CNT’s ideas have been implemented, replicated, and shared across the country, from DC to Portland, Arkansas to Cleveland. Now, our thinking has gone global. We recently had the privilege of sharing our work with Nasrullah Thahim, founder and Executive Director of the Sustainable Environment and Development Foundation (SEDF) in Pakistan’s Sindh province.
While in the United States, Nasrullah learned firsthand about the approach to sustainable economic development that CNT articulated in Prospering in Place—specifically, how integrating housing, job centers, and transportation options increases neighborhood affordability and grows the economy in an environmentally resilient way. His time here was filled with visits to a variety of agencies and organizations with which CNT collaborates on our community development work. Nasrullah was present for Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle’s launch of the Planning for Progress initiative, an innovative strategic planning process to combine the County’s Consolidated Plan for federal housing programs and Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy for economic development investments.
He also attended the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) Illinois state conference, where he listened to Rockford Mayor Lawrence Morrissey argue that job creation occurs at the human scale—not through major tax giveaways to factories and big box stores, but through investments in technology incubators, neighborhood markets, small-scale entrepreneurs, and education.
Perhaps most influential was the Capital Absorption Workshop that Living Cities convened to assess why the Chicago region lags in encouraging transit-oriented development, which offered Nasrullah an opportunity to experience a transparent discussion between local officials, advocates, and developers. The workshop inspired Nasrullah to propose a similar event in his country titled Making Cities Prosper through Engagement of Government, Civil Society, and Economic Development Planners. If accepted, the workshop will apply our approach to sustainable economic development to manage rapid urban growth in Hyderabad, one of Sindh’s largest cities.
Although Sindh province is home to dense urban areas like Hyderabad and Karachi, the most populous city in Pakistan, SEDF works primarily with Sindh’s sizeable rural population to help them prepare climate change adaptation strategies. As Nasrullah reminded us during his time here, developing nations are least responsible for climate change but most exposed to its potentially devastating effects. SEDF’s activities take a broad range of forms, from policy advocacy and housing development to community engagement on climate change to increasing capacity for disaster response.
Nasrullah’s stay in Chicago provided an invaluable opportunity to exchange different international approaches to shared issues of globalization, unchecked sprawl, and climate change. We hope that the ideas he brought back from CNT will be of value in SEDF’s efforts to help the Sindh province manage urbanization and mitigate climate change. Through the work of SEDF, CNT, and the countless other environmental organizations across the globe, we can preserve our planet and grow the economy to sustain prosperity for people of all backgrounds and incomes.