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by Alexandra J Tohme

A toolkit for realizing opportunity and managing risk

Tanya Watts, Director of Neighborhood Affairs at our PHX-JAX Arts + Innovation District, leading community engagement activities to learn from locals on aspirations and needs for their city.

What is the approach?

At Future of Cities we believe Regenerative Placemaking is the transformative approach to development for our cities and the built environment to change course and maximize returns and impact.

For this reason, we are developing a unique Framework rooted in three pillars that catalyze the development process: To first understand the local community, nature and culture in the area in which you work. Then, work to engage, empower and uplift the talent, knowledge, skills, design, ecology and activations within these pillars, to co-create solutions.

This is the foundation for equitable and regenerative development.

Art installations at PHX-JAX

If we start with humility, an opening arises to learn about bountiful opportunities from the local community, nature and culture. Our FOC methodology provides strategies and outreach guides to learn about your “place” of operation, and unlock the vast socio-economic benefits that can be reached.

When it comes to risk management, we have learned that projects have much less control than one realizes, and a simple mismanagement could threaten its success. Respecting and honoring this will actually empower you, as a project manager or investor — to realize the incredible power and capability that local communities, nature, and cultures have to elevate your investment and impact.

Founder and CEO of Cho Ventures, Tony Cho

Our toolkit tackles policy challenges such as how to coordinate with civil society, and engage community leaders and groups in decision-making and project design. We also promote creating jobs in the locality, providing education on innovative nature-based solutions, and engaging youth, to name a few.

We showcase examples that demonstrate lessons learned, and how it can be implemented in different settings.

Rather than starting at the point of problems, Future of Cities is focusing on identifying opportunities within any areaAs a global community we’ve been looking at and trying to solve “problems” for decades, and they just end up repeating themselves.

We believe in the great knowledge, solutions and growth found in local communities, ecosystems, and cultures. The possibilities reveal themselves when you unlock this secret sauce: Moreover, the risks are diminished, and resiliency against unforeseen shocks are built in.


Become a Regenerative Placemaker and join in co-creating the future of cities with us as we work together towards a more regenerative future.

Subscribe to our newsletter at to get involved, email me at: and follow us on Instagram.

Future Of Cities

Alexandra J Tohme — Research & Partnership Manager

by Alexandra J Tohme

Regenerative Placemaking involves re-igniting our relationships with the natural environment, with our neighbors and communities, and cultural heritage.

Future of Cities (FOC) is developing the “Regenerative Placemaking Framework” to guide urban developers, planners, architects, sustainability experts, mayors, real estate investors and more — for all those who have a role to play in the regenerative development of the built environment. This toolkit is meant to serve as a guide, scorecard and standards framework to ensure that the maximum potential of any project can be reached for environmental, social, economic and cultural benefits.

Our framework is centered upon three core pillars for development: community, nature and culture — which act as the foundation to development, and starting point to delve into 11 issue areas (and many more) for innovative policy solutions. On the one hand, we note that all issue areas have interconnection with other areas and policy domains. And on the other: the 11 is not an exhaustive list, but an example of critical issues facing the areas we (and our partners) work in.

Community 𑇐 Nature 𑇐 Culture

Community Engagement Activities at PHX-JAX to hear from and learn from local residents on the aspirations, concerns, and dreams for their neighborhood.

In fact, what we promote — is for policymakers and project managers to work with local communities, ecosystems and cultures in order to identify the priority issue areas that should be addressed in the first place. Each locality has its own set of needs and aspirations — our toolkit helps you find out what those priorities are.

“Regenerative Placemaking is a development approach that protects existing neighborhoods by co-creating sustainable, eco-friendly and inclusive projects, emphasizing participatory planning, cross-sector collaboration and financial prosperity for the community.”

Our Framework is promoting this methodology in order to reach the greatest investment returns and impact on social, economic, environmental and cultural levels.

Community engagement initiatives by our Phoenix Jax team at the PHX Arts + Innovation District in Jacksonville, FL

To do this, each development project must start with deep listening and understanding of the local community, natural ecosystems, and cultural heritages & identities. By focusing on opportunities rather than problems, we catalyze and unlock the amazing potential of a place to boost equitable development and returns on your investments.

