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Nonprofit receives ASU sustainability award for transforming vacant lots

two women holding a check at SVP Fast Pitch competition
April 02, 2014

Can you change the world in 180 seconds? That’s what Social Venture Partners Arizona asked of participants at its annual Fast Pitch, a competition where nonprofits share their vision and strategy in three minutes or less in hopes of winning funding and mentorship. Project Rising, an "urban infill accelerator," won the 2014 Walton Sustainability Solutions Award, given by Arizona State University’s Sustainability Solutions Festival, for turning vacant lots into places to be.

"The businesses Project Rising engenders from the community offer long-term employment in Arizona, safe lighting for neighborhoods, community gathering places and social connectivity," said Kelly Saunders, a Fast Pitch judge and project coordinator of the Sustainability Solutions Festival, a program of ASU’s Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives. "Project Rising understands that it is more sustainable and successful to create a community with the community."

Leslie Lindo, co-founder and executive director of Project Rising, observed the negative impacts of urban sprawl as a builder representative in the production home industry. She started Project Rising to foster a stronger, healthier community based on sustainable building.

"About 43 percent of Phoenix is filled with vacant lots," said Lindo, also the first certified sustainable building adviser in Arizona. "We can reactivate these areas with the ideas of the community, the ingenuity of local investors and the knowledge of stakeholders to turn Phoenix into a connector city that serves as a value-driven model for growing urban areas. Rather than building out, we can demonstrate how to best fill in existing spaces."

The Walton Sustainability Solutions Award is one of many the Sustainability Solutions Festival offers throughout the year to support and inspire young students, creative writers and artists, and visionary entrepreneurs who find novel solutions to sustainability challenges using science, art, humanities, politics or economics.

"By offering awards throughout the year, the Sustainability Solutions Festival goes beyond our week of events each February, and accelerates sustainability solutions year-round," said Saunders. "Connections like ours to Project Rising help bring the important work of sustainability innovators to the public for support and education."

Next year’s Sustainability Solutions Festival week, scheduled for Feb. 16-21, 2015, will ask participants to reimagine what’s to come. To join as a partner, contact Kelly Saunders.

Media contact:
Jason Franz,
Strategic Marketing and Communications