The Private Side of Public Work | Exploring How to Make Cities Happier, Government More Innovative, & Science More Accessible

By Ingrid Heilke: Urban planner and federal government decision scientist turned financial and business strategist ninja for the city planning and design sector

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Urban planning, government, policy, art, science, architecture, design. These are all things that exist in the public realm. They impact the way our cities look, the way we live our lives. We are used to hearing about the public side of public work. We hear about "best practices" that showcase the most successful programs or policies. We see finished products, polished and shined. We're not doing that here. On this show we pull back the curtain and delve into the Private Side of Public Work. We ask the questions that people may be afraid to answer, but that need to be brought into the open to make our cities, our companies, buildings, our governments, and ultimately our lives, run better.

Episode Date
How EPA Makes the World Happier and Healthier | Ecosystem Services | Models | Health Impact Assessment | Community

Stop and smell the roses! Or…whatever native flower is in bloom. It’s an easy thing to take for granted. The US Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for much of the joy and comfort that we Americans take for granted.

Today, Tammy Newcomer-Johnson and Joel Hoffman give us the inside scoop on The US Environmental Protection Agency. Hint: It’s probably not what you think it is.

May 03, 2018
Balancing Risk and Growth in The Courts with William DeLisio #25 | Growth Mindset | Innovation | Drug Addiction | Opioid Epidemic | Truancy | Juvenile | Family

The court system is by nature designed to be slow to change, dependable, predictable. Yet the courts are charged with tackling challenges that don’t stand still. Courts have evolved tremendously over the centuries to adapt, even as we think of them as relatively stable and un-moving.  Today, William DeLisio provides us a window into how he has effected positive change within the court systems by introducing risk and growth, in fair measure of course.

Feb 22, 2018
Storm of Creativity with Kyna Leski of Rhode Island School of Design #24 | Creative Process | Unlearning | Brainstorming | Art | Science | Problem Making | Gathering and Tracking

All of us must work our way through the empty page, the blank screen, writer’s block, confusion, chaos, and doubt. Although each instance of creativity is singular and specific, the creative process is universal. Artists, architects, poets, inventors, scientists, and others all navigate the same stages of the process in order to discover something that does not yet exist. Like a storm, the creative process slowly begins to gather and take form until it overtakes us—if we are willing to let it.

Feb 08, 2018
Superheroes in Real and Imagined Cities with Julian Chambliss | Comic Books | World Fair | Science Fiction | Urban Identity | Race | Gender | #23

“From pulp magazine origins to recent cinematic triumphs, superheroes mirror our culture. Uniquely American and reflecting enduring values, these characters are a window on inspiration and aspiration defining our society."

Today, Dr. Julian Chambliss of Rollins College explores the real and imagined city through superheroes and the pages of comic books over the course of the last century.

Jan 24, 2018
The City View from Three Feet with Julien Vincelot of Urban95 | Urban Design | Early Childhood Development | Parents | Women | Babies | Toddlers | Children | #22

If you could experience a city from 95cm – the height of a 3-year-old – what would you change? Urban95 asks this bold but simple question of the world’s city leaders, planners, architects, and innovators.

Urban95 is rooted in the belief that when urban neighborhoods work well for pregnant women and young children, they also tend to nurture strong communities and economic development.

Jan 17, 2018
Quantified: Redefining Conservation with Transactional Strategies with Joe Whitworth of Freshwater Trust | Environmental Conservation | Environmental Movement |Economy | Finance | Social Innovation | Ecosystem Services | #21

Water is in every cell of our body. Factories, cities, and forests all depend on it. Practically invisible when we have it, yet catastrophic when we don’t.

We humans have a long history of fighting over water. Joe Whitworth sees a better way than idealism and finger pointing.  His approach - quantified conservation -  blends environmental and economic metrics to produce transaction-based strategies to realize environmental, social, and economic gains.

Dec 13, 2017
Hip-Hop Architecture with Sekou Cooke of Syracuse University and Sekou Cooke Studio | Grid Disruption| Urban Culture | Graffiti | Art | Social Organization | Bottom-up Planning | #20

Hip-hop architecture. Is it a paradox? Or is it inevitable? On the one side: structured formality by necessity. On the other: a powerful counterculture defying formality.  It seems that hip-hop doesn’t want to be architecture; and architecture doesn’t want to be hip-hop...yet. Sekou Cooke puts hip-hop within the historical context of other cultural movements and their influence on architecture. He suggests that as a dominant cultural movement of our generation, hip-hop is poised to produce its own architecture.

Nov 29, 2017
Collaborative Innovation with Eli MacLaren of The Business Innovation Factory | Collaboration | Innovation | Business Model Innovation | Disruption | Self-Organization |Play | Groundfish | Non-medical Health Determinants | #19

Collaborative Innovation.  I know I know I know. You’ve heard it all before.  The words are used and abused. Like so many important concepts, they have earned a plot in the graveyard of ubiquity.  Eli MacLaren of The Business Innovation Factory is here to resurrect collaboration and innovation and to discuss why they are indispensable and inseparable.

