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Urbanistas: making cities more inclusive spaces

Following their tenth birthday, Urbanistas launched a new Commonplace website to help them gather women’s ideas and make cities better and more inclusive spaces for everyone. We’ve recently had the pleasure of chatting with founder Liane Hartley, who shared with us her motivations for creating the organisation and the good that an engagement website brings to their work. Join us and see how their new site will push their ideas forward.


Urbanistas: Women’s ideas for better cities


Urbanistas 10th anniversary party- credit: Natasha ReidPhoto credit: Natasha Reid

Urbanistas is a platform for amplifying women’s ideas to make cities better for everyone. It exists to bring women together in a space that is just for them, to share work and ideas that blend their personal values with their professional skills and experience. 

The key to this is their in-person "Expo" meets. Inspired by the concept of an expo or world fair where people brought ideas to showcase innovation, these meets are about “exhibiting” women’s ideas or projects and inviting participation as well as gathering help and ideas from fellow Urbanistas. With the motto“Start by Starting,” they’re enabling women to have the courage to bring their ideas to the table, however big or small they may be.

“I have found in my own career that often ideas are quashed too early or that in order to progress they must be full and perfectly formed. We want women to have the space and freedom to explore their ideas and build them in a collaborative and supportive space.” - Liane Hartley, Urbanistas Founder.


Creating an engagement website

Urbanistas meetings are all about sharing ideas with like-minded people to maximise discussion and engagement in a physical space. So far, experience has shown that a maximum of 30 is best for in-person meetings with people bringing an idea or “ask” to present what they are looking for in terms of help. This is where the engagement website comes in. By being able to easily share when and where new meetings are, more and more people can find local chapters and join to share their thoughts.

“We find that far from being an act of weakness, asking for help is an empowering act because it encourages women to be vocal and ask for what they want and it enables women to offer their skills, experience, and expertise in return. Both benefit and grow as a result. “ - Liane Hartley, Urbanistas Founder.


These meetings also prove and solidify why people love the places they live as much as change is needed. They also give space to be heard. At the meetings, every woman is asked to introduce herself and share what motivates them and why they love cities. It is important that everyone gets the opportunity to speak, even if only to introduce herself, so they can come away from Urbanistas feeling seen and, perhaps more importantly, listened to.

Another key aspect of the website is just that - being able to be listened to and make connections.  It allows the conversations and networking made in the room to flourish outside too. The spirit of each meeting can go far beyond the four walls accommodating it, allowing Urbanistas to follow up on ideas and collaborate more easily. Through the website, the spirit of the moment can live on.

The whole website was an idea that began as a discussion at a meeting that was then honed with Commonplace and then became a reality! Words and connections have power and this is a prime example.


Commonplace features for Urbanistas


The main goal of their Commonplace websites is to grow the work that Urbanistas is already doing while also making it easier for new and existing members to connect. A different one exists for the chapters in the countries where Urbanistas operate: The UK, the U.S, Australia and the Netherlands- ideal for their international members. 

“We want to help our Urbanistas chapters and their network of members to share all the brilliant work they are doing to enable that cross-fertilisation to happen, allowing everyone to learn, connect and share on a much wider level. We aim to do this through articles, joint meets, and adding more online events posted via the website.” - Liane Hartley, Urbanistas Founder.


Like many organisations, Urbainstas had to switch to online events during pandemic restrictions to keep their members connected. Currently, the website utilises a number of pages to explain their goal as an organisation, the timeline feature to map how far they’ve come since their founding in 2012 as well as a map to show the vast spread of chapters across the world! 

“This worked really well as opened our eyes to the flexibility of this platform for doing lots of different types of events, for example, book reviews and theme talks. This website provides us with a much more flexible, user-friendly and interactive platform for us to communicate and share with our members and wider audiences.” - Liane Hartley, Urbanistas Founder.


Improving cities for women

Over its ten years, Urbanistas has produced a huge number of varied ideas, which reflects the diversity of the membership and their passions. They include place makers, geographers, social entrepreneurs, youth workers, architects, policymakers, academics, engineers, artists, curators, community builders, economists, health practitioners, film-makers, planners, and writers.

“What makes Urbanistas different to other networks is our emphasis on collaboration and action. Bringing women together and driving collaboration is at the core of what we do. However, I think a common thread is practical action and inclusion; our focus is on making cities better for everyone and in doing so Urbanistas are sensitive and cognisant of what society needs from cities as a whole." - Liane Hartley, Urbanistas Founder.


Even after ten years, the group has stayed firmly rooted in the philosophy of when it was founded - women helping other women. This simplicity has helped the group gain such a wide appeal and for exporting the model to other cities across the world. Whilst each chapter is different, reflecting the different personalities of cities and the women that live there; the understanding that this is about amplifying women’s voices and ideas remains core to all chapters.

 It’s a notion that millions of people can get behind and Commonplace is keen to see where Urbanistas expands over the next ten years and beyond - and help them on the journey!

Find your local Urabistas chapter here.

If you’d like to see how an engagement website could bring more people to your cause, have a free chat with one of our expert team members.

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Charlotte Cooper

Charlotte Cooper

Content Writer at Commonplace