As a Senior Project Officer for Active Living By Design (ALBD), Rich Bell provides guidance and support for clients, community partnerships and their leaders on all aspects of their work, including strategic planning and prioritization, community engagement and partnership development, capacity building, project implementation, assessment, evaluation and sustainability of efforts to increase active living and healthy eating in communities. Rich develops educational materials and tools, shares stories, links leaders with the various resources of our national learning network, conducts training and provides coaching. He represents ALBD with national partners concerning his primary areas of expertise in planning and urban design, transportation, housing and community development, urban ecology and community gardening.
Rich has wide-ranging experience in managing nonprofit organizations, partnerships and projects as well as supporting them as a trainer, fundraiser and strategic advisor. Prior to his current role, Rich was the founding Executive Director of the North Carolina Smart Growth Alliance. He also served as Executive Director of South Eastern Efforts Developing Sustainable Spaces (SEEDS), Director of Resource Development (U.S. Western Region) for Habitat for Humanity International, Inc., as a Community Planner and Project Manager for the Spanish Speaking Unity Council, and as Executive Director of Literacy Volunteers of America, California.
Rich earned a B.A. in economics from Brown University and a master’s in city planning from the University of California at Berkeley.
Rich walks his talk by biking to work, encouraging his family’s use of active transportation and advocating for healthy community design in his community. He served on the town planning board and built an affordable, one-bedroom cottage in his backyard. He and his family regularly enjoy their organic garden, chickens and many outlets for local and sustainably produced food, especially their own kitchen. He lives in Carrboro, NC with Jennifer Curtis, a sustainable agriculture and food systems consultant and co-owner of Firsthand Foods, and their daughter, Carly.
I’ve long been convinced of the public benefits of things like bike commuting, infill development, community gardening, neighborhood traffic calming, preparing locally grown food at home and participating in local advocacy coalitions. It’s one thing to believe in these things; it’s another to do them. My experiences with clothing, clocks, rules, personalities, fatigue, failed equipment, fear, moods, weather, paperwork, disagreements, insufficient funding, and lack of discipline or encouragement all remind me of the complexity behind daily decisions and commitments. Translating any good idea into action – not to mention establishing a “whole new order of things” – involves accounting for and addressing all the mundane realities that make change really hard. It applies to health behaviors and also to activism. I am very lucky to work almost every day with the workhorses and other heroes of the healthy communities movement who understand this, and are willing to sweat, get lost, fail, be patient and grow so their community will be a healthy, just and sustainable place to live. They’re willing to make the road by walking it, and it’s a better road because we walk it together.