ULI Americas President Gwyneth Cote emphasized to Spring Meeting attendees the importance of connecting the Institute’s local initiatives to other areas of the organization, sharing insights based on her numerous meetings with district councils since joining the executive team in December. “Each visit reaffirms the much-cited quote: ‘ULI is only as strong globally as it is locally,’” Cote said. “I am convinced that some of ULI’s most creative work comes from our district councils, who are so closely involved in improving our industry and our communities.”

She cited three examples of innovative district council programs:

  • The Real Estate Diversity Initiative (REDI), now in its third year at ULI Minnesota and its 10th year at ULI Colorado. REDI is a training and mentorship program for women and people of color, with a curriculum that follows the real estate development process and ends with a development proposal for an actual site.
  • The district council’s expansion of UrbanPlan in St. Louis to a disadvantaged school district in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. UrbanPlan is helping students in Ferguson learn not only about the urban development process, but also about the value of civic engagement, Cote noted.
  • And, Go Green, initiated years ago by Mark Deutschmann (a Spring Meeting Host Committee chairman and the current chairman of ULI Nashville). He and other members organized a sustainability committee that focused on home retrofits to raise awareness about sustainability. The Go Green retrofit program was made available throughout the city, eventually morphing into Nashville’s Home Energy Savings program, which reduces energy costs for low-income seniors and families.

“This is the type of innovative thinking and doing that helps establish ULI as a respected leader in community building. It is work that should be connected to the Institute’s overall program of work so it can be replicated in other communities,” Cote said. “Part of my role at ULI is to be a connector—to help connect the work of our district councils and other member networks to each other, and to other areas of the organization. These connections can strengthen ULI’s impact in the Americas and around the world.”

She noted that improving connections for greater impact is one of the key goals of ULI’s Global Strategic Plan, which seeks to strengthen member engagement and impact. “We are committed to improving how we match programs and services to members’ needs and preferences,” Cote said. “The plan is getting us on the right course to expand mission impact; build more effective platforms for leadership and knowledge sharing; create a culture of giving; and make sure that member expectations are not just met, but consistently surpassed.”