Our Story

The Global Designing Cities Initiative’s mission is to transform streets around the world. We inspire leaders, inform practitioners, and invite communities to imagine what’s possible when we design streets that put people first.

We are a team of designers, planners, and urban strategists committed to reimagining streets as places for people, shaping cities that are safe, healthy, accessible, and equitable for everyone. The strategies and best practices in our Global Street Design Guide are the foundation of our work, and they have been applied in cities across the globe, helping to update policies, build local capacity, implement and evaluate projects, and scale up impact. Originally a program of NACTO, GDCI became a project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors in 2022. 

Want to learn more about our work and programs? Check out this GDCI booklet, and stay tuned for the upcoming 3rd edition.

Our History

As one of the world’s most influential urban design organizations, the Global Designing Cities Initiative (GDCI) was founded in 2014 by Janette Sadik-Khan, operating under the guidance of Director Skye Duncan, with the mission to transform streets around the world and to develop global best-practice street design principles for use in a wide variety of street typologies.

With an awareness that streets are one of the largest untapped assets and public space networks in our cities, GDCI began as a program of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO). From the start, the ambition of the program was to expand context-specific street design guidance around the world, challenging outdated global guidance standards that overwhelmingly privileged vehicles over people. Recognizing that cities across the world are facing similar deep cross-cutting challenges, GDCI worked with an urgent recognition that street design impacts and intersects with multiple global issues, from public health, safety, and climate crises, to economic and environmental sustainability, accessibility, and social equity. 

As the team’s first major output, the Global Street Design Guide (GSDG) was published in 2016. Created with the input of experts from 72 cities and 42 countries around the world, this guide offers international case studies and technical details to inform street design that prioritizes pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders. Since its release, the Global Street Design Guide has been translated into five additional languages, endorsed by 109 cities, organizations, countries, and global regions, and downloaded over 40,000 times. Following the success of the GSDG, In 2020, the team released a second major publication, Designing Streets for Kids, which received the prestigious Prince Michael International Road Safety Award in 2021.

Through our published resources—along with the city-level support, capacity-building workshops, and in-depth trainings provided by our team—we have cultivated an extensive global network of city leaders and practitioners while building real-life best practices on the ground, and advising on policies, programs, and projects in 30+ cities around the globe. 

In 2022, after seven years as a program of NACTO, GDCI established itself as an independent initiative, operating under the fiscal home of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors–a nonprofit organization and international thought leader specializing in the support of high-impact global projects and strategic philanthropic initiatives.