Nov 22, 2017
The Career Episode - Mic Switch: Lyric Crocker Interviews Ingrid Heilke | Work Ethic | Collaboration | Career Advice | Gentrification | Podcasting | #18

Let’s call this the career episode. Today’s episode is special and different.  My intern, Lyric Crocker turns the mic around and interviews me. I give you the inside scoop on my mid-life career transition and my take on the Private Side of Public Work. And, we give you an inside peak into our own conversations about the purpose of the show, the distinction between relying on people and collaborating with them, and the difference between urban planning and gentrification and why that is a real question.

Nov 15, 2017
Demolishing the Ivory Tower: Linking Learning to Markets with Brian Demers of Brown University | Scientific Research | Invention | Business Development | Commercial Viability | #17

What is the end-goal of all of university research? Academic journal articles are great as a record of scientific achievement, but if those articles are the last stop, what is the point? How can research move from the ivory tower into the real world? 

Brian Demers works at the sweet spot between scientific invention and commercial viability. Brian is Director of Business Development in the Office of Industry Engagement and Commercial Venturing at Brown University.  He builds the bridge between university research and commercial markets. Brian assists faculty in identifying and developing inventions that can become viable products and services. He establishes partnerships between the university and commercial entities, and he helps get start-ups off the ground. 

Nov 01, 2017
Planning Amnesia: Don’t forsake your core competencies as a planner in the face of legal contracts | Long Term Planning| Risk Assessment | Adaptive Management | #16

Today’s Private Side Challenge is keeping your wits about you when confronted with a Public Private Partnership deal.

Last week we discussed issues that arises with private financing of public infrastructure.

One of the things that struck me was that the in the worst of these deals, governments are throwing away their best capabilities – the ability to do strategic and long term planning in favor of a pseudo wall-street hack….

Oct 25, 2017
Private Financing of Public Infrastructure: Beyond Ambivalence with Aaron Renn of Urbanophile | #15

Aaron Renn discusses ways that public commons are constrained through private investment.  Private infusions of capital can completely derail innovation within city planning. If this sounds counterintuitive or antithetical to popular rhetoric, it is because Aaron Renn pays attention to the nuance behind these public-private partnerships.  Aaron gives incredible advice on what to pay attention to when it comes to financing public infrastructure.  

Oct 19, 2017
Science is More Than Labcoats: Clearing Plant Bottlenecks to Feed the World with Katherine Meacham | #14

You may be aware of bottlenecks in your work environment, but did you know that even plants have bottlenecks? What if there was a productivity coach for plants? Someone who could give them all of the secrets to being faster, greener and more productive? Someone who could whisper secrets into plant DNA so that they could transform sunlight into a bigger, better plant self…to be eaten by humans of course. Katherine Meacham is the real deal, boots-in-the-mud scientist, heck-bent on changing the world. She seeks to resolve bottlenecks in photosynthesis to increase crop yields…

Go to to find the Profit Side Challenge or to work with Ingrid.

Oct 10, 2017
Environmental Planning 1974-Today with Brian Mooney of Rick Engineering | #13

The impact of the big environmental acts passed in the 1970's is enormous…and almost invisible to the average person because we tend to take things like clean air and clean water and forests and beaches for granted. But if it weren’t for those four pieces of legislation passed in the early seventies, we would be living in a very different world. Brian Mooney Rick Engineering provides a fascinating retrospective on environmental planning in California.

Go to to find the Profit Side Challenge or to work with Ingrid.

Sep 12, 2017
The Neighborhood Playbook with Joe Nickol and Kevin Wright | #11

What if there was a book that you could hand to a developer that would help them understand how to activate community spaces before dropping millions or billions of dollars into a project? And what if there were a book that you could hand to community leaders that could help them infuse vibrancy into their neighborhoods to attract resources and capital investment? And, what if those two books were one in the same? Kevin Wright and Joe Nickol have created The Neighborhood Playbook to speak to both developers and community leaders, and bring them together to work on a singular goal.

Aug 29, 2017
Closet Entrepreneurialism + Planning Career = Blood Sweat and Delicious Tea: Tamika Gauvin of Looen Teas | #10

What does a bitter refreshing drink from Barbados have in common with the field of urban planning? The answer is Tamika Gauvin and a vision for social justice.  She is part planner and part founder for Looen Teas. But trust me when I say that those parts add up to more than the whole.

Aug 21, 2017
10 - Closet Entrepreneurialism + Planning Career = Blood Sweat and Delicious Tea: Tamika Gauvin of Looen Teas

What does a bitter refreshing drink from Barbados have in common with the field of urban planning? The answer is Tamika Gauvin and a vision for social justice.  She is part planner and part founder for Looen Teas. But trust me when I say that those parts add up to more than the whole.

