The Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau

A speakers bureau that represents the best original thinkers,
writers, and doers for speaking engagements.

Eric Klinenberg in the New Obama-Edited Issue of Wired: On the Power of Community in Overcoming Climate Change

The new issue of WIRED magazine—which focuses on new frontiers in technology—was guest-edited by President Barack Obama. Featured in the magazine is a piece by social scientist and Lavin speaker Eric Klinenberg, who raises an interesting argument: In combating climate change, community may be just as important as infrastructure.

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In the feature, NYU professor Klinenberg writes about a sociological study he conducted, wherein he examined relative death rates in Chicago neighborhoods during the heat wave of 1995, which killed 739 residents. He found that neighborhoods with similar levels of poverty and crime—like Englewood and Auburn Gresham—had vastly different casualty levels. The x-factor? Something sociologists call “social infrastructure”—essentially, a block’s propensity to stick together. 


“Places with active commercial corridors, a variety of public spaces, local institutions, decent sidewalks, and community organizations fared well in the disaster,” Klinenberg writes. “More socially barren places did not. Turns out neighborhood conditions that isolate people from each other on a good day can, on a really bad day, become lethal.” He’s no stranger to the subject, either; his book Heat Wave explores the disaster in greater detail. He’s also written, for The New Yorker, about climate-proofing cities in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.


With climate change all but guaranteeing an escalation in natural disasters, social infrastructure should not be forgotten.


To book cities and climate change speaker Eric Klinenberg to speak at your organization’s next event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

Happier Cities Just Make Sense: Charles Montgomery Talks to The Guardian

As populations continue to urbanize, the debate rages as to how to best streamline our cities for productivity. But another question—one stemming from an emerging field—is now beginning to take hold: How can we be happier in cities? Urban experimentalist Charles Montgomery is the author of the aptly named Happy City, in which he tackles this intersectional question, fusing elements of urban design, happiness science, psychology, and behavioral economics. This month, he and his consultancy (also named Happy City) have been featured in The Guardian, stressing the importance of urban happiness and the benefits—both personal and financial—that it can bring.

“If we give a damn about human wellbeing in cities, we need to study the emotional effects of spaces and systems,” Montgomery tells The Guardian. “We need to use evidence to help fix the horrific mistakes we’ve made over the last century.” And with Happy City, Montgomery is doing just that. His organization gathers data from psychological, neuroscience, and public health studies, including their own, with a view to retrofitting public spaces like streets, parks, and shopping centers for improved urban morale. For instance, Montgomery and his team know that hospital patients who can see trees recover more quickly than those who only see brick walls. They even know that the ideal yard for friendliness and conversation is exactly 10.6 feet deep.


The happy city experiment | Charles Montgomery | TEDxVancouver


Montgomery’s consultancy advises local governments, developers, and other groups with a hand in urban growth, including the World Health Organization. And recently, the firm has undertaken projects in the UK, India, and Mexico—each to resounding success.


Further making Montgomery’s case is the fact that happy cities help the bottom line. “Building healthier, happier places is not more expensive. In fact, these places save society money in the long run,” he says. People with engaged, happy social lives are more productive and resilient at work. Social interaction also sparks creativity and strengthens trust, both of which have been proven to correlate with GDP growth. And Happy City has lessons for the private sector, too: When workplaces and businesses build happiness into their designs, productivity—and sales—are sure to follow.


Want to learn more about Charles Montgomery and his group Happy City? Contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau, his exclusive representative for keynote speeches.

Science and the City: Charles Montgomery Builds a Better Way of Life

Urban experimentalist and Happy City author Charles Montgomery took abandoned spaces in New York City and reformed them into an living laboratory. In his inspiring TEDxVancouver talk (embedded above), Montgomery opens up about bringing together the right ingredients to build a social, and therefore happy, city.

We learn how measures of life satisfaction can lead to happy lives. The more people cross paths with their neighbours, the happier they are.

“People who are socially connected are more resilient, they get through hard times more easily, they get over illness more quickly, they live longer—an average of 15 years longer…they’re more productive at work. So if we care about having a happy, resilient, healthy, and wealthy society, we really should care about building social connections,” says Montgomery.

