Posts tagged ‘social change’
Part 5 of 5
The day’s self-described “analyst and scribe” Steven Moore was last to speak to the Structures audience on Saturday. Throughout the day, Moore tracked the topics covered using a spreadsheet, and then ranked the topics by frequency. The ones covered most were: relationships, participation, spatial justice, & organizational structure. Public interest designers are clearly a participatory, activist, and practical bunch!
One of Moore’s major takeaways from the day’s presentations was that “outsiders, or ‘valuable strangers,’ can broker knowledge but also adapt [outside] relevant knowledge to local context.” It’s a great framework for thinking about collaboration between all the team members and beneficiaries on a project. Moore also affirmed the opportunity for the SEED Network to be an industry forum “for the accumulation of accessible knowledge,” and to become a truly disruptive platform for the industry.
On the topic of organizational structure, Moore wisely noted that “there has not yet been enough focus on new, sustainable economic models for public interest design.” I couldn’t agree more. The biggest reason I keep going to Structures is to be a part of the community that will eventually build those models.
April 8’s daily design idea is Moore noted that “opportunity” was an important but underrepresented topic at this year’s Structures. What opportunities for social change design do you see?
Part 3 of 5
The second panel focused on Participation. Architecture for Humanity‘s program coordinator, T. Luke Young, kicked off by introducing AFH and the approach they take: “We don’t call ourselves designers; we like to be thought of as catalysts… in a global village.” AFH design fellow Diego Collazos continued by discussing the SEED award winning work he is doing at the Maria Auxiliadora School in Peru. A personal highlight of the project was how Collazos and his team asked students to stick green notes on the parts of the building that are good, and red notes on the parts of the building that are bad. This struck me as such a simple but effective technique for getting feedback, especially from children.
photo of the Maria Auxiliadora School
Tulane City Center‘s SEED award winning project, Grow Dat youth farm, was presented next by Emilie Taylor and Scott Bernhard. Their team empowered the youth to study “the logic of the site,” which informed many design choices, such as situating the building in the worst spot for growing vegetables. Separately, Bernhard also shared that Tulane’s admission rates increased 400% after integrating service-oriented curricula after Hurricane Katrina, such as the projects of City Center. There was a shared feeling of hope between the panelists and audience that other institutions would notice, and follow in Tulane’s footsteps.
The panel wrapped up with Anne Frederick, the founding director of New York’s Hester Street Collaborative. In addition to introducing the audience to HSC’s advocacy work for the Lower East Side’s waterfront (which included a mobile scale model that residents can interact with!), Frederick also shared questions that she’s developed with the Center for Urban Pedagogy to help social change designers frame their projects. Their number one question is a critical but too often overlooked one: Is there a need for the project? (In the case of the SEED award winning projects, I’d guess that the answer is a resounding “yes!”).
Hester Street Collaborative’s “Waterfront on Wheels“
April 6’s daily design idea is that “instructive failure” is pervasive in design for social good, particularly when the participant pool is large; an observation articulated by the Tulane City Center team but shared by everyone at Structures.
Part 2 of 5
The first panel of the day was focused on Partnerships, and kicked off with a review of the SEED award winning Owe’neh Bupingeh project. Project architect Jamie Blosser shared some of the deep research that she did on what phases of the pueblo’s evolving history to preserve, which included documentation of oral histories from elders about the pueblo and GIS mapping with some of the pueblo’s youth.
site photo of Owe’neh Bupingeh project by Atkins Olshin Schade Architects
Next, Peru-based Jorge Alarcon shared the SEED award winning Escuela Ecologica. Alarcon emphasized the value of post-occupancy evaluations and of tracking student experience in new buildings vs the old ones. His American teammate Dan Shaw noted that drawing with the students was a key step in the design process, and a particularly effective way to overcome language barriers. Shaw also reinforced the value of including beneficiaries in design processes by saying: “Just being asked your opinion in a built environment project is empowering.”
Both teams expressed how happy they were to be able to pass skills on to the communities they were serving (and vice versa), particularly with local youth.
April 5’s daily design idea is Bell and Palleroni were right: there are so many non-physical benefits of design!
I live tweeted the main day of this year’s Structures for Inclusion 12 (SFI12), hosted by UT Austin, but I also thought it would be fun to share a fuller version of those tweets here (particularly with all the vowels and grammar added back in). Hope you enjoy!
Part 1 of 5
Bryan Bell kicked off the Saturday session of Structures by talking about this year’s theme, “Design is Relational.” This theme was inspired by Sergio Palleroni’s presentation at last year’s Structures, regarding the fact that it’s often the non-physical effects of the design process that have the most lasting impact. Bell specifically noted that strengthening relationships within the industry and advancing our processes for collaboration are both essential going forward. “Creativity makes a bigger & healthier pie out of limited resources.” We can do more with less by working together better.
From there, Barbara Brown Wilson took the stage and reflected on past links between social change and physical space. Wilson highlighted the Disabilities Movement as a highly successful effort to transform standards for the built environment, and pointed out that we are currently in a relatively undefined proto-movement (which has yet to create that same level of disruptive impact). The SEED Network, which Wilson helped found, is certainly a step in the right direction. While the network has evolved into a platform for “knowledge brokering,” it was originally conceived as a “bat signal” for communities to reach out to when they needed design services. Providing services to these communities is obviously still the ultimate goal.
This year’s featured speaker, the amazing Coleman Coker, followed. He primarily focused on designing ethically, in response to the earth (something he’s been doing for over 30 years), in contrast to designing based on aesthetic judgment or taste. I found it incredibly inspiring to hear Coker speak about the social and environmental elements of his work, especially as the two are so integrated for him.
April 4’s daily design idea is Coleman Coker’s concluding thought: “if architecture is done well, it brings us closer to the world.”
Last night’s panel about the semi-ambiguous industry of social design, hosted by SVA’s 6-week summer intensive “Impact! Design for Social Change,” was appropriately titled “Commitment Required.” The panelists included:
- Martin Kace, founder of many things, including Empax, an impact-based communications design consultancy
- David Gibson, a major player in the field of public information design and the co-founder and managing principal of Two Twelve
- Jason Rzepka, the VP of public affairs at MTV (including their “pro-social” programs) and one of the best panelists I’ve ever seen/heard at a social impact event
- Lara Galinsky, the SVP of Echoing Green, one of the leading incubators for social change start-ups
The panel went something like this:
In the 1960’s, there was much social unrest, and therefore a lot of creative energy put into social change. We are currently experiencing this type of unrest again, so it’s no surprise that many people (especially young people) are moving towards jobs and careers that will create positive social impact.
Unfortunately, many impact-oriented organizations lack well-designed communication systems; and this likely weakens their impact! The organizations that do have well-designed materials generally only have them because of a few passionate and committed people.
Beyond being passionate and committed, anyone aspiring to be a successful socially-minded designer needs to have a range of talents. The best problem solvers are the ones with multiple well-developed perspectives.
The good news is that if you do decide to jump into the field, and especially if you decide to start your own business for social change, you’ll be greeted by a supportive and energetic community.
March 2’s daily design idea is me paraphrasing Galinsky: designing simple, high impact solutions requires empathy, patience, and commitment.
More coverage on Twitter with #impactdesign
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.
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.