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Equitable and Co-Created Placemaking at City Nation Place

Two women pictured on stage at a conference.
Nicole Muise-Kielkucki, Director, and Denique "Neeky" Dennis, Senior Consultant, represented Fourth Economy at City Nation Place Americas.

Panelists at this year’s City Nation Place Americas conference focused on centering equity and the co-creation of strategies with partners (and technology!) to drive effective placemaking and destination marketing.

Fourth Economy recently attended the annual conference, where we learned about the many ways communities across the United States and Canada are building and promoting their unique assets to attract and retain visitors, residents, and businesses to their cities and regions. 


Annette Soto Landeros, President & CEO of Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (left), and Jessica Christopherson, Vice President of Marketing and Film Commissioner for Visit Fort Worth (right).

An Equitable Approach to Place Branding

An equitable approach to place branding ensures that diverse voices and heritages in a community are recognized and represented. Involving a broad spectrum of stakeholders— residents, local businesses, minority groups, and cultural organizations— can create a more authentic and relatable identity that resonates with everyone. 

The city of Houston, TX has incorporated local Black-owned businesses such as Lucy Pearl’s (whose sweet potato pies are delicious -- thank us later!), Pur Noir Urban Wineries, and This Is It Soul Food as core components of its branding strategy, enticing visitors and residents who hope to have a particular and culturally-specific culinary experience. Similarly, Visit Fort Worth has partnered with the local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to celebrate Hispanic heritage and culture in its brand. The nonprofit organization Visit Native California is working with indigenous communities throughout the state to help them promote cultural tourism spaces for those seeking unique and authentic experiences. A key tenet of this work is "nothing about us without us," in which all storytelling is produced by tribal members themselves to retain sovereignty and avoid exploitation. 

These inclusive approaches not only foster a sense of ownership and pride among community members but also enhance a place's appeal to outsiders by showcasing its unique, vibrant character.

Effective Co-Creation for Place Branding

Effective collaboration in place branding encourages partnerships between local government, businesses, community groups, and/or residents to co-create solutions and strategies that will resonate best. Throughout the conference, we saw many examples of this. For example, Meet Boston is working closely with the city’s Office of Economic Opportunity & Inclusion to challenge negative place perceptions based on a historic legacy of racism. This has included highlighting diverse small businesses via the SPACE program, an ARPA-funded startup assistance and retail vacancy-filling program that benefits businesses affected by the pandemic – many of them Black-owned. 

Meanwhile, Destination Cleveland partnered with residents to incorporate their community priorities into their place brand. This cooperative approach leverages the strengths and insights of each stakeholder group. 

But collaboration is certainly not without its challenges. Panelists Santiago C. Corrada, Kian Kamas, Rickey L. Thigpen, and Brad Parry gave recommendations for responding to common challenges, including: 

  • Maintaining regular communication 

  • Encouraging transparent decision-making processes

  • Pooling resources and expertise to produce innovative and sustainable branding initiatives among partners.

This collective effort enhances the place’s marketability and strengthens community bonds, a unified vision for the future.

Man standing at podium on conference stage.
Stefan Hawes, Vice President of Global Marketing at Destination Vancouver.

Incorporating and Optimizing Generative AI for Place Branding

During the conference, Stefan Hawes of Destination Vancouver gave an intriguing argument for incorporating generative A.I. into place branding to engage new audiences. In Vancouver, generative A.I. is helping visitors produce personalized travel itineraries that align with the brand's identity and appeal to specific demographics. It also creates opportunities for their team to gain deeper insights into visitor behavior and preferences, which can be used to iterate for a more targeted and effective branding strategy. However, when collaborating with A.I. to co-create place branding solutions, Hawes also mentioned the importance of a strong strategy around how and why your organization will use these new technologies. 

By optimizing A.I. capabilities, place branding efforts can become more dynamic and responsive, allowing real-time adjustments and innovations that keep a city’s image fresh and relevant. Test out and learn from Destination Vancouver’s AI interface here


Interested in Equitable and Co-Created Placemaking? Fourth Economy places people, equity, and engagement at the center of our strategic planning work. We’d love to connect if you are looking for effective ways to do equitable and co-created placemaking that is driven by inclusive engagement with and for members of your community.


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