Geeta Mehta

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Geeta Mehta
Alma materSchool of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi
Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, New York
OccupationArchitect, urban planner and activist

Geeta Mehta is an Indian-American social entrepreneur, urban designer, architect and author. She is the co-founder of Asia Initiatives,[1] and URBZ,[2] and an adjunct professor at the Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation at Columbia University.[3][4]

Early life and education[edit]

Mehta was born in Simla, India. She earned her bachelor's degree in Architecture from the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi,[5] a master's degree in Architecture and Urban Design from Columbia University,[6] and a doctorate in Urban Engineering from the University of Tokyo.[5]


Mehta is an adjunct professor of architecture and urban design at the Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation at Columbia University in New York City.[3][4] She is also an advisor to Millennium Cities Initiative at the Earth Institute.[7] Until 2009, Mehta was a professor of architecture at the Temple University campus in Tokyo.[8]

She founded with business partner Jill Braden the interior design firm Braden & Mehta Design located in Honolulu and New York City. The blend of Western and Asian influences appear in the firm's work throughout U.S., Vietnam, and India as well for various corporations and private homes.[9]

Mehta was featured in Citizen Jane: Battle for the City, a full-length documentary film about activist Jane Jacobs directed by Matt Tyrnauer.[10] Mehta, in the film, warned that global development, without the philosophies of Jacobs, could result in “the slums of the future.”[11]

She was appointed in 2018 by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to serve on the Waterfront Management advisory board.[12]

She has spoken on social capital, sustainable and equitable urbanism, and community-based change at forums in Australia, Austria, Brazil, India, Japan, UAE and the US, including the Public Ideas Form in Perth, Australia, and the Post City event at ARS Electronica in Linz, Austria and she has served as a panelist at WomenDeliver in Copenhagen, Denmark and the Women's Summit in Sharjah organized by UN Women.[13]

She served on the advisory board of the Millennium Cities Initiative of the Earth Institute at Columbia University,[7] and People Building Better Cities.[14]

Asia Initiatives[edit]
Asia Initiatives: Empowering Women by Social Capital

Inspired by M. S. Swaminathan, a scientist and humanist, Geeta Mehta and Krishen Mehta co-founded Asia Initiatives[1] in 1999 in Tokyo. Since 2010 it has been registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in New York City.[15] Asia Initiatives has also supported projects in education and healthcare in underserved areas with non-profit organizations such as the Self-Employed Women's Association in Delhi and Ahmedabad, the Center for Development in Ahmedabad, Save Indian Farmers and Parmarth Samaj Sevi Sansthan in Maharashtra, the Shohratgarh Environmental Society in UP, Friends of the Doon Society in Dehradoon, Ashta No Kai[16] in Pune, Arpana Trust[17] in Delhi, Women Lead[18] in Nepal, Saving Mothers in Bangladesh, and Philippine Christian Foundation[19] in Manila.

The M.S. Swaminathan Award was presented at the Asia Initiatives Gala to the economist Jeffrey Sachs (2014), Indra Nooyi for steering PepsiCo towards Performance with Purpose (2015) and Kerry Kennedy for her work on human rights (2016).[20]

In honor of The 8th Secretary General of the United Nations, Asia Initiatives instituted the Ban Ki-moon Award for Women's Empowerment. The award was presented by SG Ban in 2017 to Gloria Steinem, Yue Sai Kan and Eva Haller,[21] and to Chelsea Clinton and Susan Blaustein in 2018.[citation needed]

SoCCs (Social Capital Credits)[edit]

Mehta developed Social Capital Credits (SoCCs) into communities across India, Ghana, Kenya, and the US, helping them incentivise their ability to help themselves by communities and individuals earning SoCCs for the common good, redeemable for services or items such as healthcare, education, and skill empowerment to help communities climb out of poverty.[3]

The SoCCs team at Asia Initiatives works with communities to customize SoCCs menus to their specific needs and capabilities. SoCCs Earning Menus include items such as getting children vaccinated, sending children (especially daughters) to high school, waste management, providing childcare or senior care, planting trees, and paving streets. iSoCCs Redemption Menus include items such as school fees, skill training classes, home repairs and telephone talk time. CommSoCCs can then be used for common projects such as a micro-sewage system, improvements to streets or public spaces, or child-care centers. A local SoCC Manager is trained to work with the community. Asia Initiatives also has an online platform,,[22] for trading SoCCs and capturing necessary data. SoCCs are currently being used in pilot sites in Costa Rica, Ghana, Kenya, India, and United States. with local partners that range from corporations to municipal governments. Mehta has appeared in articles in Forbes[23] and Huffington Post[24] which describe the creation and use of SoCCs in greater detail.

Asia Initiatives was among the six winners of the Amravati Happy Cities competition in April 2018, and has signed an MoU with the government of Andhra Pradesh to implement SoCCs in this new city.