The problem is, we’ve been building communities that don’t foster that. Montgomery aims to educate and ameliorate the situation by fixing the auto-dependent community. He’s striving to foster closer ties in cities by creating interactive experiments that effectively convey the good research scientists have done about happy cities—showing us what is possible.

n his talks, Montgomery presents a picture of effective urban planning, of cities flourishing, and of everyone—from governments to corporations to citizens—working together to make it happen. To book Charles Montgomery as a keynote speaker for your next event, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau.

Charles Montgomery: An Engaged City is a Happy City [VIDEO]

For those who ignore their surroundings, for those who think cities are simply infrastructural boxes storing people and jobs, Charles Montgomery’s new video (embedded above) will come as a shot in the arm. The urban experimentalist and Happy City author presents the city as a force for good—a force for happiness. How effective a city can be in bringing joy to residents, however, is deeply rooted in how we go about designing it.

The new Lavin-exclusive video showcases Montgomery’s comfort and sense of humour around creating better public spaces and takes viewers on a tour of his recent urban experiment projects at the Guggenheim. He stresses that focusing on designing good cities by bringing people together through common experiences can shake off the often negative presumptions about the value of good urban design. In some cases, embracing spaces might lead you into an actual embrace of “giant crazy cuddle puddle of hug-ness”—just one of Montgomery’s thought-provoking experiments detailed in the clip.

In his talks, Montgomery draws on his own experiments within cities and uses his deep understanding of history, neuroscience, psychology, and cultural studies to present a picture of effective urban planning, of cities flourishing, and of everyone—from governments to corporations to citizens—working together to make it happen. To book Charles Montgomery as a speaker, contact The Lavin Agency.

What We Wish For: Candy Chang’s Before I Die Project Featured on CNN

Candy Chang's Before I Die installations—chalkboard walls where members of the community can share their thoughts, hopes, and dreams—are “one of the most creative community projects ever” (The Atlantic). To celebrate the recent release of the Before I Die book, CNN asked Chang to talk about the most common themes expressed on the wall. In the article, she defines the four most popular categories: well-being (“find serenity,” Vicenza, Italy); love (“find and kiss her one last time,” Chicago); travel (“ride a motorcycle across South America,” Cordoba, Argentina); helping others (“make someone's day,” Milwaukee, Wisconsin); and family (“build a house for my mother,” Trujillo, Peru).

As Chang says, “Our public spaces are our shared spaces, and they have a lot of potential to offer us a more valuable and meaningful kind of life.” Her Before I Die walls are doing just that.

Chang's provocative and intimate talks explore the power of personal introspection in public space and what we can learn from our collective wisdom. To book Candy Chang as a speaker, contact The Lavin Agency.

Celebrating Public Spaces—in Print: Candy Chang’s New Book, Before I Die, is Out Today

The book version of Candy Chang’s famous public space project, Before I Die, is out today—and reviews are already pouring in. Publishers Weekly hails it as “a powerful and valuable reminder that life is for the living.” (Anyone who’s seen a wall in person, or viewed Candy’s memorable TED Talk, will agree).

Chang's Before I Die project, chalkboard walls that encourage people to pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on their lives, and share their personal aspirations in public space, has touched thousands of people. There are now over 375 Before I Die walls in over 25 languages and more than 60 countries. Chang is one of Lavin's most requested speakers (see her on the cover of our most recent college catalogue, above).

Today is also the international Day of Walls event: new walls will be built in over 15 cities, including NYC, London, Detroit, Denver, and Launceston, Australia. Chang's book launch party will be at the Ogden Museum in New Orleans on Thursday, November 7, and you can find out more about upcoming events on Chang's website.

Here at Lavin, we are great admirers of Candy Chang's mission—making cities and public spaces more emotional. We will be paging through the Before I Die book again today, and hope many of you will be doing the same.

To book Candy Chang as a speaker, contact The Lavin Agency.

Solo Living On The Rise: Cities Speaker Eric Klinenberg On The Shift

Even despite economic hardship after the recent recession, “Americans will [still] pay a premium to have a place of their own,” cities speaker Eric Klinenberg told The Los Angeles Times. The independence gained from living alone has become increasingly valued in America today. Solo living is no longer a trend. In fact, a report published by the United States Census Bureau this week found that more than 24 percent of American households are comprised of just one person. That works out to approximately one in four households. This marks a dramatic increase over the 17 percent who lived alone in 1970.

