Our track record

Learn more about the Urban Ecology Center model for successful community transformation!


As a systems thinking and learning organization, the Urban Ecology Center has been built from the ground up by a team with a unique and incredibly effective way of role modeling and teaching. Learn more here.

About the Urban Ecology Center

The Model

An Urban Ecology Center (UEC) is an environmental community center model that, once activated in a urban neighborhood green space, contributes to safety in adjacent parks, increased academic achievement of students, new jobs and job training, an explosion of volunteerism, increased value of neighborhood and city property, and an influx of community resources and engagement. A UEC restores the ecology of the land, instills love of nature, improves a neighborhood’s environmental awareness, and is a catalyst for social change.

Case Studies

The Urban Ecology Center’s three branches, first in its founding Riverside Park location, then in Washington Park, and again in Menomonee Valley – three unique neighborhoods in Milwaukee – have all experienced the same results. The good news is that this can happen for you too.

The Urban Ecology Center has transformed the greenspace around the Milwaukee River into the best urban wilderness in the world. It connects the people of Milwaukee to flowing water, to the seasons, and to each other.

Nic Kovac,
Milwaukee Alderman

As more and more children are growing up in cities, teaching land stewardship and nature conservation to children and their families is critical. I am excited by Urban Ecology as it puts forth a practical blueprint for how to do this well. Urban Ecology shares the story of a model that has been perfected in three unique urban neighborhoods in Milwaukee, is being modeled in other cities in the United States, and is beginning to spread to cities across the globe.

Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE,
founder of the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace
downward spiral reversed to heal the land
The downward spiral is a problem that can be reversed by an Urban Ecology Center to heal the land.

An Urban Ecology Center invites people in cities to connect with nature and each other. These centers provide places for families and people of all ages to play and explore. Once activated in a local green space, centers provide a model of an environmental community center that inspires an explosion of volunteerism. In our experience, it can raise the value of neighborhood and city property, increase safety in adjacent parks, increase academic achievement of students, create new jobs and job training, and lead to an influx of resources and engagement. In Milwaukee, these are measurable changes and have included the investment of millions of dollars.

These things can take time, but the model here demonstrates the results! After running programs out of a trailer for over six years, the organization built a new facility, then expanded into two more renovated spaces over the past fifteen years. Two talented science teachers followed their passion, supported by dedicated board and staff members, to emerge as leaders of this vibrant effort. An Urban Ecology Center restores the ecology of the land, instills a love of nature, improves a neighborhood’s environmental awareness, and provides a catalyst for social change.

The branches of the Urban Ecology Center in three distinctive neighborhoods in Milwaukee — from the founding Riverside Park location to the pioneering Washington Park reinvention to the brownfield-restoring Menomonee Valley branch — have all experienced the same results. This is good news that can happen in your community too.

I loved the book because it was almost a manual for me on how to build my non-profit even though our cause has nothing to do with ecology.

Ashley Schneider,
founder of Milwaukee non-profit MS run the US

Why not just read the book?

The book is the starting point. The Intensive allows you to be immersed in an experience that can help you transform your city. You will benefit from our 20+ years of experimentation, where we have faced major challenges and disappointments, as well as success and sustainable growth. This is not a one-size-fits-all model. Its transformational power comes from a process of exploring possibilities and building partnerships around a shared vision of ecologically and socially restored urban spaces.

I am so very appreciative of the new outlook — on engaging the community in urban environmentalism — that I gained by participating in the Intensive Training Program.  The great thing is that I am still learning — and hopefully growing.

Sheila S.,
Northwest Side Community Development Corporation, Milwaukee
cities around the world inquire about the model
Leaders of neighborhoods, organizations, businesses, and cities from all over the world have studied the Urban Ecology Center model to learn more about how to transform their communities.

Our global reputation building a network of collaborators

We built the curriculum for the Intensive from Ken Leinbach’s book, Urban Ecology: A Natural Way to Transform Kids, Parks, Cities, and the World. Ken, the Center’s Executive Director, wrote the book for people looking to make a change in their neighborhoods and communities. When you visit Milwaukee, we will share with you customized options for engaging a neighborhood in a very practical way by guiding you through the activities at our environmental community centers set up across the city. There are more layers of transformation embedded in the Urban Ecology Center — many more. You will see examples of the programming and details of our operations model, along with insights into leadership development and team building that will serve you and your organization starting the moment you get home.

What you are doing in the non-profit field is badly needed in the for-profit field as well! What if we started to see doing business as symbiotic relationships where whole ecosystems of business, suppliers, and consumers grow in a sustainable win-win way? Your wording ‘secret sauce’ is a beautiful way to capture the unique culture of UEC.

Dolf Van Den Brink,
CEO of Heineken Mexico

Become part of a global cohort of community leaders

Participants in the UEC Institute’s training Intensive will meet and interact with one another over the course of the sessions. Ongoing relationships for peer mentoring and exchange of best practices are facilitated by the Institute’s social media and communication efforts. You and the other participants form an immediate bond, and can extend the connection to previous Intensive participants to learn more about progress they have made in cities around the world, in communities like yours, and in places you might not have imagined. You will be inspired!

Make plans to attend the next Intensive

More details are available here


Meet our faculty team

Come join us as we co-create a better world!


The Urban Ecology Center Institute is an effort to share the model developed in Milwaukee. With three distinct branches in Milwaukee, the UEC connects people in cities to nature and each other.