Elemental Initiatives collaborates with communities to create healthy, livable environments for people. By working in partnership with residents, community organizations, municipalities, developers and other community stakeholders, we engage people in the design, development and implementation of their ideas for improving their communities.
Elemental Initiatives specializes in community outreach and participatory planning, researching and drafting Health Impact Assessments (HIA), entrepreneurship research, and policy recommendations.
Our interdisciplinary team of urban planners, community organizers and public health specialists work with community stakeholders to transform neighborhoods and cities. We focus on issues related to chronic health conditions, the availability of healthy and affordable housing, resources for small businesses and entrepreneurs, access to healthy food, access to public transportation, and the availability of quality open space and safe streets and trails.
Meeting these challenges requires understanding the needs of each place and working with community members to create appropriate solutions and policies that lead to positive, sustainable outcomes.
Every voice in the community deserves to be heard. Therefore, we offer all participatory workshops in Spanish and English, including the production of any printed and digital materials. In cases in which other languages are needed we will engage other partners to assist us in making our process as inclusive and accessible as possible.
Susan and partner Ernesto started Elemental in 2011 because they deeply believe that members of a community should shape the future of that community; and to work in partnership with residents, community organizations, municipalities, developers and other community stakeholders, engaging people in the design, development and implementation of their ideas for improving their communities.
Susan has tackled many aspects of campaigns and programs for social change, including research, campaign/program design and strategy, securing funding, identifying and engaging partner organizations, hiring and managing staff, marketing, recruiting, facilitating meetings, coordinating events, delivering trainings and workshops, evaluation, reporting, and iteration. She approaches projects from human-centered design (design thinking) and lean launch perspective, ensuring that what she creates is grounded in what end users want and need.
As Assistant Director of Community Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Susan led a team researching, creating, funding, implementing and evaluating programs to expand access to entrepreneurship resources and support to groups underrepresented in entrepreneurship: women, people of color and low-income people. She also led research on the local entrepreneurship ecosystem. Prior to attending graduate school, she led development and campaigns for neighborhood improvements, financial justice, environmental justice, voter engagement, and access to health care at Arizona ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now).
Susan is certified Lean Launchpad for Educators instructor and is currently pursuing a certificate in nonprofit management. She earned a B.S. in Biological Aspects of Conservation from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and a M.S. in Justice Studies from Arizona State University.
Director & Partner
Passionate about community development, Ernesto seeks inclusive and straightforward solutions to complex urban, public health and housing issues. He has worked with non-profit organizations, municipalities and residents on affordable and healthy housing, urban revitalization and health assessments of the built environment. As Managing Director of Innovation and Community Outreach for Arizona State University's Stardust Center for Affordable Homes and the Family, Ernesto led the design and development of new homes in lower income communities and worked with Center colleagues on Maryvale on the Move, Green Apple and other research projects. Following his tenure with the Stardust Center, he directed the redevelopment of the City of Avondale’s historic downtown. In this capacity, he facilitated the Avondale Micro-Lending Initiative, healthy homes redevelopment, the monthly Art Walk and other economic development programs.
Ernesto is committed to elevating community health through transforming the built environment. Collaborating with St. Luke’s Health Initiatives, Ernesto worked as a member of the Health Team on the ReinventPHX project, a HUD Sustainable Communities Planning Grant awarded to the City of Phoenix. He has worked on Health Impact Assessments for the City of Avondale and the Maricopa County Department of Public Health and developed tools for evaluating the health and economic impacts of light rail for organizations in Mesa, AZ.
Informing Ernesto’s work as a practitioner is his ongoing research work. Interested in the supporting the long-term success of communities, Ernesto’s research examines aspects of sustainability across scales looking at advances in energy and material technologies; environment and behavior; and links between health, housing and the built environment in both rural and urban environments. His work has been published in academic journals and he regularly presents his work at regional and national conferences. In addition, he was recognized by the Phoenix Business Journal as one of “40 under 40” up-and-coming business leaders and by Poder y Dinero and Latino Perspectives for his outstanding work in creating sustainable communities in the western U.S. and northern Mexico.
Health & Urban Initiatives
Kim has nearly 20 years of experience working with individuals, residents, communities, organizations and municipalities developing policies and strategies to improve opportunities for health, employment and livability. She collaborates with St. Luke’s Health Initiatives on a variety of projects including the ReinventPHX project, a HUD Sustainable Communities Planning Grant awarded to the city of Phoenix; Maryvale on the Move, a Robert Wood Johnson Healthy Kids Healthy Communities project; and South Phoenix: Grounded and Growing, and Cultivate South Phoenix. Kim also works on Health Impact Assessments with the Maricopa County Department of Public Health and the City of Avondale.
Kim has worked with urban and rural communities. While an assistant professor in the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture at Auburn University, she and colleagues developed a masterplan and operations white paper for the Center for Sustainable Rural Living with colleagues from the College of Agriculture and Alabama’s Extension Service. As an associate professor in The Design School at Arizona State University, she worked with several underserved communities and marginalized populations throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area to develop solutions to improve access to healthy food and housing, safe streets, recreation and economic security and continues this work today. Kim regularly publishes and gives presentations on the effects of the built environment on neighborhood health and stability.
In addition to addressing the needs and desires of communities seeking to improve the health of their environments, Kim works to improve living situations of people with autism and other developmental and/or intellectual disabilities. She is a recognized leader in the design of residential environments for adults with autism, consulting with architects and housing and service providers; publishing widely and presenting this work at local, national and international conferences. She is co-author of At Home with Autism: Designing Housing for the Spectrum to be published August 2015 by the Policy Press. Furthering this work, Kim currently is researching possibilities for increasing neighborhood and community access and participation for adults on the spectrum.