Founder and Managing Director
Gilbert is recognised locally and Internationally as a leading voice in placemaking and the creation of vibrant, resilient and loved places. He is a sought after speaker and skilled facilitator for community and stakeholder engagement activities and has worked with over 1000 cities, towns, mainstreets and communities over the past 25 years. Gilbert co-founded the EPOCH Foundation promoting the adoption of business ethics. He has been on the boards of Ross House, Donkey Wheel House Trust and Hub Australia. Gilbert leads a multi-disciplinary team of placemakers, researchers and designers.
Jennifer is a customer and place experience expert, supporting clients to transform their assets into resilient, high-performing and loved places. Creating successful destinations and experiences for over 20 years, Jennifer brings the customer to the decision-making table with a research-based approach to navigate trends, industry disruption and continuous change.
A skilled facilitator, strategist and stakeholder engagement specialist, she has walked in the shoes of commercial owner/developer, cultural curator, city marketer, brand manager and industry advocate, and knows how to align a diverse group of stakeholders to a common goal.
Jennifer’s clients include Australia’s top property companies, and her results-focused and industry-leading strategies have won clients national and international awards. Her passion for diverse experiences has led her to working in Asia and Europe, directing major public events and joining an internationally acclaimed circus on tour around the globe.
‘Together we are stronger’ is more than a tagline. Valli is a placemaking thought leader, webinar guru and co-design specialist who has spent over two decades driving systemic place-based change within Government & the consulting sectors.
As a self-professed ‘systems nerd’ she knows that sustainable citymaking requires an eco-systems approach that leverages local strengths to enhance economic, social, cultural, environmental and political value.
Valli is a gifted storyteller and facilitator with extensive experience in collaboration to drive compelling place visions, strategies and activation frameworks to make places prosper within diverse sectors, including Government, residential, commercial, university and infrastructure.
Her work recently won a nationally recognised IAP2 Core Values Award for Infrastructure Engagement on Apex Park, Gippsland Rail Revitalisation.
Trained architect and urban designer, Raul has a strong focus on tactical urbanism, and people-centered design. Having worked for the public and private sectors, Raul has advocated for design excellence within the public realm. He believes in an experimental approach to design which has led him to implement low-cost, high-impact urban solutions across Melbourne.
Skilled in different representation methods, Raul is passionate about storytelling and graphically conveying complex ideas. Through his knowledge of 3D technologies, Raul has spearheaded the use of 3D models as part of Councils’ planning and urban analysis processes.
Raul is drawn to high change areas and his work has helped inform key strategic directions in some of the city’s biggest urban renewal projects.
Micha is a placemaker, designer, registered architect and sessional tutor. She has a background working in architecture and design offices.
Her experience includes planning, designing, documenting and administering the delivery of a range of built forms. The projects she has worked on cover a diverse range of building typologies: private dwellings, commercial, educational, sporting & public buildings across Australia and the United States.
She is passionate about facilitating a human response to the interaction of spaces. She is curious about how we design for people in a changing public landscape. Her big picture thinking helps draw out creative, critical solutions.
With a background in architecture and design, Hannah brings a diverse range of professional and academic experience having been involved in community development, government and education projects across urban, regional and remote Australia and Papua New Guinea.
She is fascinated by the relationships people build with the places and spaces they live in, and the collective power of communities to create vibrant places that inspire a deep sense of belonging.
Hannah loves getting her hands dirty with data and leads Village Wells place metric evaluation and reporting.
Not one to miss out on the action, she’s often exploring new places on her bike with a sketchbook and camera in hand.
Renae believes ‘a good design is worth a thousand words’, and has so for the past 18 years as a freelance graphic designer. Creating individual communications that speak to a clients audience and appeal to their creative vision is her brief. So she lets her creativity speak for itself.
Through collaboration with a diverse range of clients and industries from tourism, government initiatives, community events, shire councils to local traders, she creates meaningful designs that are organic and intuitive in nature, fun, quirky and indeed inspirational.
Never one for down time, you will find her running the tracks and trails of her local area and places she visits.
Dr. Dominique Hes is an award-winning author, collaborator, researcher and academic working in the areas of regenerative development, placemaking, biophilia, urban greenery, sustainable development and all areas that look at using human ingenuity to address the messy, complex problems in our cities.
