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NY Times: “How to Build a Better Neighborhood”

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The Better Block project–led by neighborhood design instigators Jason Roberts and Andrew Howard–was showcased in the New York Times Fixes article “How to Build a Better Neighborhood” by Tina Rosenberg. Since the first project initiated in 2010 in Oak Cliff, Dallas, Better Block projects have spread like wildfire across America and even as far as Iran. The key to success of these placemaking projects are safety (real and perceived,) shared access for varied transportation methods, shops to incite ‘stay power,’ and amenities for people aged 8 to 80. Roberts and Howard continue to iterate and improve their process, which is openly shared on the Better Block blog.

How do residents transform their neighborhoods into places built around people? Usually, they start by talking to city officials, and if they are lucky, begin a series of public meetings, consultations and debates. If they are very lucky, these meetings progress to plans, visions and renderings. If those work out, something changes. This can take years. Too often, though, years go by and what is produced is nothing more than a document. Or, those with less patience can do what Jason Roberts did.

Click here to read “How to Build a Better Neighborhood,” online at NYTimes.com.

Watch “Inclusive Design: From the Pixel to the City”

The Design Council UK created this lovely short video on inclusive design, defined as design that “aims to remove the barriers that create undue effort and separation” and “enables everyone to participate confidently and independently in everyday activities.” As part of the new hub for inclusive design in the built environment, the video showcases designers pioneering the movement to incorporate this methodology through products, graphics, and vehicles. With an emphasis on consultation with user groups, inclusive design has the potential to transform how services, products, and spaces are designed, created, and delivered.

The way places are planned, designed and managed has an impact on everyone’s lives. Designing and managing the built environment inclusively is essential if we are to create a fair society and meet current and future challenges. An inclusively designed built environment means planning, designing, building and managing places that work better for everybody – whether that place is a school, office, park, street, care home, bus route or train station.

Click here to watch “Inclusive Design: From Pixel to the City” on Vimeo.com, or click here to learn more about inclusive design on DesignCouncil.org.uk.

Aarambh’s ‘Help Desk’ Doubles as a Backpack

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Aarambh–a community service NGO in Navi Mumbai, India, serving marginalized families in slum and rural areas–recently created an inventive and affordable product for school children. Responding to the two basic issues of schools not being equipped with proper desks and students not having book bags, they developed the Help Desk to tackle these problems with one solution. To make the portable desks, Aarambh turned to discarded cardboard cartons, a cheap and readily available resource. With a preset stencil, the cartons were then cut and folded to create a brilliant desk and school bag.

Click here to watch Aarambh’s Help Desk video, online at YouTube.com/ImpactDesignHub.

Cultural Warehouse Fosters Creativity in Brazil

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Brazilian firm Mafra Arquitetos Associados recently transformed a warehouse into a cultural hub for the community of Dique da Vila Gilda, a slum area on stilts that is home to 22,000 along the Indian River in Santos, Brazil. Recently featured on ArchDaily, the Plinio Marcos School of Art and Popular Culture–run by the local art institute–houses a variety of spaces to promote shows, concerts, events, workshops, and technical training with the overarching aim to foster popular culture, creativity, entrepreneurship, and community sustainability. The second stage of the project includes expanding the areas of workshops, reading room, bar and cafeteria, shop, and exhibition area to feature local artists and writers such as Plinio Marcos.

Click here to read more about the Plinio Marcos School of Art and Popular Culture, online at ArchDaily.com.

First PID Mexico Event Commences Tomorrow

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The Social Economic Environmental Design (SEED) Network, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), the BaSiC Initiative, and Design Corps are co-hosting the first ever Public Interest Design Mexico, an open and free two-day global convening in Mexico City beginning September 11th, 2014. Launched to foster discussions around practicing and designing for social impact, the event will feature projects–awarded earlier this year by the SEED Network–that are addressing a multitude of issues faced by Mexican communities and individuals. The first day will focus on Design that Enables and Empowers Communities, with an examination into the possibilities for engagement and involvement for designers in projects that address the needs of communities. Day two will be structured around a series of workshops and roundtables that will address the issues and themes that emerged from day one.

The Public Interest Design Mexico Convening is an opportunity to foster discussion about the practice of designing for social impact and how best to significantly increase the value of design for the public good. Projects are being created all over Mexico which are addressing the many issues faced by communities and individuals.  These projects are taking on the challenging issues of democratic decision making, empowerment and engagement. While inclusive design practices worldwide are beginning to help communities use design to address their most critical issues and define resilient futures as they see fit, as in Mexico, design professionals still remain at the margins of these lively debates and initiatives.