Regeneration means contributing to the value-generating processes of the living systems of which we are part. It is both a science and philosophy, to regenerate life, and adopt a new thinking and approach. According to Merriam Webster, “the act or process of regenerating,” is both the renewal or restoration of a bodily part or biological system, and it is also spiritual renewal or revival. In this sense, we can think about our three pillars — community, nature and culture — as the living systems that need renewal and revival: so that our cities can flourish, our economies prosper and our planet can regenerate.

With this framework we provide a dynamic playbook that offers best practices and case studies from around the world, strategies, ESG incentives, economic returns, and more that can be adopted across industries and sectors.

Join us for an eco-getaway at the gorgeous nature preserve and luxury eco-retreat at ChoZen, in Sebastian, central Florida
Tanya Watts our Director of Neighborhood Affairs and Emily Moody, Director of Community Engagement at PHX-JAX.


Become a Regenerative Placemaker and join in co-creating the future of cities with us as we work together towards a more regenerative future.

Subscribe to our newsletter at to get involved, email me at: and follow us on Instagram.

Future Of Cities

by Alexandra J Tohme

What is Regenerative Placemaking?

While “sustainability” focuses on reducing humans’ harmful impact on the natural environment to mitigate damage and toxicity, regeneration goes beyond restoration and focuses on revitalization to allow nature to fulfill its full potential.

Regeneration actively reinvigorates, giving life and value to biodiverse ecosystems, changing our approach and appreciation for clean air & water, fertile lands, and efficient resource management.

Civilization has everything to gain by reconnecting and supporting nature to thrive. Through the integration of design practices such as permaculture & biomimicry we create more space for nature to re-emerge and reach it’s fullest capacity and benefit to human life — such as more beautiful and harmonious architecture, and enhanced mental, physical and spiritual well-being. Nature organically embeds circularity, self-sustenance and climate resilience throughout our continued human developments.

Regeneration applies to our neighborhoods, too. If we revitalize value into disadvantaged communities, cultural assets, and people, we end-up with self-sufficiency, empowerment, stability and joy.

We need to shift our mindset and gear it towards innovative and proactive efforts for regeneration — that would promote our collective health and prosperity.

Sustainability just sustains the status quo. Regenerative Placemaking doesn’t exclude or kick out people or displace people. It’s a framework we’re developing based on my 20-plus years of experience in underserved communities — what went right but mostly what went wrong.”

Tony Cho | Future of Cities Founder

One of our community activities at the Phoenix Arts + Innovation District in Jacksonville is a plant swap bringing neighbors together around regenerative projects

“Placemaking” refers to the process of making urban centers and neighborhoods livable by ensuring economic opportunity, food accessibility, and climate-sustainable infrastructure, as well as social equity, public health, wellbeing and cultural vibrancy. By investing in making these “places” — we grow and strengthen existing communities that, for socioeconomic, political, or environmental reasons, have not benefited from urban developments to the same degree as other neighborhoods or cities.

As we place-make regeneratively — we celebrate the value and worth that local communities, nature and culture inherently offer — we improve quality of life for people of diverse backgrounds to coexist, co-create and collectively thrive.

Giving life back to nature at ChoZen Retreat, Sebastian, Florida

Developing the local circular economy should be a goal of every developer and investor. Michal Shuman, author says:

 If done correctly, economic development might bring a community more jobs, more wealth, a larger tax base, and greater prosperity. Consumers might enjoy more and better goods and services. More businesses might get started and become more profitable. Residents might enjoy better schools and better funded public services.”

Become a Regenerative Placemaker and join in co-creating the future of cities with us as we work together towards a more regenerative future.

Our eco-retreat on 40 acres of nature preserved land and rivers is a Regenerative Placemaking demonstration project — visit us at ChoZen

Subscribe to our newsletter at to get involved, email me at: and follow us on Instagram.

Future Of Cities

Alexandra J Tohme — Research & Partnership Manager

Participatory Co-Design & Proactive Balance for Regenerative Futures

“Oceans should be viewed as bodies of water that connect people, cultures, and nations, not separate them.”

Professor Ramsay Taum, Blue Continent

Oceans Month is almost over but the life beneath the surface continues to thrive. Our oceans are our greatest teachers of collaboration. This month we’ve been in awe of our underwater friends and their ability to move together & protect each other. 