With degrees in Botany, Process Engineering and Architecture, Dominique brings an interdisciplinary approach, 20 built projects, and governance experience to all of her work. Dominique developed and directed Place Agency for 3 years, working with 7 universities, 20 or more practitioners, and many councils.
Emma is trained in Architecture and Urban Design and has experience in social and affordable housing, heritage, strategic council work and academics.
She has completed her Masters in Architecture and Urban Design at Swinburne University, and was the recipient of the Outstanding Student Achievement Award.
Emma is interested in how evidence-based, community-led design can lead to more inclusive urban spaces, and how they can positively impact the wellbeing of people and the environment.
She believes that quality place-based design can help change our world for the better, and has a specific interest in the benefits of placemaking in social housing. When not at Village Well, you can find Emma coaching soccer for disadvantaged women in our communities.
Samantha has over 15 years experience in Australia and the USA as a passionate urbanist whose interest lies in creating prosperous places that matter and that people can connect with. She has worked on a range of urban scales including city-wide urban renewal, neighbourhood revitalisation, community-led planning and placemaking, planning for transit-oriented development, providing urban design advice and facilitating land development to name a few.
Her most recent work focuses on building years of practice around what makes places successful to now provide strategic research, place trends and insights for the commercial property sector including working with some of the largest global asset owners in Australia and around the world.
Culture and collaboration
Steve has worked in the environmental and social change movement for more than 30 years. During that time, he has worked in and for national, state and local Government, corporate and not-for-profit organizations.
He has worked with the Groupwork Centre as a facilitator and trainer since 2008.
His experience in emotional resilience, facilitation, conflict resolution and collaborative decision making form a major part of his work in training and consultancy with work teams and groups of many kinds. Organisations routinely report significant and profound shifts in their working culture after attending these workshops. The learning is often transformational because it uncovers and shifts the unconscious patterns of behavior which form a major part of our make-up.
Our Key Partners
Michael Shuman is a leading American economist, attorney, and author of ten books. He is recognised as one of the leading global thinkers of the new economy that puts people and planet first. He is a leading expert on local economic development, local investment, and resilience, and performed economic development studies and given invited talks in nearly every U.S. state and Canadian province.
Steven Burgess is a change agent for Cities. He brings 30+ years’ experience as a transport engineer and urban strategist to reform the balance between car space and people space in towns and cities all over the world. Steven is the author of ‘Complete Streets - Guidelines to Urban Street Design’ published in 2010 and was a contributor to two other international street making publications. He is an international keynote speaker on people places and of course parking, having spoken at events all around Australia, New Zealand, North America, South America, Europe and the UAE.
Maya is an experienced writer, placemaker, public speaker and interpretation consultant. She creates beautiful stories with impact, stories that tap into deep feeling to engage hearts and minds. Narratives to inspire transformation.
In 2002, Maya joined Village Well as their first placemaker, where she was instrumental in the firm’s repositioning to become Australia’s first company to specialise in placemaking. In that role she partnered with many of Australia's leading thinkers and design teams to develop holistic redevelopment projects that put people and place first.
She holds a Doctorate of Creative Writing from La Trobe University and a Masters of Education (Social Ecology) from Western Sydney University where she researched narrative methodology and created narratives for conveying complex ecological and cultural knowledge. Maya completed four years of undergraduate studies in the Bachelor degrees of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at RMIT University.
Michel Bauwens is the founder and president of the P2P Foundation and works in collaboration with a global group of researchers in the exploration of peer production, governance, and property. Bauwens travels extensively giving workshops and lectures on P2P and the Commons as emergent paradigms and the opportunities they present to move towards a post-capitalist world. In the first semester of 2014, Bauwens was research director of the floksociety.org which produced the first integrated Commons Transition Plan for the government of Ecuador, in order to create policies for a 'social knowledge economy'.
In January 2015 CommonsTransition.org was launched. Commons Transition builds on the work of the FLOK Society and features newly revised and updated, non-region specific versions of these policy documents. Commons Transition aims toward a society of the Commons that would enable a more egalitarian, just, and environmentally stable world. He is a founding member of the Commons Strategies Group, with Silke Helfrich and David Bollier, who have organised major global conferences on the commons and economics.
Carolyn is a retail property specialist who works strategically with her clients to future proof retail precincts. Across a career that has seen transformational change in the way consumers shop and communities use retail precincts, she’s provided diverse expertise to shopping centre owners, major Australian retailers, State Government owners of major transport hubs and Councils and Traders Associations as custodians of their local retail precincts.
