New City Commons

Reimagining the Common Good


Our Perspective

The Civic Shape of Human Flourishing: We believe that human beings are made to flourish and that this flourishing requires strong civic institutions—economic, educational, political, artistic, and religious—to labor in common cause toward that end. 

The Complexity of our Cultural Moment: We believe that we live in a moment of world historic cultural change, and that this moment presents enormous challenges and opportunities for the pursuit of human flourishing.

The Limitations of Current Models: We believe that the dominant paradigms for pursuing civic flourishing—models that tend to focus on merely political, economic, or educational solutions—are insufficient for the complex requirements of human and civic flourishing in our cultural moment.

The Necessity of Imaginative Leadership: We believe that human flourishing in our time will require the cultivation of leaders equipped for the work of imagining and embodying new paradigms for human flourishing in our time. 

The Possibility of Enduring Change: We believe that when anchored in knowledge, nurtured in community, and embodied in institutions, human flourishing is not only important but also possible—both in our cultural moment and in moments yet to come.

We seek to nurture human flourishing in our time by equipping networks of leaders to reimagine the common good, reinvigorate cultural institutions, and renew civic life.


Our Process

Civic change happens at the intersection of knowledge and relationships. We seek to bring these things together for the sake of human flourishing.

Over the last twenty years, the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia has developed both a deep knowledge of culture and cultural change and strong networks of cultural leaders around the world. Drawing on their paradigm shifting work, New City Commons exists to promote civic thriving by bringing knowledge and relationships together to form a generation of wise, imaginative, and culturally aware leaders.

Knowledge: Our research and educational projects focus on understanding culture and educating leaders by compiling, refining, translating and distributing the cultural knowledge being developed at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture. Through these projects, knowledge is refined into applied wisdom that enables public leaders to pursue the common good within their vocational field.

Relationships: Our convening and consulting projects focus on cultivating networks and aligning institutions by sharing and applying cultural insight within networks of institutional leaders. Our goal is that these relational networks become committed communities working together to address common concerns by developing common language and imagining a common future—a new city commons.


Our Projects


We are working to apply a deep understanding of culture and cultural change to the practical decisions that working professionals face every day. In collaboration with the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia, we are assembling vocation-specific working groups of leading scholars and practitioners who will conduct research on a range of vocational sectors, and publish books to help people think well and lead wisely in their vocations.

For more information, contact the Project Director.


We are working to foster wise leadership in key social institutions by providing public leaders with access to leading theories of culture and cultural change, in the form of online modules and onsite seminars. The goal of these educational modules is to make deep knowledge of culture and cultural change accessible to practitioners in their places of work. 

Materials launching throughout 2015. Check back often for more information.


We are working to imagine a new future for our cities by hosting gatherings of cultural and institutional leaders who seek to thoughtfully and wisely contribute to civic thriving through a deep understanding of our particular cultural moment. Cultivating networks of thoughtful leaders who share common concerns, a common language, and a common purpose is crucial to our long-term goal of institutional alignment for the common good.

If you’re interested in having New City Commons visit your city, contact our Director of Ventures.


We are collaborating with civic leaders to cultivate thriving communities by embedding a shared vision of the common good in the institutions of the city. We help leaders understand the unique contribution of their vocational field to civic thriving, and work alongside them to address the particular challenges of our cultural moment in the context of that field.

For more information on New City Commons consulting services, contact us here.


Our People

Greg Thompson

Greg Thompson

Executive Director

Greg is a doctoral candidate in the Theology, Ethics, and Culture Program of the University of Virginia’s Department of Religious Studies. His research interests include the character of culture, the nature of cultural change, the future of cities, the American Civil Rights Movement, and the role of religious communities in the service of the common good. He is co-editor of a collection of essays by philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff entitled, Hearing the Call: Liturgy, Justice, Church, World and is currently writing a work on Martin Luther King Jr.’s public theology of love. In addition to his work with the New City Commons, Greg serves as an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies of Culture at the University of Virginia and as a pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia.  He and his wife Courtney have four children. 

Emily Gum

Emily Gum

Director of Ventures

Emily is a doctoral candidate in the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford, where her research centers around questions of character formation at the intersection of significant formative institutions, particularly the church, the family, and schools. She also holds an MPhil from Oxford in Christian Ethics and an MA Joint Honours in International Relations and Theological Studies from the University of St. Andrews. Emily lives in Charlottesville with her husband Wheeler.

Philip Lorish

Philip Lorish

Director, Vocation and the Common Good

Philip is a doctoral candidate in the Religious Studies department of the University of Virginia studying Bioethics. His other research interests include the Christian political tradition and the place of religious institutions in American public life. Philip holds a BA in Philosophy from Furman University, an MA in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia, and an MPhil in Christian Ethics from Oxford. He lives in Charlottesville with his wife Lisa and their two children.

Sam Speers

Sam Speers

Ventures Intern

Sam is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where he studied Religious Studies and Economics. He is the coauthor of the book Kingdom Politics (Cascade 2015), a study of the role of political language and activity in American churches. 

Thank you for your interest in New City Commons.

112 4th St NE
Charlottesville, Va 22902

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