At Future of Cities headquarters we’ve been focusing our attention on Ecological Balance, our giving and receiving, ebbing and flowing, slowing down to listen to the wisdom that lies at the depths of the oceans, beneath our soils, in the rays of the sun & through the powers of the wind. 

Preserving our planet’s ecosystems involves deep listening, participatory co-design, co-creation, collaboration and the implementation of varied practices and technologies for maintaining an active balance within the built environment. There is no one size fits all solution and cohabitating requires cooperation.

Ecological balance…

A foundational principle of our Regenerative Placemaking framework is “ecological balance.” Ecological balance is fundamental to mitigating biodiversity loss and securing a more sustainable future for the next seven generations. Within ecological balance we honor our past to teach us how to harmoniously adapt & coexist with the various climate changes at hand in the present. The intricacies of ecosystems is a complex web of interconnectedness which requires active participation and continuous balancing for lasting change. 

This month, as we immerse ourselves in the oceans of change, we’ve been wondering, with all that the ocean selflessly provides for us, in what ways can we continue to innovate and give back to our oceans? 

As conscientious stewards of digital technology & ecological policymaking, we have a shared responsibility to deploy efforts and resources to preserve indigenous cultures while simultaneously recognizing, honoring and amplifying the immense contributions that indigenous leaders and communities are continuing to make towards modern technological advancements. 

At the end of May we gathered for a historic geopolitical event with some of our close partners and global leaders at the ChoZen eco-retreat for a roundtable on regenerative technologies and cultural identity. Our Future of Cities team joined in a land blessing, with prayers led by Hawaiian indigenous leader and professor Ramsay Taum.

During their time at ChoZen, Blue Continent Institute generously shared with us their visions and goals on cultural respect and identity, passing on perspectives of island states and their depth of understanding for the importance of ecological balance beginning with the ocean. 

The wisdom that the ocean carries gifts us many insights, beyond water as natural wonders or utility for human transactions, and instead takes us on a much deeper journey to look within ourselves for the inner knowing that we are made of the ocean and are not separate from it. 

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Shaping America’s Role in the Post-COVID World

On March 4th, 2022, Future of Cities participated in the annual digitally mediated Horasis USA meeting. The meeting focused on the United States’ future and how it impacts the rest of the world. With 750 speakers and more than 150 sessions, it was an insightful event that resulted in numerous proposed ideas to positively shape the future of our world.

Tony Cho, CEO and founder of Future of Cities, was on a panel centered around the complexities of new urbanization—chaired by Timothy J. Nichol of Liverpool John Moores University—with Antonio Cantalapiedra of Woonivers, Mayor Eugene W. Grant of Seat Pleasant, Maxim Kiselev of Skoltech, and Avi Rabinovitch of Creative Links.

About Horasis: Horasis is a “global visions community committed to inspiring our future” and offers leaders and companies a platform to go global.

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As extreme weather events, like sea-level rise, wildfires, and other ecological disasters occur, climate change is becoming a more real and imminent threat by the day. In response, innovative concepts are spawning to mitigate effects and protect our society’s future. One such approach discussed in the sustainability and climate discourse has been regenerative placemaking. But what is this?  

Regenerative placemaking offers a new, holistic approach that is actively being applied in cities on a global scale. It seeks to go beyond net-zero to create a net positive impact on the environment. The principles that support regenerative placemaking are many, including living systems thinking, biophilia, sustainable practices, and community engagement. 

In this article, we are highlighting a few cities that are practicing these principles, and what can be learned from them.

Residents walking and riding bike in Copenhagen, Denmark.

1. Copenhagen, Denmark

Already known as the world’s greenest and most habitable city, Copenhagen has employed numerous regenerative placemaking tactics that contribute to its healthy living environment. 

Medellin, Colombia's hills with homes.

2. Medellin, Colombia

Medellin is a member of the “100 Resilient Cities” and part of the UN’s Green Cities initiative. In the midst of its natural forests, Medellin is evolving and has proven itself to be a model of social and urban transformation. The city owes its development to the collective co-creation amongst its citizens, public and private organizations. The presence of this transdisciplinary interaction has led to increased levels of community engagement.  Emerging from this partnership is an image of a resilient Medellin, one with goals of safety, equity, and sustainability. 