Her mission is to guide stakeholders through a collaborative and unifying process so together we are continually improving our retail precincts in a world that is constantly changing. Her strength is identifying and fostering relationships between you, your unique location and the broader precinct in which it sits.
As a passionate advocate for young women in her industry, Carolyn participates in mentoring and sponsorship programs conducted by the Property Council of Victoria. An avid learner she regularly attends conference and courses on future-facing and future-making topics.
Dr Giselle Wilkinson
Thought leader, author and social innovator, Giselle has recently been awarded a Professional Doctorate in Therapeutic Arts Practice focussing on Mobilising Whole Communities to Restore a Safe Climate. Giselle helped instigate the much needed National Centre for Climate Restoration with the first of its truth-telling Breakthrough Forums in 2014 and is currently Breakthough’s Outreach Director.
Co-founding The Sustainable Living Foundation in 1999 and still serving as SLF's President, Giselle was a key part of the decision to run Australia’s first Global Climate Emergency Convergence in 2007. She again helped to break constructed silences, by supporting the Climate Emergency Summit as a cutting edge, landmark event in the 2020 National Sustainable Living Festival.
Giselle enabled the establishment in 2011 of a ground-breaking initiative at 'Murundaka' Co-housing demonstrating that less un-affordable, more sustainable, urban housing could be built in the suburbs of Melbourne and that community living simultaneously builds resilience, reduces the costs of living and shrinks our environmental footprint.
Science-informed activist, author and artist, Giselle is a speaker on sustainability-transition and safe climate restoration. Her mission is to help us all explore what it means to FULLY understand the need for urgent Scale and Pace and overcome the many hurdles we face. Giselle believes that through proactive collaboration to build and equip the next wave of engaged citizens and activists, the momentum of change can be accelerated to reverse global warming and restore the climatic conditions that are safe for all species, our civilisation and future generations.
Endless energy is how we could describe Jude. Nothing keeps this one down for long. Originally home grown in Country Victoria, Australia. Jude has been working on some of the most dynamic Public and Private developments around the globe.
Her background is diverse, she is a big picture person, taking clients, stakeholders and community on a vision journey to discover what they desire for their future.
Trend Forecasting, consumer psychology, user experience journey mapping, retail design, inspirational educational global tours, keynote speaker, workshops, collaborative conversation roundtable discussions, community outreach, brand strategy and city identity.
Her third year in, Jude facilitates a 23-year-old Community Leadership Program with 25 participants from 10 shires throughout the north and central areas of Victoria. The aim of the program is to develop community leaders that assist their communities to become self-determining
Her passion and enthusiasm is infectious and she is committed to raise other up to empower then to claim their true purpose and greatness in life.
Ching Ching Lee
Ching Ching Lee is a multi-disciplined designer, visual merchandiser and project manager, with a passion for design that connects with people, community and the environment. Ching Ching is deeply passionate about preserving the heart and soul of mainstreets and activity centres: the humble small business trader. She strives to improve the ‘bricks and mortar’ retail experience in the mainstreet landscape through her Shopfront Improvement Programs and other initiatives supported by Council - to connect the shopfront interface to place-based activations. She continues to work closely with all stakeholders to ensure our small business traders not only survive - but thrive – in the constantly changing face of retail.
Colin has more than thirty years of experience in environmental and sustainability education, learning and change. His interests cross the divide between scientific and social research, and how these apply to our aspirations for living and working more sustainably. His research and training contributions include professional development and community engagement programs for sustainability, evaluation of government, local council, formal education and community sustainability programs, as well as management of native grasslands and control of weeds of national significance. This also includes experience in on-line and blended learning for sustainability and community programs. Colin founded, and was for more than 15 years, the coordinator the Iramoo Sustainable Community Centre at St Albans, outer Western Melbourne. He was for six years Vice President (for the Victorian Association for Environmental Education. He is currently Chair of the Board of Tomorrows Leaders For Sustainability, and until recently was Vice-President (Education) of Australasian Campuses Toward Sustainability (ACTS). In 2016 he received the National Universities Green Gown Award (Individual Staff) and has also been recognised as Victorian Environmental & Sustainability Educator of the Year. Colin is currently coordinating a community-based project aimed at protecting an area in North-West Tasmania from coastal erosion, and is evaluator of the Light Up Timor project, in association with Rotary Australia and Renew Inc.
