Updated: Jan 29
To celebrate 38 years of ensuring design as a right, not a privilege in communities throughout Central Ohio, we spoke with Kerstin Carr about her contributions as Vice President on the NDC board.
Kerstin leads MORPC’s department of Planning & Sustainability and has been with MORPC for 14 years. Her team provides and promotes collaboration, technical assistance, and regional planning initiatives related to active transportation, the natural and built environment, transportation safety, and energy to benefit MORPC members and communities in Central Ohio. She has nearly 20 years of experience in transportation and urban planning, as well as a Doctoral Degree in Geography from the University of Regensburg, Germany.
Can you briefly describe your role as Director of Planning & Sustainability at MORPC?
Kerstin: MORPC is a voluntary association of over 70 local governments and regional organizations. My team provides planning services related to future growth, housing, trails and active transportation, water, air, energy, transportation safety, and more. We offer technical assistance to our members to assist them with redesigning and enhancing their communities to ensure a high quality of life for every resident.
Why were you drawn to serve on the NDC board?
Kerstin: When David Brehm approached me about serving on the NDC board, I was immediately excited. The NDC is such an amazing organization focused on partnering with community leaders to envision and design better public spaces and neighborhoods. Over the past two years I have been able to witness the incredible passion that drives Isabela and her team as they embark on truly impactful work that results in more equitable and fair planning and design solutions.
What does “Design as a right, not a privilege” mean to you?
Kerstin: In two words: Equity & Inclusion. Design of our greenspaces, design of our infrastructure, design of our communities – it all needs to be done with a diverse set of resident voices at the table. So often, design decisions are made based on the needs or wants of our most privileged. If we want to lift all people up and give opportunities and freedom to choose where and how to live, we need to have an equitable and inclusive design process that ensures that one design decision doesn’t unintentionally harm or prevent another group of residents from having access to opportunity.
What kinds of benefits do design centers like the NDC provide to the communities they serve?
Kerstin: NDC projects are collaborations between residents, community stakeholders, design professionals, local government agencies, fellow nonprofits, and their staff. Together, they lay the groundwork for lifting up historically disinvested neighborhoods. Team members immerse themselves in the communities, with the goal to truly understand everyone’s needs. By engaging the community as a whole, they are able to build trust, which allows for full engagement and buy-in.
One of my favorite resident quotes of a recent neighborhood planning process in the Linden area led by the NDC team demonstrates this trust: “I’ve participated in community planning efforts for the past 20 years; this is the first time I felt we were heard.”
Is there an author or a quote you’d like to share that has inspired you to keep pushing for your values or principles in your life or career?
Kerstin: My biggest guiding star is Maya Angelou’s quote: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” While having empathy is important, it isn’t enough to create change. What we need is to talk to people and to try to truly understand their lived experiences, perspectives, and dreams. And to ask them what would make things better for them.