Knight Cities Challenge Call for Applicants

The Knight Foundation is accepting applications for their Knight Cities Challenge until October 27, 2015. Applicants are invited to share their ideas for making their cities more vibrant places to live and work. Grants will be awarded at city, neighborhood, and block levels, as well as every size in between. The total pool of funding available is $5 million.

Applicants should focus on three key drivers of city success:

  • Talent: Ideas that help cities attract and keep talented people.
  • Opportunity: Ideas that expand economic prospects by breaking down divides and connecting people.
  • Engagement: Ideas that spur connection and civic involvement.

The Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts.
Read more and apply at Knight Cities Challenge.

The Power of “Just Doing” to Re-Awaken a Neighborhood


Graham Veysey and Marika Shioiri-Clark bought a former firehouse and began to make themselves at home in a self-proclaimed “desolate” part of Cleveland. Their aim was to put down roots and make an impact. Four short years later, after adding bike racks, public art, flowers, and attracting the attention of both retailers and prospective residents, their part of town has become a local destination full of art galleries, artisanal coffee and tea cafés, and more than $70 million in new projects.

“If you have an idea, people here say, ‘O.K., let’s try it.’ It’s affordable and accessible, so you can do it and people support you,” says Marika Shioiri-Clark, a 31-year-old architectural designer and co-founder of MASS Design Group. “It’s really exciting to feel like I can be part of a small movement.”

After such rapid development, the two credit the authentic sense of neighborhood vitality and the fact that residents have taken ownership of many local endeavors.

Read more about the neighborhood’s evolution at Vanity Fair.

Applications Open for Connected Future Innovation Challenge


Software developer Autodesk launched a student innovation challenge and is accepting applications until October 30, 2015. Focusing on U.S. students ages 18-24, Autodesk aims to foster entrepreneurship and innovation.

“This is a great opportunity for all students with a desire for design, entrepreneurship, innovation or inventiveness… all entrants will have their work seen by high profile members of the start-up and incubator community, as well as the finalists receiving 1:1 mentorship from these professionals and the opportunity to showcase their idea in front of an audience of Autodesk customers and industry leaders.”

Finalists will receive mentoring and support and will pitch to industry leaders at the annual Autodesk University conference in Las Vegas. The winner of the competition will receive $5000 as well as an opportunity to interview for an Autodesk internship.

Learn more about the competition and apply at Autodesk.

Final Days to Register for IDEA Summit


On Friday, October 16, the Minnesota International NGO Network (MINN) will host its third annual MINN IDEA Summit with the theme of Fostering Minnesota’s Global Engagement. The summit’s keynote speaker is former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale and the event will be moderated by Dr. Maykao Hang, president and CEO of the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation.

“The International Development Exchange and Action (IDEA) Summit, is designed for all international practitioners whose focus is assisting others and doing global good. The full day conference provides inspirational, educational and networking opportunities for leaders from nonprofits, foundations, donor groups, the private sector and educational institutions and explores topics such as measuring results, building local partnerships, creative funding mechanisms, branding, communication and new development trends.”

MINN is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing an innovative forum for international NGO and development practitioners and supporters to learn, network, and exchange professional expertise to better serve our global community.

Learn more about the event and purchase tickets here.

Nesta Announces Finalists for Inclusive Technology Prize


Nesta, an innovation-focused charity, has announced the finalists for their Inclusive Technology PrizeThe competition aims to incentivize technological innovation that creates or improves upon adaptive products and systems that aid individuals with disabilities and long-term illnesses. Nesta is especially interested in supporting ideas from innovators with disabilities, who truly understand the urgency for developing certain technologies.

Selected from over 200 entries, ten finalists are currently tweaking and testing their prototypes over six months. Among the finalists are:

  • OpenBionics is the winner of the UK James Dyson Award for innovative engineering for Bionic Hands. Their team is focused on developing bionics for children, spending some time with doctors and prosthetists Brazil.
  • Supportspace is an app to help disabled and older people to more effectively spend their personal budgets.
  • HandyClix has been tweaking the design of their one-handed wheelchair seatbelt to consider differences in user strength, dexterity, and tremor. At HandyClix they’re also designing different attachment methods to clip the belt to the wheelchair so that it requires minimal technical knowledge.

Read more about the competition and the other finalists on Nesta’s website.

Impact Design Hub’s Top Picks From London Design Festival


This past week marked the annual London Design Festival, a weeklong celebration that promotes London as the design capital of the design world and gateway to the international creative community. The festival highlights site-specific installations that showcase the top contemporary designs of our time. Some of our favorite sustainable design displays are:

  • Studio Swine’s Hair Highway speculates on future sustainable materials. As population growth explodes and natural resources diminish, human hair could become an increasingly viable alternative. The hair used in Hair Highway is sealed within bio-resin to create surfaces that evoke rare and endangered materials such as horn and tropical hardwoods.
  • The Rise of the Plasticsmith: Imagine it’s 2052, all the oil’s gone, or we’ve sensibly decided to leave fossil fuels in the ground to avoid climate meltdown. Designer Gangjian Cui looks to his hometown Daqing in Northern China, currently a large hub for plastic manufacturing, and its possible post-industrial fossil-fuel-free future. He suggests how new skills will have to be developed for working with this now rare material, and has produced some pieces of furniture using a hand-operated extrusion machine.
  • Unknown Fields Division spent time at China’s rare earth mines to study the impact of our lust for electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, and even green technologies like solar panels. They condensed their observations into a fascinating augmented-reality-style video and three ceramic pots that represent the amount of waste produced in the manufacturing process of a smartphone, a laptop, and a smart car battery.

