Nabila Alibhai
Elizabeth Thys


This paper highlights the use of spatial transformation to shift the way people experience and engage with community.  In essence, physical spaces can make people feel safe, well and like they belong. Moreover, they can infuse purpose into their habitual public and work-life experience. The examples shared include working with the Yale School of Management to help students reflect on and visibly communicate their role as leaders in business and society; the property development company Broder using public art to respectfully build a relationship with a neighborhood they are investing in; YouTube using the process of art creation to celebrate and communicate diversity in the workplace and lastly a public private partnership that brought together the Government, civil society and the private sector to address the erosion of trust and fear as a result of violent extremism in Kenya through a public art installation called Colour in Faith. Nabila Alibhai and her collaborators work to shift culture through investing in the transformation of spaces using art and urban design.


How to Cite
Alibhai, N. and Thys, E. (2018) “Investing in Spaces: Luxury, Benevolence or Business?”, The Journal of Public Space, 3(2), pp. 75–96. doi: 10.32891/jps.v3i2.1110.
Art and Activism
Author Biographies

Nabila Alibhai, inCOMMONS

Nabila Alibhai is the founder of inCOMMONS, a firm invested in urban development with a conscious focus on pluralism, safety, health and aesthetics to improve quality of life. Its multi-disciplinary team is experienced in master planning, historic sites restoration, civic leadership, emergency preparedness and resilience, art and aesthetics, public health, public space management, rural and urban community development. She is also a founder of limeSHIFT, a New York-based company that intervenes in public and private spaces to make them their most creative, productive and connected.
She has worked on projects in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and Switzerland. She has held positions in the Aga Khan Development Network, the United Nations and the International Organization for Migration. She sits on the international board for MIT’s Special Programme for Urban and Regional Studies (MIT-SPURS) and consults for the Emmy-award winning communications, research and production company Well Told Story.
A TED Speaker in 2017, she shared her experience producing Colour in Faith - a public art installation that nurtures pluralism and builds neighborhood solidarity. She recently authored How Colour Replaces Fear, a chapter in the book Art & The City about art that heals divisions and unites communities.
She has a MPH from Yale University, was mid-career fellow in the Special Program in Urban and Regional Studies (SPURS-MIT) and is trained in conflict resolution.

Elizabeth Thys, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Elizabeth Thys is a founder of limeSHIFT, a creative agency that aligns people, place and purpose. limeSHIFT emerged from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) based on a collaboration between the Sloan School of Manage and Department of Urban Studies and Planning. Liz was a 2015 Winner of Made in NY Media Center’s Entrepreneur Innovation Grant, has published “Corporate Art Activations” with The Americans for the Arts and frequently speaks on employee engagement and startups. She holds a Bachelor's of Science in Mechanical Engineering, magna cum laude, from Tufts University and a Master's of Business Administration from MIT Sloan School of Management, where she was co-chair of Hacking Arts.