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AguaClara’s Community-Scale Passive Clean Water Program


After a visit to Honduras to investigate water-development projects, Cornell professor Monroe Weber-Shirk committed himself to providing potable water to as many people as he could. One year later, in 2005, Weber-Shirk founded AguaClara and in 2006 the first AguaClara plant was successfully implemented in Ojojona, Honduras. AguaClara utilizes a five-step purification process: grit removal and flow, chemical dosing, flocculation, sedimentation, and filtration. The Director of Planning and Development at AguaClara, Chuck Brown, explains that the process is not only about the product that filters the water but also the communities that employ the water.

“We endeavored to take a process that was still far too complex and make it simple in more absolute terms—something that could work in a broad range of communities with limited resources, including education. That’s why we like to emphasize that not only are our plants powered by gravity, but you only need the equivalent of a sixth-grade education to operate them.”

Currently, there are 10 plants in Honduras providing more than 42,000 people with water. AguaClara is now setting its sights on India, which Brown describes as the “…the apex of the world’s water and sanitation problems.” Read more about AguaClara’s methods of sustainable and low cost water filtration on Line//Shape//Space here.

Image courtesy of AguaClara

Designing For Social Innovation and Leadership (DSIL) Field Course


The UPEACE Centre for Executive Education, in collaboration with Sarus, a Cambodian based peacebuilding NGO, is now accepting applications to their 2015 field-based course in Southeast Asia, Designing for Social Innovation and Leadership (DSIL). The course is open to graduate students and early to mid-career professionals that are seeking to build change through social enterprise and human-centered design.

We provide international participants with contemporary tools, a cross sector knowledge network and analogous field immersions focused on personal and professional development. We believe that those who have the skills to unlock, re-imagine and create solutions to the world’s most daunting challenges will be at the helm of systems level change.

The DSIL experience includes both field based immersion and online classes with experts. To be considered for partial scholarships applications must be submitted by May 11. Visit the DSIL website for in-depth information on the program and how to apply here.

Image Courtesy of Studio DiLITT

Walking the Walk: Putting Equity Into Practice


Over the years, each of us has experienced or seen firsthand organizations practicing social impact design with the best of intentions, but with unsustainable and sometimes outright unethical practices towards their own staff and collaborators. Too often, the sense of urgency and the penny-pinching necessary to get projects done on limited budgets are used to justify poor organizational practices. But as the field matures, our working group believes it is critical to make these practices consistent with the larger push towards social equity.

In this post we have outlined a number of areas in which we think our field can do better, including the way we hire and recruit staff, the types of workplaces we foster, and how our financial practices sustain the work we do. More

IDEO.org Latest Book: The Field Guide to Human-Centered Design


In 2014 IDEO.org successfully launched Design Kit, an online platform to spread and teach human centered design. Although this resource reaches a great number of people, there are still many places in the world where an internet based resource simply does not work. This led IDEO.org to make The Field Guide to Human-Centered Design, a new book that outlines how to problem-solve like a designer.

The Field Guide is a fully illustrated introduction to human-centered design, an approach that problem solvers all over the world have used to tackle the challenges of poverty. It’s also the evolution of the HCD Toolkit, a fantastic resource that has been purchased or downloaded 141,000 times.

The book is now officially reaching mailboxes internationally. Available in pocket and book size, the new guide includes step-by-step instructions on new design methods and includes case studies, and worksheets to help create solutions to pressing issues. As of now the book is only available to those that contributed to funding the Kickstarter campaign to make the book a reality.

2015 Tiny Home Community Ideas Competition

Tiny Home

As urban centers become more dense, the influx of tiny home accommodations have been rising. Members of the AIA North Carolina Activate14 committee and the Raleigh/Wake Partnership to End and Prevent Homelessness have taken this a step further by calling on designers to create a new typology for urban housing, specifically to address the overarching issue of homelessness.

There is a pressing need in cities like Raleigh for affordable micro-dwellings to serve people without a stable dwelling place. Tiny home communities cannot eliminate poverty or homelessness, but they can create a more lively, caring, and diverse city. The goal is to generate innovative micro-housing communities that can repair and enliven our social fabric and help people transition out of homelessness.

This competition provides designers with an opportunity to explore a systemic solution to homelessness in a bustling urban community. Winners will receive a $1,500 prize and be publicly announced and exhibited at the Activate14 Affordable Housing event held at the AIANC Center for Architecture and Design (CfAD). Deadline for questions is April 3rd and registration closes May 22nd. Read the full submission guidelines here.