Read more about London Design Week at Inhabitat.

Image courtesy of Gangjian Cui

Buckminster Fuller Challenge Finalists Announced!


The six Buckminster Fuller Challenge finalists announced this week focus on various aspects of environmental and social sustainability and combine natural systems and modern technology to address resource management. Here are a few of the 2015 Buckminster Fuller Challenge finalists:

  • Algae Systems: uses a closed-loop, systemic approach to generate value from wastewater, providing a crucial, economically and environmentally sustainable service.
  • Community Architects Network: seeks to empower people throughout Asia to become the designers of their own development.
  • Drylands Resilience Initiative and HAZEL: a powerful digital modeling tool that supports coordinated, scenario-based whole systems thinking and decision-making for water-smart urban design.
  • GreenWave: a non-profit organization working to restore ocean ecosystems and transform fishers, our last ocean hunters, into restorative ocean farmers and stewards of their local waters.

Learn more about all six finalists of the Buckminster Fuller Challenge on their website here.

Designers Play Valuable Role in Crafting Public Policy and Services


As design is increasingly recognized for its ability to effect positive change in public services, governments across the globe are incorporating internal design teams to bring specific skills and attitudes to the table as they craft public policy. Christian Bason of Mindlab (the design studio inside the Danish government) knows that there’s no single template that can be used to simply redesign the fraught and often mistrusted model of governance that currently exists, but emphasizes three core principles that governments can employ to inspire and instill confidence: empathy, humility, and courage.

“Through this work we increasingly see the contours of a more relational, empathetic, and engaging state that is designed to be much more in tune with human beings. At a time when the trust in our public institutions is at an all-time low and most economies remain fragile in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, we urgently need to discover a new role for the public sector,” Bason says.

Bason’s work includes addressing challenges like implementing national school reform, creating digital solutions that make it easier to start businesses, and navigating human-centered services for the unemployed.

Read more about how design concepts and methods like ethnography, user journeys, and system maps are used to create better policy outcomes at AIGA.

No Penalty for Poverty: A Conversation with Hugh Whalan


Hugh Whalan has started three businesses in Africa focused on innovative financing of solar power to some of the poorest consumers on the planet. His first company pioneered crowdfunding for energy loans to the developing world. His next company, a solar distribution and asset financing operation in Ghana, was acquired by a U.S. private equity firm in an industry first. He is currently running PEG, which is using pay-as-you-go technology to provide financing for solar to 500,000 customers in West Africa by 2018.

Allan Chochinov: Hugh, I’ve read in your bio that you traveled to 31 countries by the time you had turned 25 years of age. That’s some youth. What did your parents do, and did your exposure to multiple cultures stimulate your interest in your current work around … well, empowerment?

Hugh Whalan: My parents were civil servants. Mum was the first person in her family to go to university, and Dad left home at fifteen to join the Navy. In their own way, they were both risk takers, and had benefited greatly from the calculated risks they had taken. They worked hard, and sacrificed a lot to give me opportunities like spending a term at a boarding school in Japan and going on a school hiking trip to India and Nepal. The experiences I had when I was young instilled in me a sense of adventure and my parents certainly encouraged me to take smart risks. After high school, I spent time with landmine removal teams in Cambodia, taught English and geography in a Ugandan school, and worked in a refugee camp in Northern Kenya. That sense of adventure led me to the kinds of opportunities that I am now involved with. More

OpenIDEO and Amplify Seek Ideas for Urban Resilience Challenge


By 2045, an estimated six billion people will live in cities. As climate change sets in, with temperatures and sea levels rising and weather patterns becoming more erratic, cities will have to be able to respond to the changes with additional pressure from increased populations. OpenIDEO’s Amplify’s Urban Resilience Challenge, together with the Global Resilience Partnership is exploring new ideas for communities in urban slums to adapt, transform, and thrive as they meet the challenges presented by climate change. Amplify, a global network focused on tackling challenges in international development and specifically on resilience in urban slums states:

“as we build our cities to make room for growing populations and changing climate, it isn’t enough to solve for any single issue or protect against any one risk. We have the opportunity to transform social structures, small-scale infrastructure, communication systems and the way we use existing resources to build better, more resilient, places to live, work and play.”

The challenge is opening up opportunities for individuals, NGOs, social entrepreneurs, and designers to collaborate across sectors, address multiple challenges, create change, and prepare for the future.

Learn more about the challenge and submit your own ideas here.