“The rise of living alone is the greatest social change of the last 50 years,” Eric Klinenberg, author of Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, told The San Fransico Chronicle. There are several big societal changes that have contributed to the increase. The declining marriage rate is one factor, as the number of married couples has dropped from 71 percent in 1970 to 49 percent in 2012, the report showed. That means people are staying single longer, and thus, living alone longer. This seems to conflict with other reports showing an increase in young Americans who are moving back in with their parents, roommates, etc. Research from the Pew Research Center concluded that there was a decrease in the number of 18 to 31-year-olds who lived alone. Notably, this was only a slight decrease—from eight percent to seven percent. Despite the costs, many younger people are still choosing to live alone when its financially feasible to do so. Longer lifespans and increased health and independence in old age also contributed to people staying single in their homes.

This dramatic change isn't just affecting the people choosing to live alone. As Klinenberg explains in this article, numerous changes must be made to the infrastructure in our cities to accommodate these changes. Transportation, for example, is an important factor to consider. Since the number of singletons who use public transit is more than double that of their married counterparts, he suggests that cities need to target their public transportation models. Another important consideration is improving the mobility and housing of elderly singles. Solo living is increasing in popularity—it's time to keep this in mind when designing our cities.

Eric Klinenberg deals with the challenges and opportunities presented by the growing rate of single dwellers in his keynotes. With the number of solo households on the rise, he shows us how to both appeal to this demographic, and, to adjust our city planning to better meet their needs. To book Eric Klinenberg for a keynote event, contact The Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau.

The Case for Air-Conditioning is Made of Hot Air: Eric Klinenberg in TIME

“If you can’t stand the heat, you should know that blasting the AC will ultimately make us all even hotter,” climate change speaker Eric Klinenberg warns in TIME: “Today, Americans use twice as much energy for air-conditioning as we did 20 years ago, and more than the rest of the world’s nations, combined.” He concludes: “As a climate-change adaptation strategy, this is as dumb as it gets.” Klinenberg (author of Heat Wave and Going Solo) isn't against cooling down with artificially chilled air on scorching hot days. In fact, he even argues that air-conditioning can be a life-saver for the elderly, factory workers, and people who are vulnerable to the heat or are required to work in extremely hot temperatures for extended periods. AC has also been shown to bump productivity in the office.

The problem lies in the overuse of air-conditioning. Especially, he says, on days when it isn't really required. Or, in places where other cooling methods are available. “In most situations, the case for air-conditioning is made of hot air,” he explains. And, he notes that “trying to engineer hot weather out of existence rather than adjust our culture of consumption for the age of climate change is one of our biggest environmental blind spots.” Cities like New York have recently prohibited stores from pumping frosty air into the streets as a tactic to lure in customers. While that's certainly a step in the right direction, Klinenberg worries that most people won't be able to dial down the cold without an intervention.

Not only that, but Americans have come to expect that their indoor air will always be crisp. In doing so, they have influenced other countries around the world to desire the same. Our sub-zero preferences have caused energy consumption rates to spike—despite the fact that we desperately need them to decrease. If used conservatively, say, adjusting the room temperature to the mid-70s when fans and open windows aren't cutting it, the benefits can balance the damage done by AC units. But if we continue to demand Arctic temperatures in the midst of blaring summer heat, we may have a problem. In his insightful research, Klinenberg discusses wide-spread sociological and environmental trends affecting our cities. Whether it's the rise of solo living, or the need to reengineer our domestic life to adapt to climate change, Klinenberg's speeches are just as interesting as they are timely and practical.

Solo In The City: Eric Klinenberg On The Increase Of Urban Singletons

More Americans are choosing to live alone than ever before in history—are the cities they're residing in equipped to handle their unique needs? In Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, cities speaker Eric Klinenberg says that “one in seven American adults now lives alone.” That equates to an increase in solo households in America from 9 percent in 1950 to approximately 28 percent today. According to a new post in The Atlantic Cities, these solo dwellers are choosing to call urban cities home. “But the paradox of solo attraction to urban life is that modern metro areas were largely planned and designed with the nuclear family in mind,” the article reads. That means that urban planners need to modify and, in some cases, completely rethink the infrastructure in these cities in order to bring more solos in. And, to ensure they have the support and services they need when they arrive.