Aug 21, 2017
Fueling the Wild Horse of Design - Conor MacDonald of DESIGNxRI | #9

Rhode Island is a hot bed of creativity. DESIGNxRI fuels that creativity through and drives economic development in the process of Rhode Island. This requires persistent collaboration and partnerships between the public and private sector.

 Today’s Profit Side Challenge: Communicating Value

Aug 14, 2017
Food + Entrepreneurialism + Good Design = Great Public Space with Nicolia Robinson from Cooper Carry | #8

What do you think of when you hear the words “food hall?” Does it bring up memories of college dorm food? Or do you imagine an inspiring array of local cuisine, edgy entrepreneurship, and innovative urban planning? Today we are going to talk about the latter (though you are free to reminisce about college days after the show). And I dig into the private and personal side of food hall design and development with my guest Nicolia Robinson from Cooper Carry. 

Aug 07, 2017
Designing Radical Hospitality: Changing the Experience of Homelessness with Pop-Up Care Villages – Guneet Anand and Eri Susuki from Site Lab Urban Studio | #7

Homelessness is one of those problems that can feel hopelessly intractable at times.  Those of us that live in cities see it on a daily basis, but feel at a loss for what to do beyond spare change.

Site Lab Urban Studio Guneet Anand and Eri Suzuki of Site Lab Studio were inspired to offer good design, rather than just spare change, when they crossed paths with Lavae Mae.

Lavae Mae is a nonprofit organization promoting dignity and opportunity among the homeless community. SITELAB collaborated with Lava Mae to design spaces that contain what they call "radical hospitality." They call these spaces Pop Up Care Villages.

Today, we will dig into the personal connections and new perspectives that Guneet and Eri developed over the course of the project, and how these have shifted their approach to design across other Site Lab projects.

Jul 31, 2017
CoUrbanize and Make Friends with Real Estate Developers for Better City Planning - Karin Brandt | #6

Continuing the conversation on online citizen engagement, but this time with a twist.

Karin Brandt of CoUrbanize has a soft spot in her heart for the folks that everyone loves to hate at public meetings – real estate developers. She has developed a platform for bringing broad audiences of community members together with developers to envision successful projects.

In today's Profit Side Challenge I talk about how to make competition irrelevant by developing a blue ocean strategy.


Jul 24, 2017
Bang the Table to Motivate Citizen Engagement - Matt Crozier | #5

What does citizen engagement look like in your city or town? Is it people yelling at each other in a 6 pm meeting when most of the sane people are at home having dinner? Why does it seem like only the angriest people show up? My guest today has a solution that makes public participation more palatable, more accessible, and more enjoyable for the average person. That means valuable information from a wider swath of the population. And for those of you thinking that means more angry responses, you may be surprised to hear what happens when you take engagement online.

Jul 10, 2017
Part 3 - Why You Must Make a Profit to Make an Impact and Why Profit is Not a Dirty Word: 7 Ways to Jumpstart Profitability and Impact | #4

This episode is all about forward motion – 7 ways to jumpstart profitability and impact.

1. Grasp the relationship between profit and impact

2. Identify your money demons and get rid of your head junk

3. Don’t mix business and pleasure

4. Set up a solid accounting system and don’t let the pretty software fool you

5. Get help when you need it

6. Read and implement Profit First

7. Set up an impact account

Jun 30, 2017
Part 2 - Why You Must Make a Profit to Make an Impact and Why Profit is Not a Dirty Word: More Money Myths | #3

I continue digging into the money myths that undermine our profitability and impact. I also define the concepts of true impact and true profit and explore the difference between daydreaming and doing. 

Jun 22, 2017
Part 1 - Why You Must Make a Profit To Make an Impact and Why Profit Is Not a Dirty Word | #2

I was raised on the idea that the world is divided into two camps: those who do good, and those who make money.  This idea causes great harm.

Why do we, as a society, ask people that dedicate their lives to doing some of the most noble work, to do it at a severe discount? How can you be expected to make an impact in the world when you are struggling to support yourself and your family?

Jun 15, 2017
Love Where You Live - Peter Kageyama | Placemaking | City Building | Co-creators | Community Development | Community Engagement | #1

There is an important role for unsanctioned city-building.  Pillow fights, illegal signs, anti-establishment restaurants -- Peter Kageyama argues that the silly, nonsensical, and weird are what make cities not only livable, but lovable. He even advocates for a little rule-breaking to get the job done.

Peter is the author of For the Love of Cities: The Love Affair Between People and Their Places and the follow up, Love Where You Live: Creating Emotionally Engaging Places. He is an internationally sought-after speaker and consultant with expertise in community development and grassroots engagement strategy.

May 31, 2017