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Norman Williams Lecture

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The 19th Annual Norman Williams Distinguished Lecture in Land Use Planning and The Law with Sheila R. Foster

Scott K. Ginsburg Professor of Urban Law and Policy at Georgetown

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From the City as a Commons to the Co-City: Insights from a Decade of Study and Practice

Professor Foster will offer an overview of the intellectual and practical path from working on issues of environmental justice to conceptualizing the idea of the urban commons and the city as a commons. Walking in the theoretical and methodological footsteps of Elinor Ostrom, Foster began thinking about urban settlements, land, parks, and other infrastructure as a shared resource on which communities depend and have been able to construct goods and services to meet their needs. The process of urban commoning, she found, was much more complex than in the natural resource context. Foster will discuss the “design principles” that she and her colleagues extracted from surveying projects in different cities around the world and how she has applied them in her work in different cities.

Wednesday, April 24, 2024
5 to 6 p.m. ET

Chase Community Center at Vermont Law and Graduate School and streaming live at:
This lecture is free and open to the public.

About the Speaker

Sheila R. Foster holds a joint appointment with the Georgetown Law School and the McCourt Public Policy School. Foster is well known for her articles and books on environmental justice, including From the Ground Up: Environmental Racism and the Rise of the Environmental Justice Movement (with Luke Cole) and The Law of Environmental Justice (with Michael Gerrard). Foster’s influential scholarship is published in top law journals like Yale, Berkeley, Harvard, Notre Dame and in books by NYU Press, MIT press, Cambridge University Press, and Oxford University Press.

Foster has worked with government agencies and public officials on a range of issues, including environmental justice and climate policy. She was the chair of the advisory committee of the Global Parliament of Mayors from 2017-2020 and is a member of the New York City Mayor's Panel on Climate Change where she co-chairs the workgroup on climate equity

Foster also co-directs LabGov, an international applied research project that has pioneered and nurtures the Co-City approach through experimentation, multi-sector collaboration, assessment and improvement. The Co-City approach is set forth in her award-winning MIT Press book, Co-Cities: Innovative Transitions toward Just and Self-Sustaining Communities (with Christian Iaione). LabGov projects applying the Co-City methodology include places as diverse as Harlem, New York; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Bologna, Italy.

In the upcoming academic year (’23-’24), Foster will be a Visiting Professor at Columbia University’s Climate School.


About the Lecture Series

Norman Williams came to Vermont Law School in 1975, after a long and distinguished career in public service and teaching, particularly in the area of land use planning. Professor Williams played a key role in founding Vermont Law and Graduate School's Environmental Law Center. The Norman Williams Distinguished Lecture in Land Use Planning and the Law series is a gift of Frances Yates in memory of both Norman Williams and Anya '94 and Charles Yates '93.