One of the first changes recommended in the article is to promote and enhance public transportation. A new study by Devajyoti Deka reported that 6 to 7 percent of American singles take public transit (as compared to only 3 percent of their coupled-up counterparts). Further, while nearly all couples surveyed had one or more cars, only 85 percent of singles reported owning an automobile. This means that cities attempting to attract singles needs to list public transit as a top priority.

Further, as Klinenberg says, “there are 11 million seniors over the age of 65 living alone today.” He adds that this number is continuing to grow and this demographic poses a unique set of challenges for their cities of residence. “We haven't thought about how to make assisted living facilities that are really high quality and pleasurable into places that most people can access,” Klinenberg cautioned in an interview. “I think until we do, we'll have a real crisis on our hands.” An elderly single population raises two concerns, specifically: “One is the need to develop better housing for the elderly—be it affordable and livable single-occupancy studios or nicer nursing homes,” reads The Atlantic Cities article. “The other is figuring out a way to improve mobility for older people.” In his book as well as his lectures, Klinenberg addresses these kinds of challenges head-on. The way we live is changing dramatically, he says, so it's time that we start designing our cities with these changes in mind.

Charles Montgomery: Make Your City A Happier Place In 10 Easy Steps

“The city is a behavioral device,” Charles Montgomery, the author of Happy City says. “Its shapes and systems alter how we feel, how we see each other, and how we act.”  He adds: “This would be a terrible thought if it were not for a second truth, which is that the city is malleable. We can change it whenever we wish.” In a recent blog post, the award-winning journalist shares 10 tips for shaping your urban environment into a happier place. (He also expands on these ideas in his keynotes). Try one of the following ideas to help you fall in love with your city again, and make yourself—and those around you—a little bit happier. 

1) Strike up conversations while riding the elevator: 
“We need not be imprisoned by design,” Montgomery says, “and even a casual conversation with strangers has the potential to flood your system with feel-good hormones. Go ahead. Talk about the weather.”

2) Cut down the commute and move closer to work: Montgomery notes that studies have proven longer commutes equate to less friends. Do the math: Less travel time + more friends = a happier you.

3 ) Plant a tree: It pays to go green. That's because even a little exposure to nature cuts down on your stress and improves both your concentration and overall mood. Get planting!

4) Live on an expensive street—in the cheapest house on the block: While we do get a confidence boost from living on a street that improves your social standing, we can also get a similar boost from enjoying the neighborhood on a whole. We affiliate with our neighbors in that seeing Mr. Jones next door park a nice car outside boosts your mood, too.

5) Live within 5 minute walk of public transit: “In Charlotte, North Carolina, people who live near the new light rail line lost an average of five pounds within a year because they started taking the train instead of driving,” he explains. Even that few minutes of extra walking a day made a big difference—embrace it.

6) Don't waste your time finding the “closest” parking spot: The further you are from your destination, the more time you'll have to take in the sights and sounds around you as you walk. “Velocity is the key to conviviality—the slower you move, the more likely you are to experience those little moments of intimacy—from glances, to smiles, to quick chats—that can improve your relationships with strangers and the city,” Montgomery adds.

7) Try riding your bike to work: International studies have shown that bike riders enjoy their commute much more than other travelers. Even if you hate the bike lane, give it a shot and see how it improves your mood.

8 ) Meet your Facebook friends in real life: There is still no real substitute for in-person communication. So, unplug once in a while and go see your friends off the screen.

9) Enjoy the sound of silence: Try to seek refuge from the noise of the city. The constant murmur of things around you can be a huge distraction—tune them out when possible.

10) Be nice to strangers: “Help little old ladies across the street. Merge politely in traffic. Open doors for people. Feel the buzz and pass it on.”