Innovative architecture in Medellin, Colombia.

Wide view of Auckland, New Zealand.

3. Auckland, New Zealand

As one of the most liveable cities in the world, Auckland continues to find ways to create exceptional strategies that result in the city’s transformation. There is an emphasis placed on eco-design and energy efficiency. For example, the city provides readily available resources to assist the community to make smart choices and reduce waste–whether home or business. Unique to Auckland is its reconnection with its indigenous population and natural systems. In an effort to create diverse and inclusive community engagement, a Māori design leader, Phil Wohongi, was appointed in an aim to foster the integration of identity and culture in Auckland. The city’s outreach includes speaking and listening to various community members and taking action. In regards to natural systems, Auckland has taken up many projects that include the redevelopment of waterfronts and biophilic practices.

Montevideo, Uruguay architecture.

4. Montevideo, Uruguay

Montevideo is the cultural, political, and economic center of Uruguay. The city is committed to the welfare of its citizens by placing an emphasis on human rights and sustainability. Montevideo is actively implementing the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 agenda. The city has developed a number of strategic plans for development and tackling social, economic, and environmental vulnerability.  In 2016, Montevideo was listed as a member of the 100 Resilient Cities Network. A Resilience Executive Unit was established then, to create and deliver a Resilience Strategy by 2018. The Strategy involved regenerative placemaking approaches like inclusivity, co-creation environmental commitments. Beyond this, Montevideo, and Uruguay as a whole, have taken up other projects to constantly improve agricultural and energy systems.

Ultimately, what we can learn from these identified cities are the huge role nature, technology, and the community plays. The effectiveness of natural solutions to environmental challenges is evident. We can look to nature as an energy resource, and utilize its cooling and filtration properties. There is also the benefit of equipping the built environment with smart tools for energy measurement and efficiency. All these tactics depend on community engagement. It is important for the community, not just to understand these principles, but also to be involved in them, so that implementation and necessary lifestyle changes will be welcomed. 

There are many other cities that are implementing regenerative placemaking principles in an effort to create healthy and sustainable environments; It is only a matter of time before we start seeing the effect of these changes. 

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With thanks to conversations with Ludo Campbell-Reid, Ralph Webster,
and Frith Walker 

Twenty years ago, the City of Auckland was suffering from a depressed economy, declining public health, and a short-term, self-centric viewpoint called “Auckland disease.” Now a decade later with a ten-fold increase in private investment, public transport patronage doubling every year, and the strengthening of its social and natural systems, Auckland’s embrace of Regenerative Placemaking principles has resulted in this remarkable transformation and the recent recognition as the most liveable city in the world

Employing regenerative thinking in the sense of re-activating and enlivening the city; using the city to support social and ecological capacity; and activating these strategies through fine-grained testing of ideas and active agency of stakeholders; Auckland’s efforts to revitalize the heart of the city have been extraordinary. 

For example, take the transformation of Fort and Elliott Streets. On Fort Street, there has been a 54% increase in pedestrian volumes and a 47% increase in consumer spending, while on Elliott Street there has been a 10% pedestrian and 27% spending increase.

Source, City of Auckland review, 2015 2

However, while these are tangible examples in simple terms, there are many additional reflections to map Regenerative Placemaking components over the past decade in Auckland. Six of note are: 

  1. Living systems thinking

Understood as a philosophy that studies the interrelation and dependence of all stakeholders and environments in a given place, for Auckland this approach was leveraged to emphasize reconnecting to its natural systems – the bay, rivers, and mountains. 

In practice, this was realized by:

A group of people running on a road

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Image source: Ralph Webster

  1. Transdisciplinary knowledge exchange

Focused on consulting with everyone to gain significant ideas and better solutions, Ralph Webster, the Auckland Council’s former program development manager said that working on a Regenerative Placemaking development was not “just a team sport, but an intergenerational team sport.”  

How so? 

  1. Rigorous and inclusive community engagement 

Community engagement done well means that they are agents in the eventual outcome and have a sense of custodianship and stewardship which is critical. This creates attachment and belonging leading to positive social, ecological, and economic outcomes. 

