Mary W. Rowe is an urbanist and civic entrepreneur. She currently lives in New York City and works with government, business and civil society organizations to strengthen the economic, social, cultural and environmental resilience of cities and their neighborhoods.
Rowe’s particular focus is creating local, national and international learning networks of practitioners fostering local approaches to urban livability and resilience, of which art and cultural heritage are key components. She has recently completed five years of work with the Municipal Art Society of New York, one of North America’s oldest civic institutions focused on the built environment. Her tenure in New York City included leading extensive community engagement processes in the aftermath of Super-storm Sandy, to ensure local knowledge was informing policy decisions. Prior to coming to New York, she spent five years of intense work as a grant maker in the recovering city of New Orleans post Katrina, where she helped form the New Orleans Institute for Resilience and Innovation, a loose alliance of initiatives that emerged in response to the systemic collapses of 2005.
Her initial engagement in NOLA was as part of a fellowship awarded to her by the blue moon fund of Charlottesville, Virginia, to focus on self-organization in cities as the underpinning of urban and regional social, economic and environmental resilience. Her work in New Orleans included supporting a broad array of local, connected initiatives that include building the local economy, creating more open governance and data collection and sharing, fostering entrepreneurship, creating a culture of planning that supports transparent decision making and land-use, the emerging role of social media, and creating peer-to-peer learning in the emerging civil society-led innovation in the Region.
Mary is an experienced facilitator, convener and communicator on urban issues, and worked for ten years in Toronto as President of Ideas that Matter. Books to which she has contributed include What We See: Advancing the Observations of Jane Jacobs (Center for the Living City/New Village Press), Oil and Water…and Other things that don’t mix (LL-Publications), Toronto: Considering Self-government (The Ginger Press), Women in Green: Voices of Sustainable Design (Ecotone Publishing), and Ideas that Matter: The Worlds of Jane Jacobs (Island Press/Ginger Press).
Mary is also a frequent contributor to this international, interdisciplinary web platform: The Nature of Cities