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Activating urban environments as social infrastructure through civic stewardship

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Urban Geography


Stewardship consists of acts of claims-making on space and caretaking of place that activate urban environments to function as social infra-structure. While stewardship practices are enacted by actors across the governance network, there is a need to better understand the role of civil society. Civic stewardship groups care and advocate for green, grey, and blue spaces, and can strengthen social trust and foster civic engagement. We conducted semi-structured interviews (n = 26) with a sample of New York City civic stewardship groups from a previous survey dataset (n = 754); the sample was stratified by network position and geographic scale. This paper analyzes how these groups operate in physical geographies and through relational networks. We describe the practices by which stewards activate and transform urban environ-ments to create more sustainable cities, finding that activation of social infrastructure depends upon the degree of group connectivity and scale at which groups work.


Stewardship; civil society; social infrastructure; green space; urban sustainability


Campbell, Lindsay K.; Svendsen, Erika; Johnson, Michelle; Landau, Laura. 2021. Activating urban environments as social infrastructure through civic stewardship. Urban Geography. 43(4): 1-22.

Last updated on: July 1, 2021