Critically this engagement should not only be about extracting ideas and good will from participants it is ensuring they gain benefit from the experience also as Webster said, “In addition to working with all stakeholders in projects to increase the vitality and vibrancy of a place, one of the most critical parts is to create the potential to have fun, laugh and play through the process and embed it in the end result.”

In Auckland this came to life in practical terms by:

  1. Biophilia and sustainability practices

Throughout Auckland, connection to nature is an integral part of how spaces are looked at, from working with threatened species to how to plan support biodiversity. This is evidenced through experimentation with green roofs on shipping container activation nodes, using them for insects and other small threatened species. 

A picture containing text

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Image from Presentation of Ludo Campbell-Reid, international urban strategist, and newly appointed Director of City Design & Liveability at Wyndham City Council.

Auckland’s focus on nature enables them to imagine future potential, and this leads to human benefits such as reduced urban heat and biophilic benefits with a stronger connection to nature. 

These practices are put into action by asking these simple questions: 

  1. Regenerative placemaking interventions 

Testing within the community was an integral part of the City of Auckland’s processes and their work with stakeholders. Practically, this collaboration has resulted in the Activate Auckland plan to support the 30-year strategic redevelopment plan of the City.


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Image: Activate Auckland

  1. Avoiding gentrification

Auckland has attracted its share of critique for increased housing prices, yet this was addressed by creating innovative models to support home ownership and community planning.

For example:


While Regenerative Placemaking is an ever-evolving, living development approach, Auckland demonstrates through its transformation as one of the least to most-liveable cities that with incredible amounts of private investment, collaboration, preservation, and conservation that a socially, ecologically, and socially thriving city can be willed. All it takes is commitment and vision!

Introduction by Tony Cho, Future of Cities Founder

This past year has been one of deep global transformation as we continue to navigate through one of the most impactful events in modern human history. The global pandemic has revealed a tale of two worlds, the haves and have-nots. The social and racial inequality gap continues to dramatically widen, and people and governments around the world are reevaluating policies, searching for answers and figuring out what’s next. How do we build back better, more sustainably, more equitably and more inclusively so 100% of humanity can thrive — while remaining in balance with nature?

This inquiry is at the core of our mission at the Future of Cities, where we aspire to impact the lives of 1 billion people through innovations in the built environment. So, how do we do this and where do we begin? Over the past 3 years, we’ve studied and analyzed Systems-Thinking theories ranging from Buckminster Fuller to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and recognized a need to co-design a new systems-oriented framework for real estate development. This framework we aim to open-source and share widely, putting forward new standards that will be embodied in demonstration projects that can serve as beacons for those interested in new, regenerative pathways for urban development and vitality.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) | United Nations
The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Regenerative Placemaking contributes to a number of SDGs though primarily SDG #11 Sustainable Cities and Communities.

Building on local learnings from creative placemaking derived over the past two decades developing Miami’s Wynwood Art’s District and Magic City Innovation District in Little Haiti, combined with Regenerative Development practices most notably proposed by Bill Reed and Pamela Mang’s team at Regenesis, we’ve set out to co-create and popularize a new framework, entitled Regenerative Placemaking, which aims to accelerate place-based sustainability into new, mainstream industry norms.

In this process of discovery, we were quickly directed to Dr. Dominque Hes, one of the world’s foremost thinkers, theorists and practitioners of Regenerative Placemaking. Dr. Hes has been formulating the Regenerative Placemaking theory for several years and has authored multiple articles on the topic.

We are grateful and honored to welcome Dr. Hes to our global board of advisors for the Future of Cities, and excited to co-create, design and open-source our research on this critical advancement for our industry. The time has never been more urgent for developers to reimagine their role as stewards who are responsible for the wellbeing of communities and cities. And so, we are pleased to introduce you to this newly synthesized and still-emergent body of work, with hope you will be inspired to build the future with these values in motion, to evolve the role of placemaking, and urban development as we know it.