Asia Initiatives is partnering with SaveLIFE Foundation on implementing SoCCs on the Mumbai Pune Expressway to reduce the number of accidents and to incentivize good driving.[citation needed]

In 2019, Asia Initiatives received the MIT Inclusive Innovation Award in 2019 for the Asia Region category.[25]


With urban planner Matias Echanove and urban anthropologist Rahul Srivastava,[4] Mehta co-founded URBZ: User Generated Cities, a research collective that focuses on participatory urban planning and design systems.[3] URBZ was named one of the 100 most influential names in architecture in the world by the magazine Il Giornale dell'Architettura.[26]


  • City Connect: Regeneration, Sustainability and Equity in the 21st Century, released in 2016 by Arch-media Inc. and co-edited with George Kunihiro
  • New Japan Architecture, published in 2011 by Tuttle Publishing and co-authored with Deanna MacDonald
  • Japan Gardens: Tranquility, Simplicity, Harmony, released in 2008 by Tuttle Publishing and co-authored with Kimie Tada
  • Japan Living: Form & Function at the Cutting Edge, released in 2008 by Tuttle Publishing and co-authored with Marcia Iwatate
  • Japan Houses: Ideas for 21st Century Living, published in 2005 by Tuttle Publishing and co-authored with Iwatate; and
  • Japan Style: Architecture + Interiors + Design, released in 2004 by Tuttle Publishing and co-authored with Tada.


Mehta was named in 2015 by Women's eNews as one of the 21 leaders of the 21st century[27][7]

Personal life[edit]

Mehta is married to Krishen Mehta of New York, who retired as a partner from PricewaterhouseCoopers to advise Global Financial Integrity, and the couple has two sons, Ravi Mehta and Arjun Mehta.


  1. ^ a b "Asia Initiatives". Retrieved 2016-04-08.
  2. ^ "Geeta Mehta | URBZ". Retrieved 2016-04-08.
  3. ^ a b c d "Urban design and social builder Geeta Mehta on creating dialogue, leveraging social capital and building relationships". Indian Express. 1 March 2019.
  4. ^ a b c "Geeta Mehta". Columbia GSAPP.
  5. ^ a b "Geeta Mehta". Columbia GSAPP-Faculty.
  6. ^ "Naveen Patnaik's Sister Geeta Mehta Donates Rs 10 Lakh For Fani Victims". KalingaTV. 16 May 2019.
  7. ^ a b c Annamalai, S. (21 December 2015). "Vision for sustainable living". The Hindu.
  8. ^ Harney, John (13 February 2010). "Nicolette Bird and Ravi Mehta". New York Times.
  9. ^ Society, Japan (9 November 2011). "Avant Zen: Today's Japanese Architecture". Japan Society New York.
  10. ^ "Citizen Jane Puts Jacobs on a Pedestal (And Moses Under the Bus)". Metropolis magazine. 17 April 2017.
  11. ^ Nonko, Emily (April 26, 2017). "New Jane Jacobs documentary spotlights her achievements in NYC and lessons to be carried forward". 6sqft magazine.
  12. ^ "De Blasio Administration And City Council Convene Waterfront Management Advisory Board". Retrieved 2019-05-27.
  13. ^ International, WomenStrong. "WomenStrong International Showcases Social Capital Credits at WomenDeliver Conference on the Health, Rights and Wellbeing of Women and Girls". PR Newswire.
  14. ^ "People Building Better Cities Exhibition Opens in New York December 3 – Center for Sustainable Urban Development".
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Ashta No Kai". Retrieved 2016-04-08.
  17. ^ "Arpana Home". Retrieved 2016-04-08.
  18. ^ "Women LEAD Nepal". Women LEAD Nepal. Retrieved 2016-04-08.
  19. ^ "PCF - Purple Community Fund". Retrieved 2016-04-08.
  20. ^ "Desi Talk - Annual Gal. pg 26". October 10, 2014.
  21. ^ "Empower Women - 8th UN Former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Celebrates Leaders of the Women's Movement". EmpowerWomen. Retrieved 2018-07-22.
  22. ^ "SoCCs". Retrieved 2016-04-08.
  23. ^ Denise Restauri (2016-04-08). "What's Better Than Money? One Woman's Powerful Answer To That Question". Forbes magazine.
  24. ^ Blaustein, Susan M. (2016-04-28). "An Ingenious Tool for Empowering Women and Girls: Social Capital Credits". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2017-03-11.
  25. ^ "Asia Initiatives". MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge. Retrieved 2019-10-07.
  26. ^ "100 (quelli Che Contano 2011) | Esprit Architettura Architetti Associati." Esprit Architettura Architetti Associati. N.p., 6 Mar. 2014. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.
  27. ^ "21 Leaders 2015: Seven Who Transform Cultures Women's ENews". Women's eNews. January 3, 2015.