Click here to read more and register to attend PID Mexico for FREE, online at DesignCorps.org/PID-Mexico.

Support “Hidden Treasures of Our Orange” by Wednesday

The University of Orange–a free people’s university that builds collective capacity for people to create more equitable cities–is crowdfunding on Indiegogo to support a project that reshapes the perception of Orange, New Jersey, through storytelling. The team has been fund raising since late July and tomorrow, September 10th, is the last day to help reveal the overlooked but exceptional “Hidden Treasures of Our Orange.”

Like many industrial cities in the US, Orange lost its way when the factories left. The great urban planner Ron Shiffman told us, “Communities are built on memory.  It becomes the foundation for the future.”  In making this website and film, we are creating a solid foundation for a future as an equitable and fun city.

Click here to learn more and support Hidden Treasures of Our Orange by September 10th at 11:59 pm PT, online at IndieGoGo.com.

OpenIDEO Announces 11 Job Opportunities

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OpenIDEO and IDEO.org’s Amplify team are preparing to launch the second challenge on Early Childhood Development later this month. To help engage local communities with limited internet access, the team is looking for local ambassadors to fill numerous paid and volunteer positions.

Amplify In-Country Managers will significantly contribute towards engaging local individuals and organizations and increase local participation in Nepal, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. In addition, volunteer Community Connectors will be selected to communicate content back and forth from the online platform to remote communities in India and Tanzania in order to support a more participatory and open conversation. Two volunteer Hindi and Swahili Translators will assist the Community Connectors by translating and recontextualizing content in an appropriate tone and language. In addition, OpenIDEO is seeking a Challenge Manager to to support the strategy, planning and execution of open innovation challenges out of the San Francisco office.

Click here to read more about all eleven positions on our new job board, online at ImpactDesignHub.org/Jobs.

“Greening the City” On Rebel Architecture Today

The popular Rebel Architecture series is halfway over now with the fourth episode “Greening the City” airing today. From “The Architecture of Violence” in Palestine, Israel, and the Occupied West Bank last week, we travel to Vietnam with filmmaker Nick Ahlmark as he documents architect Vo Trong Nghia researching, designing, and building a $4000 prototype home in a remote Vietnamese village. Nghia, well-known for stunning modern residences, is equally interested in finding solutions to integrate nature back into urban life at all scales–from a vertical farming tower to low-cost housing. More

PUBLIC Journal Launches Campaign To Expand Impact Design Voice


PUBLIC Journal just announced a new Indiegogo campaign today. Known for its thought-provoking features and exceptional photography of meaningful projects that are improving lives, this quarterly journal–available in both print and digital format–is quickly gaining support within the design world. The crowdfunding campaign is geared towards helping the journal raise funds to continue their self-publishing efforts for the third and fourth issues. Amongst the subscription and t-shirt prizes are opportunities to attend the launch party in San Francisco in November–and even get two nights of accommodation in the City by the Bay.

PUBLIC Journal is the brainchild of a few passionate writers, designers, architects, and contractors. PUBLIC  Journal seeks to provide a larger voice for the public interest design movement, which brings light to the issues of humanitarian design, social impact projects, and community-based design organizations who are all working to leave the world a better place. The exploration of the greater good is why we have committed to providing a platform for this growing movement to reach a greater PUBLIC.

Click here to learn more and pledge your support for PUBLIC Journal, online at Indiegogo.com.

“Architecture for the people by the people”

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Grist.org writer and comedian Isa Hopkins recently wrote about the effect–and hopeful impact–of design/build studios that are gaining ground in university architecture programs. “Architecture for the people by the people” calls attention to the increasing amount of projects based in local communities as opposed to traveling overseas. University of Washington professor Steve Badanes and Rural Studio director Andrew Freear contribute thoughts on how these programs have potential to influence the field of architecture at large, along with Public Architecture’s efforts to incorporate this work into practice.

Questions of social responsibility in architecture have a long history of dialog and discussion, however — and if professors like Steve Badanes have anything to say about it, Millennial-generation architects just might be the ones to push these ideas out into the world. Students who go through design/build programs enter their careers not just hungry to make a difference, but empowered by their experience of already having done so.

Click here to read “Architecture for the people by the people,” online at Grist.org.