2013 Creativity 50: Cities Speaker Candy Chang Makes The Top 10

Cities speaker Candy Chang proves you don't need expensive, high-tech devices to transform public spaces. That's why she made the 2013 Creativity 50 list this year. Creativity is a website that features the best in design, advertising, and digital creativity. Chang made it into the top ten this year. “Candy Chang's art serves as a wake-up call in our fast-paced digital age,” Creativity notes. “Armed with little more than chalk, labels or post-it notes, she transforms nondescript urban spaces into compelling works that inspire the often device-obsessed masses to engage with each other, and the world around them.” 

Chang acquired international recognition for her “Before I Die” installation. She challenged passers-by to write the top item of their bucket list on a giant chalkboard in a public space. What started as a small project in New Orleans has now been translated into 15 languages in over 40 different countries. Next up for the Senior TED Fellow is something called “The School of the Future.” In this installation, she invites people to think about education and how schools shape who we are. In her touching keynotes, Chang shares her inspiring work with audiences the world over. She teaches us that public spaces can be vital tools for improving our communities. Her work shows how the simplest acts can have the greatest impact in changing our cities for the better.

Confessions: Candy Chang Connects Communities By Sharing Secrets

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. And, thanks to the work of cities speaker Candy Chang, what happens in Vegas also stays scribbled on the walls for everyone in Sin City to see. Aptly titled “Confessions,” Chang's installation turned a Las Vegas art gallery into a space for spilling secrets this past summer. Featured in The Huffington Post this week, the exhibit explores the intersection of public and private space, and how creating more inclusive spaces for people to connect improves the sense of community in the neighborhoods we live in. Her other project, the very popular “Before I Die”, also uses simple tools to allow people to share their hopes and dreams with those around them. It has become so popular, in fact, that Chang is in the process of creating a book about it (due out this year). It will feature photos of the “Before I Die” walls that have been eradicated across the world, personal stories, and inspiration for improving our urban living through other similar ventures.

Here's what Chang, a popular TED speaker, had to tell The Huffington Post about the inspiring public spaces she creates:

“We're all trying to make sense of our lives and there's great comfort in knowing you're not alone. And you're not. Everyone you walk past is going through challenges in their life. Maybe it's their relationships or family or work or health. Maybe it's something they've been meaning to face for a long time. [I think of the quote] 'Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.' But it's easy to forget this because we rarely venture beyond small talk with strangers.”

Her dedication to creating an intersection of public art and civic engagement recently earned Chang a spot on the 2013 Good 100 list. In her speeches, she draws from the successes of her public space projects to show us a new way of thinking about urban planning. Combining personal stories with issues directly affecting the audiences she speaks to, Chang sparks conversation about how to best use our public spaces. And, how to harness the collective wisdom inherent in all the people who frequent them.

Public Art Meets Civic Engagement: Candy Chang Makes The Good 100 List

Candy Chang  is coming to a neighborhood near you,” a recent profile in Good.is begins. Not only that, but the TED Fellow and “Before I Die” creator also landed on the 2013 Good 100 list.  Her simple, but innovative, installations and projects make cities more comfortable for their inhabitants. Even better, her work has been generating worldwide attention. As Good writes: “Chang uses her creativity to help cities better reflect the individuality, emotions, and beliefs of their inhabitants, combining public art with civic engagement.”

What inspires the work Chang does? “I'm interested in pilgrimages, sanctuaries, and the rise and fall of American boomtowns,” she tells Good, “and how these ruins can be rejuvenated into cathartic and contemplative sites where we can share the things we have learned in life.” To do this, she combines urban planning, street art, and graphic design to transform simple objects into transformative tools to improve communication and well-being in communities. In her provocative and personal talks, Chang presents a new way of thinking about shared public spaces. Through the use of interactive displays she shows us what we can learn through introspection in public spaces—and come together to find a shared human experience.

Cities Speaker Candy Chang Visits The Lavin Agency [PHOTOS]

Cities speaker and TED Fellow Candy Chang stopped by Lavin Toronto for a quick visit before her keynote at the Mixx Conference yesterday. After a quick walk around the office, the acclaimed public space artist talked to us about her home town (New Orleans), cities in general, the work of Jane Jacobs (an inspiration of hers), and her forthcoming “Before I Die” book (based on her popular public art project of the same name). Impressively, Candy also spent about ten minutes photographing the office chess set with her iPhone! Here are some photos from her visit and a few from the Mixx Conference: