkit provides detailed resources, case studies, and insight to help small communities succeed despite limitations of staff and funding. The toolkit helps smaller communities understand how to take advantage of their significant opportunities.

  • Land-Use Planning for Sustainable Development (Sustainable Community Development Series)
    by Jane Silberstein and Chris Maser (June 2000)
    Publication Index

  • Sustainable Living Handbook: A Citizen’s Guide to Thoughtful Action
    Produced by Oregon State University’s College of Forestry, this 28 page PDF introduces the concept of sustainable living, discusses the barriers to sustainable living and provides activities that help the reader identify personal values, and to incorporate sustainable behavior into decision-making.

  • Community Commons
    Community Commons is an interactive mapping, networking, and learning utility for the broad-based healthy, sustainable, and livable communities’ movement. Registered users have free access to:
    * Over 7000 GIS data layers at state, county, zip code, block group, tract, and point-levels.
    * Contextualized mapping, visualization, analytic, impact and communication tools and apps.
    * Searchable profiles of hundreds of place-based community initiatives (multi-sector collaboratives) working towards healthy/sustainable/livable/equitable communities - funded by government and private philanthropy - complete with text & video narratives on "what's working."
    * Peer learning forums in the "interactive commons" with colleagues exploring similar interests and challenges - hosted by leading national Technical Assistance providers.
    The Commons is a democratized learning and innovation platform for:
    * enhancing the reach and impact of currently-funded place based investments;
    * applying an asset-based approach to help grow and sustain impact once the funding is over;
    * and supporting communities of highest burden who neither have grant financing, nor cohorts.
    Community Commons is an initiative of Advancing the Movement, and powered by Institute for People, Place and Possibilities (IP3). In-kind and technical support has come from scores of individuals and organizations around the nation.

  • What, Really, is the Commons?
    An article by Jay Walljasper in

top of page

Community Assets Mapping, Creative Communities and Economies, and Building Local Capacity

  • HUD Guide on Assets Mapping
    A HUD guide Connecting to Success: Neighborhood Networks and Asset Mapping Guide– an 18 page PDF.

  • Mapping the Assets of your Community: A Key Component for Building Local Capacity
    A 14 page PDF Instructors Guide from the University of Nebraska.

  • Community and Culture Builders
    The web site for Community and Culture Builders an organization that works with neighborhoods to create collaborative and sustainable communities. This is also the link to the book: The Creative Community Builder’s Handbook, by Tom Borrup. 

  • Publications Page from Communities and Culture Builders
    This link leads to a publications page with PDFs on creative economy and creative community building topics.

  • Creative Economy: A Feasible Development Option
    A 423 page PDF from the United Nations (2010) that contains chapters on creativity, cultural economics, the creative economy, creative cities, creative goods and services as world exports, Millennium Development Goals as related to creativity, and more.

  • New Dream Guide to Sharing
    The first guide in the New Dream Community Action Kit is all about sharing: everything from starting a tool library to organizing a solar cooperative, from holding a clothing swap to launching a time bank.

  • New Start Magazine – The Magazine for Making Better Places
    New Start was named magazine of the year in 2003 and won team of the year in 2009. The title has been part of Manchester (UK) based Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) since October 2010 and is now published as an online magazine and monthly ezine.

  • Smart Communities Network
    Sustainable success stories from Renew America's "Environmental Success Index." Renew America, a Washington DC nonprofit organization, has developed a rigorous data collection and verification program to select some of most innovative sustainable development programs in the United States. Web pages include an Overview, Land Use Planning, Green Building, Transportation, Resource Efficiency, Sustainable Business and Municipal Energy.

  • Social Innovation eXchange
    Under the umbrella of Social Innovation, this web site explores homelessness, higher education, and economic degrowth and a variety of other articles related to sustainability and/or social innovation. This is a hub for European social innovation, but applicable information for any country.

  • Institute for Sustainable Communities
    The Institute for Sustainable Communities provides people the tools and skills they need to inspire citizenship, protect the environment and take on climate change. ISC's mission is to help communities around the world address environmental, economic, and social challenges to build a better future shaped and shared by all. The Institute works with communities on climate resiliency, developing vibrant communities and to address energy efficiency, sustainable economies and climate disruption.

    Pronounced “haystack” this web site provides a consortium of humanists, artists, social scientists, scientists, and engineers committed to new forms of collaboration across communities and disciplines fostered by creative use of technology.

  • International Centre for Art and Social Change
    CASC is a global centre for networking, training, professional development, research and community outreach in the burgeoning field of art for social change. ICASC is also a hub where people working for progressive change in fields such as health, social justice and human rights, environmental education and community economic empowerment, can learn about the many ways that art for social change practices can be used as highly-effective tools in their work.

top of page


Return to Capacity Center

Tool Box



Sustainability Team Information


Contact Sustainability Team: