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The future of democratic societies rests on shared values, and the social infrastructure to support them.

Author of Palaces for the People, 2020 and Going Solo

Eric Klinenberg | Author of Palaces for the People and Going Solo
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Lavin Exclusive Speaker

The future of cities and democratic societies rests not only on shared values, but on social infrastructure: the libraries, parks, and civic organizations where crucial connections are formed. Renowned sociologist and bestselling author of 2020, ERIC KLINENBERG shows that when social infrastructure is robust, people are more likely to build ties with neighbors and invest in their communities; but when it’s neglected, as seen recently, families and individuals must fend for themselves. He highlights innovative projects that address challenges like climate change and crime—while building social cohesion.

“Wow. A comprehensive, entertaining, and compelling argument for how rebuilding social infrastructure can help heal divisions in our society and move us forward.”— Jon Stewart, former host of The Daily Show on Palaces for the People

What is social infrastructure? To Eric Klinenberg, it is “the physical places and organizations that shape the way people interact.” As he outlines in his timely book, Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life, there is an expansive historical context for this necessary, contemporary reconstruction of our shared spaces. Libraries, parks, churches and schools—all the places that strangers and familiars alike mingle and cross paths. In a talk that brings the material of the book to life, Klinenberg paints a vivid portrait of how our societies have worked until now—and what our governments, civic organizations, and individual citizens can do to reactivate and maintain this vision of social infrastructure. “[Klinenberg’s] fantastic book reminds us that democracy is fortified and enlivened by people coexisting together in public, and that good design and support of a wide variety of public spaces can produce those mysterious things we call community, membership, a sense of belonging, a place, maybe a polity,” says author Rebecca Solnit on Palaces for the People. 

An innovative and optimistic speaker, Klinenberg’s unique research sheds light on  demographic, social, and environmental transformations. A professor of Sociology and Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University, Klinenberg’s body of work include Heat Wave, where he looked at the future of cities in the age of climate change, and Going Solo, where he charted the societal impact of people who live alone. All together, Klinenberg offers audiences a spectrum of human life; how we live, and how we live together.

“[In Palaces for the People ], Klinenberg persuasively illustrates the vital role [space plays] in repairing civic life ‘in an era characterized by urgent social needs and gridlock stemming from political polarization.’”— Publisher’s Weekly

Klinenberg is a lively presence on stage, with a knack for finding humor and spontaneous  insight. He has appeared on TV programs and podcasts (like This American Life) and has written for The Guardian, Rolling StoneThe New York Times Magazine, and The Wall Street Journal, among others. In his much-discussed New Yorker article, which appeared after Hurricane Sandy, Klinenberg looked at how to “climate-proof” cities, and explored the importance of communities and social networks during disasters. NPR named Palaces for the People as one of its Best Books of 2018. He earned his BA from Brown, and his master’s and PhD from University of California, Berkely.

Speech Topics

Civic Engagement
Palaces for the PeopleHow Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life

In this keynote based on Palaces for the People, Klinenberg guides audiences through his deeply researched conception of social infrastructure, and how we can build it together. The future of democratic societies rests not simply on shared values but on shared spaces, he explains. The libraries, childcare centers, bookstores, places of worship, and parks are where crucial, sometimes life-saving connections, are formed. These places where people gather and linger, making friends across group lines, strengthen the entire community. When strong, neighborhoods flourish; when neglected, as it has been in recent years, families and individuals must fend for themselves. This talk offers a timely and empathetic blueprint for change, showing how how social infrastructure is helping solve some of our most pressing challenges: isolation, crime, education, addiction, political polarization, and even climate change.

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Corporate Culture
Your Office Is a CommunitySocial Infrastructure in the Workplace

https://app.salesforceiq.com/t.png?c=outlook&t=AFwhZf1dVBJYh64VmToKvwRSRF3ftiBSINnygU2cmIuVyxPnsdr0XFMWtbHnEMhcpTHEaa8i1IJW7FBK8DII_HuSo9zD7uy1mzMfX4y2FDZzJ_xwJ4oyn6BDYPNm34SMTptGm1QJxcJCCulture eats strategy for breakfast. We’ve all heard that before. But where does a great culture start? It starts when your office feels like a community of friends. As office workers, we spend most of our waking hours in an environment that boasts as many computers as people—and yet we rarely think about how this affects our productivity, our happiness, or our ability to work together. In this customized talk, sociologist Eric Klinenberg brings social infrastructure to corporate scale, showing your audience the ways that physical space can be optimized to your needs. Creative workspace? Clear and open dialogue? What about a day care center? Klinenberg will tell you about how Google built soccer fields, bike paths, and gardens around their headquarters—and while you may not be Google, there is something to be learned from any successful space. This talk will leave you with the knowledge and motivation to introduce connection-building changes to your workplace, no matter the size.

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Climate Crisis
AdaptationSuperstorms, Climate Change, and the Future of Cities

Why wasn’t the Eastern Seaboard better prepared for Hurricane Sandy? Why did seven hundred and thirty-nine people die in Chicago’s 1995 heat wave? Instances of natural disasters are on the rise, and few places are ready. In this talk, Eric Klinenberg draws on his recent New Yorker article “Adaptation” and his book on the great Chicago heat wave to explore the concept of “climate-proofing” our cities. He provides a dramatic, tragic story of what can happen when cities and nations fail to learn from previous disasters, and an argument for how they can use recent history and cutting-edge science to become more resilient and better prepared. Should we be scared of climate change? Yes, of course, says Klinenberg. But let’s use that fear to drive change and build stronger, more agile cities that benefit from intelligent and climate-proof design.

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Social Justice
Going SoloHow the Biggest Demographic Change Since the Baby Boom is Changing the Way We Live

The biggest demographic change since the baby boom is in full swing, and no one seems to be talking about it. Except for Eric Klinenberg. The rise of single living in the U.S.—where 50% of all adults now live in single households—and the rest of the Western world is drastically changing our economy, our cities, and the way we communicate.

In this eye-opening talk, Klinenberg shows us the sweeping societal changes that accompany the trend of single living. How is the increased demand for single living spaces changing our urban landscapes? Why are singles more connected to their social network than married and common law couples? And, most importantly, what are the causes of this drastic shift in lifestyle? Klinenberg unravels our half-century journey towards a more single society, and sheds light on why this trend is likely here to stay.

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