Nurturing Sustainable Communities offers an incredible lineup of speakers covering a range of topics. Check out who you can expect to see at the event, along with a brief summary of their presentations.

Paul Bierman-Lytle

Presentation – Reaching for Ecosynthesis: Integration of Nature, Communities, Economics and Technology

This presentation builds a new sustainability model called Ecosynthesis: the convergence of natural ecosystems, human communities, sustainability economics, and intelligent technology. The ultimate objective of Ecosynthesis is to develop our communities as ‘ecosystems’, where all parts are integrated and interdependent on each other. Most importantly, the concept of waste is eliminated, as it is in natural ecosystems.

This presentation will demonstrate that:

  • Natural Ecosystems are a time-tested, resilient model, and has no concept of waste;Community (People) is representative of organized ‘silos’, inefficiency, and wastefulness; yet highly creative triggering enormous capacity to solve problems;
  • Community (People) is representative of organized ‘silos’, inefficiency, and wastefulness; yet highly creative triggering enormous capacity to solve problems;Sustainability Economics measures natural capital, human
  • Sustainability Economics measures natural capital, human capital and technology capital resulting in a new meaning of value;
  • Intelligent Technology represents ‘impartial efficiency’ and is the essential Enabler of Ecosynthesis.

Examples of each of these pillars is illustrated, culminating in steps we can take to establish communities as ecosystems.


Practice Leader: Integrated Sustainability Solutions, OHM Advisors

Dedicated and results-driven architect with a strong focus on integrated green infrastructure, high performing buildings, and smart communities based on sustainability solutions that are cost effective. Lauded for alternative thinking and highly inventive design and developments addressing economic sustainability issues. Recipient of a Leadership Award in Organizational Excellence from the American Institute of Architects, 2008, a Presidential Citation from the United States Green Building Council, 2009; noted as ‘a founder of green design in the USA’, appointed Director of Materials, Systems, and Technologies, HRH Prince of Wales International Hotel Environment Initiative (IHEI), London, UK, 1998-2001; delegate to World Business Council on Sustainable Development, Geneva; sustainability consultant to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Al Nayhan bin Zayed, Crown Prince, United Arab Emirates (2010-2013); and former V.P. Executive Director of Sustainable Development, CH2M Hill.

Education: Masters of Architecture, Yale University

Ritchie Harrison

Presentation: The Work of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy

This presentation will cover the success the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy has had in creating a waterfront that is diverse, walkable, and welcoming to all. Recently, the Conservancy has been working with the City of Detroit Planning Department, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation and other partners, to complete the framework vision for the East Riverfront. The Conservancy is planning to continue leading developments that increase access to public space along the riverfront. This includes completion of the original 5.5-mile vision for the RiverWalk created in 2003.  The presentation will emphasize how the Conservancy has demonstrated the value safe and accessible public space has on urban development. The talk will also highlight how the Conservancy’s work has strengthened a sense of community along the waterfront, drawing Detroiters and visitors there for recreation, programming, educational activities, and relaxation.


Ritchie is a life-long Detroiter and for more than 10 years has worked to create vitality in communities; while directing projects to achieve scalable and lasting improvement in the City. He is presently a Community Planner for the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy and a Detroit Revitalization Fellow at Wayne State University.

In his prior work experiences he has successfully led community development initiatives that have been recognized for commercial district revitalization, neighborhood improvement, and streetscape transformation.  Ritchie has also consulted entrepreneurs, organizations and provided technical assistance to planning initiatives targeting communities.

Ritchie Harrison has a Bachelor of Science in Urban Planning and a Graduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship from Eastern Michigan University. He has a Master of Community Development at the University-Detroit Mercy. Outside of work, Ritchie is an avid runner and has completed several half-marathons.

Fr. Phil Cooke, SJ

Presentation: Business Models with Social Mission

Phil Cooke is passionate about assisting organizations in metro-Detroit who are addressing social justice, equity and enhancing the common good become more financially sustainable. In this presentation, Phil will demonstrate the methodology of how an enterprise with a social mission can create a business model rooted in social impact, growth and long-term financial sustainability.


Phil Cooke, SJ, is a Jesuit priest. Over the years, he’s worked with the poor and gangs in Chicago and Los Angeles and with at-risk youth on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Prior to coming to Detroit, he was a fellow as the as the Jesuit Social Entrepreneur in Residence at Santa Clara University’s Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. Fr. Phil is passionate about blending spirituality and social entrepreneurship to assist individuals in creating their own unique careers to sustain themselves while serving the greater good. He is currently the Co-Director for Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Detroit Mercy.