The Metropolitan Futures Initiative aims to develop an improved understanding of communities and their potential for integrative and collaborative planning and action to ensure a bright future for the region. It approaches these goals by bringing together an interdisciplinary research team along with the insights and techniques of "big data" research. By combining various large longitudinal and spatial data sources, and then employing cutting edge statistical analyses, the goal is to come to a better understanding of how the various dimensions of the social ecology of a region move together to produce the outcomes observed within our neighborhoods.
With initial focus on Orange County and its location within the larger Southern California area, The Metropolitan Futures Initiative is a commitment to build communities that are economically vibrant, environmentally sustainable, and socially just by partnering Social Ecology’s world class, boundary-crossing scholarship with expertise throughout Southern California.
Specifically, the initiative aims to:
- Spark and sustain thinking about the connections among seemingly disparate community problems in order to develop more effective solutions; and
- Encourage moving beyond jurisdictional borders and encouraging stakeholders in communities to more effectively collaborate on issues of regional consequence.
Connecting Resources, Experts, and Community Problems
The Metropolitan Futures Initiative is committed to fostering a holistic consideration of critical community problems, including those that involve physical infrastructure, social capital, environmental sustainability, criminal justice, workforce development, economic vitality, and equitable distributions of shared benefits and burdens.
The initative brings together diverse individuals and groups in a process of discovery, strategic thinking and planning. To support this proactive discourse, the initiative invites:
- The research expertise of UCI faculty in key areas, including demography, transportation, housing, economic development, governance, water, land use, health, education, law and related fields to produce knowledge and inform discussions.
- The knowledge of community members on identifying issues, setting the agenda, assessing and developing policies, and fully participating in the process of discovery, planning, and policy implementation.
Engaged Dialogue Around Community Issues
UCI researchers and community members have initiated this effort by empirically examining a set of essential questions including:
- How are our communities and the larger regional and global context changing?
- What are the implications for transportation, business location, and residential choice?
- How will these changes affect access to opportunity (jobs, housing, and education) and quality of life (health, air quality, water resources, and open space)?
Responses to these questions will set the stage for informed, engaged dialogue on the future of Orange County within the context of the larger region, the future of governance for the region, and potential strategies aimed at promoting a thriving future for Orange County and Southern California.
A Better Metropolitan Future
Building a better metropolitan future for the Southern California megalopolis requires a foundation that rests on two pillars:
- Strategic thinking that spans disciplinary, topical, and geographic boundaries, and
- Scholarship that is developed in full partnership with the community to move knowledge back and forth across the traditional theory-practice divide.
The Metropolitan Futures Initiative will harness the best resources available within and beyond UCI to build a knowledge and practice base that will address these challenges to improve the quality of life for those in Orange County, the Southern California region, and beyond.