A B O U T   U S

A winner of the Knight Cities Challenge, the Urban Consulate launched in 2016 as a network of parlors for urban exchange. Since then, we've hosted hundreds of conversations in Detroit, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Austin and Chicagoland to bring people together & share ideas for better cities.

What are we about? Read on below— 


1. Who We Are

We are people who are passionate about cities. Not just the physical city—the social & civic life of a community, too. We don't believe you can talk about cities without addressing racial, class & gender equity. It's in everything we do.

Inspired by embassies and salons of Left Bank Paris & the Harlem Renaissance, the Consulate is a place where Jane Jacobs & James Baldwin might have hung out, had they ever hung out.

By amplifying voices & ideas, and promoting a culture of learning, we create more informed & engaged communities— and a greater sense of belonging & connection, too.

2. What We Do

We host all kinds of programs for city dwellers & travelers.

Our signature events are Parlor Talks & City Lobby—but we've also hosted dinner & dialogues, tea & wine tastings, an urbanism book club, film screenings, Jane's Walks, James Baldwin Hour, cross-city fieldtrips & exchanges, fellowship programs, video & podcast recording sessions, focus groups & workshops, co-working hours, civic group meetups & more.

We've welcomed famous national thought leaders—and almost-famous local ones. We've popped up in storefront cafes for neighborhood conversations, and met outside in public parks. We once hosted a Connect Four tournament & turned our front porch into a music stage. We like to mix it up.

3. How It Works

Every new location starts with three things—a home, a host & a champion:

  • Home: A historic space in a walkable neighborhood

  • Host: A local urbanist with a passion for people & ideas

  • Champion: A visionary leader who understands the value of talent retention & attraction, leadership development, and an empowered & engaged citizenry.

After a two-year pilot supported by Knight Foundation, we know who we are—and what we're not. We are not an exclusive private club or a startup accelerator. We are a space for intimate, inclusive & intelligent conversations about the city.

An open door matters to us a lot. Locals & travelers welcome.

4. Why It Matters

“It used to be that people were born as part of a community and had to find their place as individuals. Now people are born as individuals, and have to find their community.” —Bill Bishop

We believe people who love cities and want to make them more just & equitable is a "big tent" constituency—but too often separated by sector or geography. From urban designers & planners to artists & activists, we all share a passion for place and have much to learn from one another.

Bigger picture: We've all seen the alarming research—Americans are growing more isolated & divided. Membership in civic groups is declining, while tension between city newcomers & longtimers is rising. This is dangerous for our social fabric & civic life.

People need invitations & introductions to come together—and to share learnings & support one another. That’s what we do.

5. What People Say

“One of my favorite intellectual social spaces in Detroit.” 

This is how Detroit real estate broker Tanya Stephens described the Consulate to her friends on Facebook. (Thank you, Tanya.)

We've hosted thousands of guests from all over the world to discuss a diverse array of topics & questions and their input has helped us shape this idea from a concept to a community.

We listen to our guests. They're smart and know best what conversations need to be had. From local speakers & topics, to out-of-town experts, to new event formatsdinner & dialogues, neighborhood pop-upscity fieldtrips & moreour programs are shaped by the communities we serve.

What’s the next chapter of our story?

After a successful pilot, we are ready to grow. We've tested the idea, we've seen what works & what doesn't, and we're excited to connect with even more people who love cities and want to improve the places they live.

Interested in hosting a Consulate space or series in your city?