Jennifer GardnerJennifer Gardner

Jennifer Gardner

Director of Cities

Where did you work before Opendox?

I come from a background in urban planning and design, policy research, capital program implementation, parks and open space planning, and community engagement. Most recently, I led programs focused on health equity and open data for Gehl Institute, a non-profit that built a movement around planning and designing public spaces and policy for people using research and open-source tools. Before that, I worked in New York City government, working with people from across the spectrum from city leaders and corporate stakeholders to community-based organizations and individual advocates to navigate the process of building a city that works for as many people as possible.

Why do you do the work you do?

I’m happiest while surfing a learning curve, and the process of design is one of constant discovery. I love exploring new places and ideas, and the moment when a new pattern or insight emerges! But what I love most is working with others to apply what we’ve learned together. And what better way to learn about what people need than to look closely at the cities and systems we’ve built? 

What does inclusivity mean to you?

I prefer the term inclusion over inclusivity--representing an active, ongoing process and outcome, more than a subjective quality. Inclusion is the process by which we work toward equity. But I think inclusion is fundamentally about belonging. For many of us, achieving a sense of belonging in aspects of our lives is unfortunately still pretty elusive and challenging--whether it’s about economic opportunity, education, equal pay, affordable housing, social connections, feeling safe in our neighborhoods, or living our healthiest lives. A deep history of local, regional, or national policies has created a landscape in which the negative outcomes connected to inequity are real and concentrated among some groups of people more than others, and in some places more than others. Often, our sense of belonging is challenged even right down to the details of design: think about benches that prevent someone from lying down, transportation systems that can’t be accessed by wheelchair, lack of safe public spaces, or hard-to-access social services.

Designing with people for inclusion and dignity is such an important tool to disrupt cycles. At a city scale, inclusion needs to be a primary driver of decision-making. The space and resources we share are limited and precious.

When do you feel most like yourself?

I’m always me, it’s just the backdrop that changes!

I spend a lot of time thinking about _______.

The way the world works. But also shoes. And probably coffee.