Creating The Future of Cities With Regenerative Placemaking

By Dr. Dominique Hes, Advisor to Future of Cities, with Bill Reed of Regenesis

Addressing Systemic Failures

The world’s urban population is playing a game of chicken with our environment and global economy. By 2050, more than 6.6 billion people, or 68.4 percent of the population, will live in cities. However, whether the threat of pandemic, sea level rise, food deserts, or myriad of other challenges, this growth is going unchecked. 

Does this mean a moratorium should be placed on urban density in favor of suburban sprawl? Or is a solution that is more evolutionary and redefines urban living and development more feasible? 

The answer is that we must create places that support the future of cities. Places designed for living, working, creating, and contributing, combined with strategies that incorporate nature integration and the non-human aspects of life critical to all local ecosystems. Enter, regenerative placemaking. 

Enter: A New Design Paradigm

Defined as a strategic process of (re)igniting people’s relationship to socio-ecological systems through place-specific activations, regenerative placemaking harnesses the key strengths of regenerative development and placemaking practices. 

The merging of these two practices delivers places designed for both humans and non-humans, shifting city-making from a largely anthropocentric practice to one aligned with living systems, by which people are empowered as cultural and environmental stewards.

The result is the creation of a way to interact with a geographical location that enables continual adaptation, health, and wellbeing. The aim is not to create utopia, but a realistic way to engage with the problems and potentials of a place and all its complexities. 

The regenerative development component creates the ways to understand a place, to see its essence, its potential and the ways to understand what healthy, vital, viable and abundant looks like. The placemaking component ties these ideas to a specific place, with the local stakeholders, supporting them to be a critical part of the potential of the place and its capabilities.  

Pandemic Lessons and Proper Practices

While the effects on populations and economies were severe, what the pandemic showed was how changes in urban living could influence our environment. From better air quality and cleaner water ways to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, the global population can slow and reverse negative climate impacts. 

To start creating regenerative placemaking demonstration projects, what is needed is a process to guide design and development, and to enable the ability to learn, understand, and grow. Key components in moving regenerative placemaking forward include:

Measuring and Refining Success

Having developed the ways to enact the above processes, how does a project understand how well it has done? 

The first step is to understand that measurement serves a developmental process, not as a way to ‘score’ an effort. The second step is to evolve and adapt measurement as within regenerative placemaking, fixed and adaptable system measures can change over time in negotiation with stakeholders. We ask: what are the signs of life of a healthy place (fixed) and what are the unique traits of thriving and abundance of the place that may change as it matures (adaptable)?

However, while the measures and benchmarks can shift, the objective does not. Regenerative Placemaking is about contributing to improved social, ecological, and economic outcomes by building local capacity and potential. This means looking at the richness of the relationships – individual, community, built and natural environment – contributing to these outcomes.

Though not a perfect example of the full potential of Regenerative Placemaking, a project that illustrates the importance of building relationships to the flows through a place is the Cheonggyecheon Stream Restoration Project.  In this example, water flowing through a community is of no benefit in a pipe where it cannot contribute positively through relationship (habitat, urban cooling, watering, recreation, etc.), similarly, money flowing through a place is only beneficial if it nourishes and contributes to the area. Michael Shuman has shown that every dollar spent at a locally owned business generates two-to-four times the jobs, income, wealth, and taxes as a dollar spent in a comparable nonlocal one (link). 

The Cheonggyecheon Stream Restoration Project

Benefits of daylighting the river:

Find more information on the Cheonggyecheon Stream Restoration Project here ⟶

Moving Forward

To implement regenerative placemaking principles, a sea change is required in how developers approach projects and their regulation. From the scaling of ESG standards and creating incentives for sustainable development, to further enhancing Opportunity Zone framework and shifting investors’ mindsets to focus beyond triple bottom-line returns, to creating local potential, these adaptations are vital and achievable. 

It is the responsibility of those with the ability to influence change to make it happen, and for stakeholders and communities to help co-create the future in support of better, self-sustaining cities. 

About Dr. Dominique Hes

Holding a PhD in Architecture and Degree in Engineering from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and Botany degree from Melbourne University, Hes is an associate of the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute and award-winning author. She is also the chair of the board of Greenfleet, and an advisor for the Future of Cities; a mission-driven consortium that is part-real estate investment and development company, part-venture capital ecosystem and part-think tank that will cultivate living laboratories to steward regeneration and improve liveability in cities.