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Philip Yang has narrowed his focus. A former Brazilian diplomat and the founder of a gas and oil company, Yang has gone from global politics and business to looking more carefully at the urban environment of Sao Paulo, Brazil. He recently founded Urbem, a non-profit that aims to channel some of the oil company’s revenues into public sector projects to improve the Sao Paulo public realm. But he’s not just putting his own company’s money into it. Yang is also trying to convince other businesses and industries to recirculate some of their profits back into city projects.
Urbem is particularly focused on neighborhood-level projects, such as parks, sidewalks and bicycle paths. The goal here is to make the city a more humane place while also improving mobility and livability. Urbem is also hoping to bring about larger-scale infrastructure projects to help improve neighborhoods in the city. As a metropolitan area with nearly 20 million people, Sao Paulo gives a wide canvas in which to work. By encouraging businesses in the city to give back, Yang is helping to make the sort of urban scale upgrades the city needs.
Nate Berg is a writer and journalist covering cities, architecture and urban planning. Nate’s work has been published in a wide variety of publications, including the New York Times, NPR, Wired, Metropolis, Fast Company, Dwell, Architect, the Christian Science Monitor, LA Weekly and many others. He is a former staff writer at The Atlantic Cities and was previously an assistant editor at Planetizen.