reimagining the future of slums



Our Story

Founded after a decade of experience working in slums, Utopia is the world's first urban design and innovation firm focused solely on slums, which will soon be home to one third of humanity.

We got our feet wet in slums in Asia years ago and over time, we realized that design could bring a new perspective to this old issue of slums. Slums are an issue that seems to have gotten stuck even as so much in life has improved around it over this past half century. We moved from Asia into San Francisco to set up what would eventually come to be known as Utopia. 


643 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105


Our Team

We're a team of designers, urbanists, technologists, behavioral scientists, entrepreneurs, futurists and lots of zero gravity thinkers on slums and cities. 



Our team is the engine that drives us. 

Jonathan Hursh

Founder + Executive Producer

Alex Skinner

Studio Director | Ulaanbaatar

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Christina Gossmann

Urban Strategist

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Lydia Lo


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Marco Brandao

Managing Partner | Rio

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Dori Nguyen

Managing Partner | Kathmandu

Karina Andreeva


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Vivek HV


Patrick Stephenson

Link | West Africa

Renata Legierska

Link | United Kingdom


Core Advisory Board

Our core advisory board is made up of industry experts and all around creative thinkers and doers.


Dave Blakely

Partner @ mach49 and
Former Head of Tech Strategy @ IDEO

Esther Dyson

Founder @ HICCup and
Board Member @ 23andMe

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Miriam Roure

Program Director @ URBAN-X

Rahul Mehrotra

Chair of Urban Planning and Design
@ Harvard


Sarah Balmond

Director @ Balmond Studio and
Founding Design Editor @ Monocle

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Pia Mancini

Cofounder @ Open Collective and
Chair @ DemocracyEarth


Advisory Council

Our advisory council provide deep insights, make connections, and champion our aim to create a new paradigm for slums.

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John Rossant

Founder @ NewCities and
Former Chief Editor of BusinessWeek Europe

Sara Beckman

Chief Learning Officer @ Jacobs Institute of Design Innovation of UC Berkeley

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William Cobbett

Managing Director @
Cities Alliance


Harry West

CEO @ Frog

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Brandon Fuller

Deputy Director @ NYU Marron Institute of Urban Management

Celine d'Cruz

Urban Practitioner @ Asian Coalition for Housing Rights


Mark Post

Biotechnologist and Maker of First Stem Cell Hamburger

Edward Glaeser

Urban Economist @ Harvard and Author of Triumph of
the City

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Eric Yang

Chairman @ WorkReduce Founder @ Anomaly Ventures

Monique Morrow

President and Co-Founder @ The Humanized Internet and Former CTO @ Cisco

Luis Bettencourt

Professor of Complex Systems @ Santa Fe Institute

John Gage

Cofounder @
Sun Microsystems

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Hazem Nakib

Advisory Board Member @ Securrency, Coinfirm, Humaniq

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Carlo Ratti

Managing Director
@ MIT Senseable
City Lab

Rajendra Joshi

Founder & Managing
Trustee @ Saath

Fernando de Sousa

Regional HR Director @ Microsoft (Middle East & Africa)

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Mark Cheng

Head @ Ashoka Europe


Our Core Values

Our shared core values guide all aspects of how we run the organization. They tell us how to decide.

Go for Firsts. We only do things that can change the game for slums, introducing unique firsts.

Be Compelling. We seek to be unusually compelling.

Play for the Future. We start with the end game in mind, avoiding a dystopian 2050 for slums.

Keep it Simple. We seek to refine things to their essence, taming complexity.