Disciplined leadership in advancing sustainability


Project Design and Management for Advancing Equity in Local Government Sustainability Work

Julia is advisor and staff to the Funders’ Network and Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) for their partnership building capacity of local governments to scale a key sustainability practice—using an equity lens in sustainability and climate action. An equity lens is a tool for actively inserting racial equity into every decision making process from project design through project evaluation.

Julia led the collaborative design of a 5-part equity capacity building program, project design workshop, and Partners for Places Equity Pilot Initiative. The Equity Pilot initiative helps local government sustainability leaders to implement projects using an equity lens and find ways to institutionalize the use of an equity lens in their sustainability work. Now Julia is working on a strategy to scale this process to reach more cities.


Customer Financing Strategy for Elevate Energy

unnamedElevate Energy, which has helped to retrofit over 40,000 units of multi-family affordable housing in the Chicago area, is replicating its comprehensive services model in partnership with local nonprofit organizations in many states. A key component of the Elevate comprehensive services model is providing access to appropriate financing options. Parzen developed a plan for meeting customer needs for financing in new markets  and proving new financing approaches.


Air Quality Monitoring Concept for Environmental Law & Policy Center

unnamed-1Environmental Law & Policy Center, the Midwest’s leading public interest environmental advocacy organization, which helped to close Fisk and Crawford coal plants, has a long-term commitment to improving air quality and public health. Parzen developed a concept for an Innovative Air Quality Monitoring and Community Environment Health Initiative for the Chicago area.


Business Plan for the Shared-Use Mobility Center

shared-mobilityBusiness Plan for the Shared-Use Mobility Center, a public-interest organization dedicated to achieving universal, affordable and sustainable mobility in urban and metropolitan regions of the U.S. through the efficient sharing of transportation assets. In order to grow and transform shared transportation what is needed is a driver, the Shared Use Mobility Center, which can bring together the key players to figure out how to offer integrated, seamless mobility choices to all residents.


Co-founder, Advisor and Staff to Partners For Places

unnamed-2Partners for Places is a successful matching grant program that improves U.S. and Canadian communities by building partnerships between local government sustainability leaders and place-based foundations. National funders invest in local projects developed through these partnerships to promote a healthy environment, a strong economy, and well-being for all residents. Parzen is a co-founder of and on-going advisor to Partners for Places, which has funded 55 sustainability projects to date.


Co-founder and First Coordinator for Urban Sustainability Directors’ Network

usdnJulia is a founder and the first Coordinator for the Urban Sustainability Director’s Network (USDN). USDN is a peer-to-peer network of 140 local government professionals from cities across the United States and Canada dedicated to creating a healthier environment, economic prosperity, and increased social equity. Julia led network building, including establishing the Innovation Fund and Local Sustainability Matching Fund, facilitating exchange among members that led to on-going increases in connectivity and collaboration, and developing collaboration tools, projects, and tracking processes to solve common problems and produce high value for members.


Outside Project Manager, Chicago Climate Action Plan

Chicago Climate Action Plan

Julia was the chief advisor to the City of Chicago during the entirety of the development of the Chicago Climate Action Plan.  She coordinated the two-year process, facilitated task forces and committees, developed the research plan, oversaw research and final report development, led funding efforts, and provided solutions for challenges that arose.  She also authored the “Chicago Lessons Learned Climate Action” (PDF) report on the project, a document that summarizes the process, as well as the “Chicago Quick Guide to Climate Change Preparation.” (PDF).


I-GO Car Sharing

iGO car sharing

Julia was the Chair of the Board at I-GO during many of the company’s growth years. I-GO was one of the first U.S. non-profit car sharing companies.  Launched by the Center for Neighborhood Technology, it was later sold to Enterprise.  In addition to the operation of the car-sharing service, I-GO promoted an integrated urban transportation strategy, including walking, mass transit and other options to car driving, which CNT continues to do.


Center For Neighborhood Technology

Center for Neighborhood Technology

Julia was a recent past Chair of the Board of Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT).  CNT is a creative think-and-do tank that combines rigorous research with effective solutions. CNT works across disciplines and issues, including transportation and community development, energy, natural resources, and climate change.


Faith in Place 10-Year Assessment

Faith In Place

In its 10th year, Faith in Place decided to step back and undertake an assessment of the value to faith community partners of involvement with Faith in Place between 2004 and the present.  Julia helped Faith in Place and its board to find out the extent to which faith communities are taking stewardship action; the impact these actions are having on worship, identity, and satisfaction; and the roles Faith in Place has played in achieving these outcomes.


Healthy Schools Campaign Market Feasibility Study and Learning Process


A priority for the Healthy Schools Campaign is to promote the construction of healthy and high performing schools.  HSC hired Julia to explore the feasibility of creating marketplace incentives and intermediaries for schools to build or renovate facilities that promote health and are energy efficient and environmentally responsible.  Julia identified a variety of partners with whom HSC could work.  In a separate project, Julia also documented the lessons learned from the Chicago Partnership for Healthy Schools: Creating School Environments That Promote Healthy Eating and Active Lifestyles for three years.


CommunityWorks Circuit Rider 


Julia served on a team of Grand Victoria Foundation consultants providing technical assistance to community foundations across Illinois and helping to build a network of community foundations with capable leadership, adequate resources, engaged local partners, and a strategic commitment to creating place-based solutions to local problems.