Ethan Kent works to support placemaking organisations, projects, and leadership around the world, to grow the global placemaking movement and build systemic change towards place-led urbanisation. In 2019 he co-founded PlacemakingX to network and accelerate placemaking for global impact, co-founding 15 regional placemaking networks. Ethan has more than two decades of experience working on public spaces and placemaking campaigns with Project for Public Spaces, traveling to more than 1000 cities and towns, and 60 countries. Ethan has been integral to the development of placemaking as a transformative approach to economic development, environmentalism, transportation planning, governance, resilience, social equity, design, digital space, and innovation.
Bill is an internationally recognized planning consultant, design process facilitator, lecturer, teacher, and author in sustainability and regeneration. He is a principal of Regenesis, Inc. – a regenerative design, living systems integrator, and education organization. His work centers on creating the framework for and managing an integrative, whole and living system design process. This work is known as Regenerative Development. The objective: to improve the overall quality of the physical, social and spiritual life of our living places and therefore the planet. The more immediate benefits of this process include higher efficiency, lower costs, reduced waste, faster time to market, and the realization of exponential value to the social, ecological, financial and human qualities of a project, the community and its ecosystem.
Maimunah Soliman Al Shebani
Maimunah is recognized both nationally and regionally as a leading voice in Retail. She has over 14 years' experience in retail, strategy, placemaking and planning.
Maimunah is an MBA graduate, facilitator, placemaker, entrepreneur, and the founder of the Retail Agency, an Oman based boutique firm that presents solutions to the Middle East’s current and future challenges.
With a career spanning over 20 years’ in urban development, Jason has been at the forefront of built environment transformation. A globally recognised pioneer in innovation districts, alternative housing and regenerative urbanism, Jason’s work is informing the next generation of city making. His career experience includes mixed-use developments throughout New York City, the South Lake Union Innovation District in Seattle and serving as Head of Sustainability and innovation for Lendlease Development.
As Founding Director of Urban Apostles from 2017-2020, Jason led an urban strategy and property consulting firm specialising in equitable and regenerative growth strategies for cities.
Jason is currently Director, World Cup Master Program at the Qatar Foundation based in Doha where he is leading the Foundation’s sustainability and legacy objectives in hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Education City.
Jason is a regular lecturer at multiple universities across the globe and was appointed a Runstad Fellow at the University of Washington in 2012 and an Research Innovation Fellow at the University of Technology Sydney from 2016-1018 where he led research into regenerative urbanism, housing affordability, and property economics.
He is a co-founder of both the International Living Future Institute and the Green Sports Alliance and originator of the Economics of Change project. In 2018, Jason founded and launched the City Makers’ Guild, an education, advocacy and research group promoting more equitable and inclusive cities.
Jason was designated a LEED Fellow by the United States Green Building Council in 2014, was named a 2015 and 2017 Next City Global Urban Vanguard. He is a member of the Climate Reality Project (2009 cohort) and former advisor to the Clinton Climate Initiative. Jason recently joined the board of the Cloudburst Foundation and is an advisor to Common Earth, an initiative led by the Commonwealth of Nations to reverse global warming through regenerative development.
Merinda is an Interior Architect and multifaceted Designer with nearly 30 years experience in her field. Having practiced in both Australia and the USA, Merinda has honed her focus to deliver spaces and experiences that nourish through the senses, deep physical response, meaning and reverence for the innate connection between humans and the natural world (biophilia).
An advocate for values driven design, conscious consumption and regenerative practice, Merinda's focus is on the reimagination of interior liminal space, and it's potential to transform a person's connection to themselves and others. Merinda's inside-out approach acknowledges wisdom over experience, heart over head and spaces which evoke emotion and connection.
Merinda's integrated and creative approach is diverse. With advisory roles, facilitation, design and collaboration as core components of her work, Merinda is a key player in placemaking and co-living projects in Australia and the USA.
With "home" recently placed at the the centre of our work lives, Merinda is also reshaping the lens through which we curate and create home as a place of sanctuary and wellbeing through her passion project, The Soulfull Home. A platform which teaches people how to connect to their inner wisdom, values, patterns and habits to become conscious designers of their own space.. "insourcing" rather than outsourcing.
and Sister Organisations
Donkey Wheel House
Project for Public Spaces
Donkey Wheel Foundation
LEAD Loddon Murray Leadership Program