The Memphis Conversation on Evolutionary Theory & Quality of Life: Policy Implications for Building the Just City


The Graduate Program in City and Regional Planning at the University of Memphis School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy is delighted to be hosting The Evolution Institute’s 2011 Quality of Life Seminar in Memphis on November 5-7, 2011.

This event will bring twelve outstanding American and European scholars whose research in the area of quality of life has been deeply influenced by the latest developments in evolutionary theory to enter into a dialogue with local scholars and civic leaders regarding the public policy implications of this work. Among those participating in the seminar will be:

  • David Sloane Wilson, noted evolutionary biologist of the University of Binghamton
  • Sarah Cook, Director of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development
  • Jerome Lieberman, Founder of the Evolution Institute.

The Institute has chosen to hold this important forum in Memphis due to the serious and sustained efforts being made by community-based organizations, area non-profits, municipal/ county officials, local corporations, and regional philanthropies to address the structural causes of the income, wealth, and power disparities that are increasingly visible in our city as well as other mid-sized cities in the US and throughout the world with weak regional economies.

The seminar is designed to involve thirty to forty scholars and civic leaders in a serious discussion of the environmental, economic, and social policy implications of the recent contributions of evolutionary theory inspired researchers to quality of life scholarship.

Special attention will be given to the question of how this research might shape current and future efforts to promote neighborhood revitalization and community renewal within Memphis, especially the recently launched campaign to complete a transformation plan for the Vance Avenue Neighborhood being funded by the City of Memphis and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

A unique aspect of this seminar will be the Sunday Afternoon Session that will feature a tour of the Vance Avenue Choice Neighborhood Study Area and a session with grassroots leaders, institutional representatives, municipal officials and university faculty who are currently engaged in HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods planning process. This portion of the program will take place in the Community Room of the Memphis Housing Authority’s Foote Homes Complex and will involve our visiting and local urban scholars responding to the urban policy and community development questions of local residents, leaders, and officials.

While the events on Monday are completely open to the public, only a limited number of seats are available to the public for the weekend program which is expected to be both intellectually engaging and policy relevant for our community and other mid-sized cities that are struggling to address issues of persistent poverty.

Seminar organizers are committed to preparing a policy paper on evolutionary theory, quality of life research, and urban revitalization based upon the work presented at the event. This document should provide welcomed input to Memphis Mayor AC Wharton’s recently formed Taskforce on Poverty. 


-Kenneth M. Reardon, Professor and Director of the Graduate Program in City and Regional Planning

School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Memphis



Date: Nov 4-7 2011
Location: Memphis, Tennessee
Venue: University of Memphis

See below for the agenda for the Quality of Life Seminar. Those who would like to attend should email to confirm participation.

There is no registration fee for the seminar, which is being supported by the Evolution Institute and the University of Memphis’ Graduate Program in City and Regional Planning.



Reading List From The Evolution institute for the Workshop

Suggested Reading List 
Stephen Bezruchka- Epidemiological approaches to population HealthHealth equity in the USA
Sarah Cook- Combating Poverty and Inequality
M. Joseph Sirgy- Theoretical Perspectives Guiding Indicator Projects.
New York Times- David J. Rothkopf, Redefining the Meaning of No 1., Nicholas D. Kristof, America’s ‘Primal Scream”.

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