Articles by Kate O'Brien

About Kate O'Brien

Kate O'Brien is a consultant and writer for Meeting of the Minds. A collaborative consultant focused on facilitation, coaching, and capacity building, Kate supports an array of change agents and their transformative work in communities across the United States.

Using “Pop-Up” Strategies to Realize Lasting Impacts in The Public Realm

During the Mobilize Summit, urban transport and development practitioners come together alongside world-class researchers to celebrate best practices and accelerate implementation of sustainable transport projects grounded in equity. All the panelists agreed about the need to help decision-makers trust and believe that change is possible. “For instance, everyone thought rampant bike theft in Medellín would be the inevitable downfall of our bike share program, but it just didn’t happen that way,” explained Lina. “Our early adopters were the ‘rock stars’ who helped change hearts and minds simply through their passionate embrace and adoption of cycling.”

Behavior Change Case Study: City Systems & Affordable Housing

In East Palo Alto, California, a multi-faceted, coalition-driven movement is afoot to assure wider access to affordable housing. This effort, informed by behavioral economics, is helping local homeowners understand and navigate the municipal permitting process for building a new accessory dwelling unit on their property. At the same time, this coalition, of which the nonprofit City Systems is a part, is working to streamline the process of legalizing informal conversion projects already completed without permit approvals in place. 

Planning Sustainable Public Transport Using an Intersectional Lens

I work to ensure that a more diverse point of view, especially the gender-specific, informs the planning, design, operations, and user experience of transport systems. Safe and reliable access to public transport is a key driver of so many issues we face as a society. Cities cannot aspire to being inclusive unless more attention is given to this aspect of sustainable transport.

Behavior Change Case Study: Greenfield Labs

Greenfield Labs was initiated three years ago by Jim Hackett, now CEO of Ford Motor Company. At the time of the Labs’ inception, Hackett was an advisor to the company’s fledgling mobility pursuits. Before Ford, he’d led Steelcase, a forward-thinking office furniture company that embraced and found success in its application of human-centered design solutions. “He brings that same innovative sensibility to Ford,” says Ryan Westrom, Mobility Partnerships Lead at Greenfield Labs. “The point of Greenfield Labs is to bring human-centered ideation to Ford. It offers us an opportunity to revise, hone, and tweak our existing products while also shaping Ford’s broader mobility pursuits.”

Behavior Change Case Study: Greater Portland (Maine) Council of Governments and Opioid Misuse

“Historically, government leaders haven’t felt it was in their purview to take action in response to the opioid problem, or to make active decisions about it. What I always say is that ‘opioid misuse is a community problem that requires a community solution.’ There are root issues that lead to the problem, and we must tackle those aspects of the problem in order to really solve it.”

Designing Roadway Infrastructure Through the Lens of Child Safety

On offer at this year’s MOBILIZE summit were several tools, resources, and case studies of projects whose leaders aim to re-humanize public roadways and disrupt the automobile-centric culture that dominates them in many places. What follows are a few key highlights focused on advancing universally accessible improvements to the built environment.

Behavior Change Case Study: Remix

The Remix team brings a multidisciplinary approach to their change management work, which helps them complement municipal government clients, whose stakeholders tend to be siloed into separate departments. “We’re fairly unique in the software industry, because our team is blended,” Tiffany explains. One half of their team is comprised of transportation practitioners and policy experts, and the other half is made up of software developers and designers. “We bring to transportation planning the culture of co-creation and fast iteration that is typically found in the software industry,” she says, “so, we go into a room having both those muscles to flex.”

Behavior Change Case Study: LA Department of Water & Power – The Shared Solar Program

Once LADWP acknowledged the skewed trends in solar participation, the utility began promoting its programs in lower-income communities and communities of color. These areas, which the State of California had designated as ‘disadvantaged’, were the same ones where LADWP’s data had shown little to no solar penetration. “LADWP prioritized solar infrastructure installations atop homes in those neighborhoods, enabling households to host solar power generation and earn money by selling excess electricity back to the grid.” But, even after focusing its efforts in underrepresented areas, LADWP staff saw that participation still trended toward homeowners who were, on the whole, wealthier and whiter.

Behavior Change Case Study: Elemental Excelerator – The Equity & Access Program

Elemental Excelerator was first established in Hawaii as a place-based, clean energy accelerator. Its model is reflective of the fact that the organization’s founding roots were laid upon a set of islands, and was designed to help people on those islands reach their fullest potential. Accordingly, Elemental centers in its work an ethos of deep respect for relationships and for the land, which are essential for anyone living or doing business in a small place inhabited by a small community of people and surrounded by water.

Behavior Change Case Study: Sacramento Municipal Utility District – Driving Electrification

Much can be learned about promoting individual and population-scale behavior change from SMUD’s efforts to drive electrification across its residential and business customer base. Arlen stated that his team’s work was informed directly by the MINDSPACE and EAST frameworks. Specifically, by building an engagement strategy informed by human behavior and known cognitive biases in the human brain, along with nuanced data and trends about their customers, SMUD was able to directly engage with their customers in ways that were meaningful to them and responsive to their particular tendencies.

Off-Hours Delivery: Right-Sizing Policies When One-Size-Fits-All Just Won’t Do

Implementing off hours delivery (OHD) across a region can be particularly advantageous. In São Paulo, shifting inner urban core deliveries to off-hours means carriers can use their trucks by day to do suburban or rural deliveries, and by night to complete inner city deliveries. This complementary pattern means carriers’ assets are in productive use around the clock, thereby lowering their costs overall. In fact, a major driver of this policy shift has been the carrier companies’ syndicate. They have been pressuring government and receivers to use OHD because it’s in their financial best interest, as our pilot has confirmed.

Behavior Change Case Study: Cleveland Neighborhood Progress – The Racial Equity & Inclusion Initiative

The approach taken by Erika and the Cleveland Neighborhood Progress team to develop and drive a racial equity and inclusion initiative is as multifaceted as it is inspiring. In developing and nurturing the projects and partnerships that comprised the Year of Awareness Building, the Cleveland Neighborhood Progress team appears to have drawn from many aspects of the EAST and MINDSPACE frameworks.