What is Strong Towns?
Strong Towns is a media organization leading a national movement for change. We’re challenging every American to fundamentally rethink how our cities are built, and we’re shining a spotlight on an approach that will make us truly prosperous.
Curious? Learn more about what we do, our history and how to get involved in the tabs below.
What we do
Why are so many cities and towns across North America going broke? Our roads are deteriorating. Our governments are in debt. No matter how much we increase them, our taxes aren’t enough to fix it all. And no one seems to be able to agree on how we got here — much less how to change the course. This isn’t just about numbers on a budget; it's about the fate of the communities we love most and the real people in them.
At Strong Towns, our mission is to help cities, towns and neighborhoods become financially strong and resilient. And we’ve thought long and hard about the best way to do that. We firmly believe the most enduring changes are incremental and data-responsive, and can only happen from the bottom up — through the work of strong citizens like you. What that means is, we won’t be handing you a blueprint.
Strong Towns will never produce a street design guide for engineers. We won’t tell you an ideal population density per acre. And we aren’t available for consultancy requests; we're a nonprofit that's doing something bigger than just helping one town or one county. Easy, one-size-fits-all solutions from the top down are what got American towns into the mess they’re in; we want to bring you something better.
Instead, it’s Strong Towns’ goal to give you a process that can adapt to your community's unique needs and change as your town grows stronger. We aim to inspire readers to ask a different set of questions about the way their towns are built, and to encourage you to demand a better approach in the places you love.
We publish daily written content, weekly podcasts, and interactive webcasts to keep you asking the hard questions, and show you some outstanding examples of people who have gotten it right. We bring live, community-specific events to towns across North America. And we foster an online community where Strong Towns members can organize, share resources, and keep inspiring one another to do more.
(Top photo by Joshuay04)
Strong Towns began in 2008 as the blog of civil engineer Charles Marohn. After more than a decade in the profession, he noticed something that disturbed him. The cities and towns he worked with were going broke. Even though they were growing, local governments were going deeper and deeper into debt just to keep their basic services up and running. And yet they were still building more roads, pouring more concrete, and green-lighting more massive development projects — projects he had helped design.
The underpinnings of the current financial crisis lie in a living arrangement -- the American pattern of development -- that does not financially support itself.
If you want a simple explanation for why our economy is stalled and cannot be restarted, it is this: Our places do not create wealth, they destroy wealth.
Our development pattern is not productive enough to sustain itself.
Our national economy is "all in" on the suburban experiment. We cannot sustain the trajectory we are on, but we've gone too far down the path to turn back.
How did we build such an amazing place before the home mortgage interest deduction? How did we accomplish this before zoning? What created this place before we had state and federal subsidies of local water and sewer systems?
From that seed of doubt grew a revelation: Our national system of growth and development is fundamentally broken, and it’s put too many American cities (and the people who live in them) on the path to certain decline.
From that revelation grew a revolution: an approach that could put us back on a path to prosperity, and make the communities we love a lot stronger along the way.
Strong Towns has blossomed from one man questioning the dominant point of view into a national media organization that challenges everything about the way we build our world — and shows you ways to build it better. Over the years, we’ve developed a dedicated staff, a following of hundreds of thousands of people around the world, and an award-winning archive of content and resources.
But what we’re most proud of isn’t our history. It’s what we’ll do next — with your help.
Essential reading & Listening
Strong Towns has amassed an award-winning slate of content across all media platforms. Explore some of our most popular stories of all time here, and get a sense of Strong Towns’ unique take on the issues that matter most to you.
See a word in here that's not familiar? Check out our Lingo page to get some quick definitions for the terms we frequently use at Strong Towns.
Here are some of our most important pieces:
A federal infrastructure bill is going to make your city poorer in the long run. Here's how.
Most American cities experience a modest, short term illusion of wealth in exchange for enormous, long term liabilities. We deprive our communities of prosperity, overload our families with debt and become trapped in a spiral of decline.
This year we've put resources towards producing a series of videos that share snippets of the Curbside Chat message. Short, shareable videos of key parts of this message topped our request list a year ago. We're provided four thus far. This week -- our last week of the year before we take a break -- we release two more; one on Thursday and the other on Friday.
Last week I received notice that a complaint had been filed against my professional engineering license. The complaint indicated that I had engaged in “misconduct on the website/blog Strong Towns” for things I have written critical of the engineering profession.
Dive into our Curbside Chat Series:
It's a summary of essential Strong Towns principles in video format.
Check out Our Best Podcasts
Chuck Marohn discusses the issue of traffic stops and the need to end them in this solo podcast.
The global climate is a complex system. Economic markets are a complex system. Why do we react so differently to these different forms of complexity and what can we learn from those reactions?
Chuck reviews three different incidents involving children killed by automobiles and asks: Who are really the ones showing casual indifference here?
Our friend and Strong Towns member Steven Shultis from Springfield, Massachusetts, joins Chuck this week to talk about his experience as a parent of children in an urban school system.
Join the conversation
There are thousands of people around the world talking about Strong Towns right now. We invite you to join them online on our community discussion board (Slack), Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments section on each article.
You can also join them in person by attending an event near you, hosting an event, or contact our Director of Community engagement, Kea Wilson, if you’d like to meet other Strong Towns fans in your area.
We're building a movement of a million people who care about the Strong Towns message. If you like what you see on our website, please share it with others!
This is Our Movement in Action:
It's amazing what we can do when we think small.
A recent series of events in North Dakota featuring Strong Towns' President, Charles Marohn, championed the value of Main Street. And it's getting plenty of attention.
We can all learn from these communities' attempts to turn their downtowns back into places for people, not just cars.
We're spending too much on infrastructure and getting too little in return.
States, cities, and metropolitan regions should compete on the underlying strength of their communities — not on public handouts to private business.
Charles Marohn recently did an interview with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.
City councilor and Strong Towns member Andrew Rodriguez turned his city hall parking spot into a community park in Walnut, CA.
Our simple, affordable effort to improve a neighborhood park brought the whole community together.
Something is seriously wrong with your town's finances if merely fixing a street would require 17 year's worth of taxes from the people who use that street...