Hacking Public Space – An Article by John Bela


The use of the temporary, or what is now coined as “pop-up,” has proven to be a useful tactic for impacting the fabric of urban growth and development. John Bela, founder and principal of the highly influential Rebar studios, likes to call this “Iterative Placemaking.” In the wake of Rebar evolving from an informal art collective into a professional art and design practice, Bela shares his thoughts on the controversy around temporality in urban space.

There is a fervent debate happening at the moment about tactical urbanism and its relationship to social equity. As a veteran practitioner of tactics, I’m also curious about their potential to catalyze long-term urban transformation and institutional change.

Bela explains his own process of moving from guerilla interventions to long term urban design. The questions he proposes on this subject begins to reveal a larger dialogue about equity and the role of both bureaucrats and designers on ensuring that public resources are shared equitably across a city. The full article by John Bela can be read on 100 Resilient Cities here.

Image courtesy of Colleen McHugh

Traditional Dogon Architecture Meets Dutch Design


The primary school, Tanouan Ibi in Mail, stands at the intersection of traditional Dogon culture and Dutch design. This sustainable building consists of classrooms for 180 pupils by day and a school for teaching women by night. The architects, LEVS architecten, collaborated with the local population and students from the local university to design and build the structure. From the architects:

In the tradition of the Dogon there is a doubtless spiritual connection between men, culture and nature. Their minimalism in building with clay, the plasticity and immediacy of the detail are remarkable. It is “wealth in restrictions”. Nuances, personality and soul define the building; a majestic gesture is not necessary.

The architects utilize a variety of innovative building techniques, such as Hydraulic Compressed Earth Blocks (HCEB) made of soil on site that can withstand the climate of the area whilst also keeping the interior of the building cool. Read more about the school on ArchDaily here.

Image courtesy of LEVS architecten

Public Interest Design After Architecture for Humanity’s Legacy


The buzz around Architecture for Humanity’s closure is still tangible. The field of public interest design is looking to this event with a mixture of despair and optimism for the future. Jessica Garz, a program officer at the Surdna Foundation, approaches the situation by focusing on other organizations in the field that have not necessarily been in the limelight but are still accomplishing important work.

While AFH may be the most recognized name in the field of public interest design, we look to organizations like Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI), the Hester Street Collaborative, and Indigenous Design and Planning Institute (iD+Pi) at the University of New Mexico for best practices here in the U.S. The work of these organizations, ranging from urban to rural to tribal, are challenging top-down methods through planning, design, and architectural processes that are guided by equity and democratic decision making.

Garz continues to highlight specific projects of the aforementioned organizations and display that public interest design is still pushing forward with strength and stability. She also focuses on how these organizations are inserting equity as an essential component of the design process Read the full article in the Architect’s Newsletter here.

Image courtesy of Surdna Foundation

Making Cities Together LAB Call for Entries


The Making Cities Together LAB is calling on urban designers, planners, architects and other urban professionals to develop placemaking strategies for public spaces in Nairobi, Kenya. This think and action-tank initiative is a partnership between International Newtown Institute (INTI), International Federation for Housing and Planning (IFHP), and Placemakers.

For the lab, we will select at least six international experts in order to form three interdisciplinary, diverse teams, each consisting of a representative of a local placemaking initiative, two international experts and two local experts based in Nairobi. Each team will research one of three selected dynamic and upcoming Placemaking locations in Nairobi – ‘the streets of Korogocho – an informal settlement’, ‘The Sunken Car Park in Nairobi’s city centre’ or ‘ The courtyards of Dandora – a residential neighbourhood’.

The Lab takes place from May 4th-8th in Nairobi. Applications are due on March 30th and successful applicants will be informed by April 5th 2015. Find out more information about the Lab and the application process here.

Structures for Inclusion 15 Speakers Announced!


We are excited to share the incredible roster of speakers for the fifteenth annual Structures for Inclusion Conference (SFI). On April 11th and 12th, 2015 public interest design practitioners, partners, and enthusiasts will convene to share the best ideas and practices, around the theme of “Resilience of Mind, Body and Spirit.” Specifically in response to Detroit’s pivotal move into a “new kind of post-industrial world order.” Some speakers include:

    • Amelie Ntigulirwa & Patricia Gruits  MASS Design
    • Bryan Bell  SEED/Design Corps
    • John Folan & Ming Ming Lin  Urban Design Build Studio
    • Lisa Abendroth  Public Interest Design Practice Guidebook
    • Mauro Quintanilha & Pedro Henrique de Cristo  +D Studio
    • Nella Young  Enterprise Community Partners
    • Rory Dickens  Arkitrek
    • Shalini Agrawal  California College of the Arts
    • Susan Szenasy  Metropolis Magazine
    • Vaughn Horn  Harvard University

And so many more! See the full schedule of speakers and events for SFI here.

Image Courtesy of MASS Design