“Human capital is one of the best assets we have.”

March 28, 2011 at 9:28 pm 1 comment

Another theme that ran throughout the Structures for Inclusion conference was the enormous value of taking an entrepreneurial approach with community-driven projects. Underserved populations still function as marketplaces with unique needs and priorities, and resource analysis is a critical step even in an environment where resources seem (on the surface) to be depleted but initial enthusiasm levels seem limitless. Thinking about capital and assets (like in Thomas Fisher‘s quote) unfortunately isn’t something that comes naturally to all designers; but the ones making social change seem to have a knack for it.

SHED Studio’s SEED Competition-winning design and master plan for a proposed Growing Home campus, presented by the studio’s co-founder Rashmi Ramaswamy, was a project started in response to the Englewood neighborhood’s widespread demand for more jobs, healthier food, and a defined economic district. The fact that LISC funding was available for urban agricultural projects in the area was also a key factor.

rendering by SHED Studio for Growing Home

The Café 524 project (another SEED Competition winner) by John Folan and his students in Carnegie Mellon’s 2010 Urban Design Build Studio, primarily responded to an unarticulated need for better third spaces in low income areas of Pittsburgh. The project’s scale, like many others done through this CMU program, was inherently constrained by the number of students and the hours available. Being (optimistically) realistic from the outset allowed the team to more efficiently and effectively achieve results.

rendering of CMU’s 2010 Urban Design Build Studio’s Café 524

Because the projects featured at Structures are all clearly skewed toward design for the social good, the people behind them (including those mentioned here) should perhaps be described as social entrepreneurs instead of designers. Greg Dees, one of the pioneers of institutionalizing the field of social entrepreneurship, is paraphrased in the book Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know in a description of the fundamental actions of a social entrepreneur.

March 28’s daily design idea is the the list of those actions: “create public value, pursue new opportunities, innovate and adapt, act boldly, leverage resources [you] don’t control, and exhibit a strong sense of accountability.”

This is post 3 of 7 recapping Structures for Inclusion 10+1, an annual conference focused on design for social good.


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Community-driven vs. community-based design. People and planet (and profit, too).

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. The 98%. « Daily Design Idea  |  February 11, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    […] our architectural vocabulary, always be learning, better understand economic value, take an entrepreneurial approach, and work collaboratively with our clients – but the question remains of how to start doing […]


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