2016 NEA ‘Our Town’ Grants Call for Applicants


Calling all creative placemakers! National Endowment for the Arts is looking to support projects transforming communities through the arts.  The Our Town grant supports local initiatives improving the quality of life for residents while also building a grounded sense of place.  The grant requires a partnership between arts organizations and government, other nonprofit organizations, and private entities. The two categories for the Our Town grant are:

  • Arts Engagement, Cultural Planning, and Design Projects. These projects represent the distinct character and quality of their communities. These projects require a partnership between a nonprofit organization and a local government entity, with one of the partners being a cultural organization. Matching grants range from $25,000 to $200,000.  
  • Projects that Build Knowledge About Creative Placemaking. These projects are available to arts and design service organizations, and industry or university organizations that provide technical assistance to those doing place-based work. Matching grants range from $25,000 to $100,000.

Applications are due on September 21, 2015. Join NEA for their webinar on “How to Apply” for the grant on Wednesday July 29, 3:00 ET and on Wednesday August 5th tune in for the “Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration for a Successful Project Proposal” webinar.

Click here to find out more on the NEA Our Town grant.

Image courtesy of Martha Cooper

New Director of 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale to Focus on Social Needs


The 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale has officially announced its Director for 2016 as Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena. This year’s 15th annual exhibition is focused on addressing the disparity between architecture and social need.

“There are several battles that need to be won and several frontiers that need to be expanded in order to improve the quality of the built environment and consequently people’s quality of life,” said Aravena. “We would like to show that in the permanent debate about the quality of the built environment, there is not only a need but also room for action.”

The 15th annual architecture exhibition in Venice will run from 28 May to 27 November 2016. In direct contrast to last year’s director, Rem Koolhas, Aravena’s approach is based in addressing pressing real world issues. Aravena is most known for his social housing with Elemental, defining itself as a “Do Tank that seeks to upgrade people’s quality of life.”

Click here to read the full article on Deezen

10k Sylvia Harris Citizen Design Award Applications Now Due!


In honor of the late social impact design pioneer, the Sylvia Harris Citizen Design Award–worth $10,000–will go to a project that addresses a pressing social issue, can be implemented in a timely manner, and will deliver positive results that can be measured. This award is presented by Design Ignites Change and AIGA, the professional association for graphic design.

“Sylvia Harris (1953 – 2011) is widely recognized as a pioneer, a generous mentor and a vital inspiration to the field of social impact design. In that spirit, the Sylvia Harris Citizen Design Award has been established to honor her legacy by supporting other vanguards dedicated to public design.”

Applicants need only one year of professional design experience and both designer and project must be located in the United States. Register and apply by August 3, 2015 for this outstanding opportunity to get a project off the ground.

Click here to apply for the Sylvia Harris Citizen Design Award.

Design/Build Firm Pioneering Water Resiliency in the Bay Area


Founded by a group of builders and ecologists with a passion for water conservation, DIG Cooperative is a leading design/build firm integrating water conservation solutions in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2005. Specializing in comprehensive, on-site water catchment and reuse systems for residential, commercial and institutional clients, DIG is committed to building a sustainable future for clean water. In their own words:

“Our team is committed to regenerative ecology, quality craftsmanship, and creative collaboration. We harness the power of water to transform urban environments into resilient habitats.”

Now, after 10 years of pioneering cutting-edge water catchment and reuse systems in the Bay Area, DIG Cooperative has partnered with KivaZip to raise $15,000 to meet the growing demand for their services amidst increased awareness of the severe drought conditions facing California. Their campaign is two-fold, raising funds for both marketing/activities and hardware/software. The campaign ends on July 29th, so get your contributions in soon! Also, keep a look out for DIG’s upcoming events this fall. The most recent event is their Farm to Fork Expo on August 29th in San Francisco for advocates and lovers of food.

Click here to contribute to DIGs mission of ensuring water resiliency by lending donations to their need for marketing & tools.

La Realidad detrás de la Construcción de un Proyecto de Impacto Social


Compuesto por cuatro bloques junto a las abarrotadas calles y plantaciones de caña de azúcar de Villa Rica, el Centro de Desarrollo Infantil El Guadual es un edificio construido con un gusto exquisito en un territorio sumamente disputado. El Guadual fue el primer proyecto piloto iniciado para “de Ciero a Siempre,” una estrategia nacional para la infancia promovida por la Primera Dama de Colombia. El proyecto se centra en combinar educación, juego, comida, cultura, inscripción y salud.

Los arquitectos de El Guadual, Daniel Feldman e Iván Darío Quiñones aprovecharon al máximo la oportunidad única de trabajar con un programa gubernamental que pusiera el diseño al frente para lograr una beneficiosa participación de la comunidad y del desarrollo de la primera infancia. Un aspecto inherente a la estrategia nacional para la infancia es el Enfoque Reggio Emilia, un sistema pedagógico exhaustivo que hace hincapié en el impacto del medio ambiente físico en el aprendizaje, incluso refiriéndose a él como el “tercer profesor” del niño. Cuando El Guadual se terminó no sólo subió el listón por el bajo coste de los procesos de construcción sostenibles, sino también por sus métodos innovadores de participación de la comunidad y del gobierno durante todo el proceso del diseño. More

The Maker Movement Future: Open Source & Sustainable


How can the maker model of open source and upcycled methodologies be implemented towards beneficial environmental change? In order to explore this concept further OuiShare Magazine interviewed Dawn Danby, the creator of the Autodesk Sustainability Workshop, a free and open-source resource for learning the principles and practice of sustainable design.

“We often pretend that our design ideas are new to this world, but we’re always building on others’ work” says Danby. “Part of what inspires me about the open source movement is the fact that it attempts to acknowledge how ideas build off one another, how they’re forked and modified, often with a curious lineage across the planet. More people should be learning from others’ approaches to local fabrication, design for disassembly, materials selection, and new economic models.”

The interview dives into a variety of communities focused on implementing human-centered, environmentally conscious maker projects. Some of these include: Instructables, iFixit and the upcoming POC21 event.

Click here to read the full article “Makers, Open Source, and Sustainable Design: an Interview with Dawn Danby” on OuiShare Magazine.

Staying in Close Proximity to Customers


How one social enterprise is changing Myanmar through design

In a landscape marked by lush, fertile plains that sit between sculptural mountains, two-thirds of Myanmar’s population of 51 million live rurally where resourcefulness is a way of life. Nestled between global superpowers China and India, Myanmar has been rapidly transforming since military rule was dissolved in 2011. Four years ago marked the end of five decades of economic and political isolation and now rural communities are facing new and unprecedented opportunities to tap into global technologies and systems.

Since 2004, Proximity Designs’ co-founders Debbie Aung Din, a native of Myanmar, and Jim Taylor have embedded themselves in the cultural dynamics and business landscape of the country in order to support rural farmers. Approaching their customers from a human-centered design perspective, Proximity provides new products and services to entrepreneurial farmers eager to improve their livelihoods. More

Engineering for Change Webinar on How to Find a Job!


As an engineer, finding volunteer work for the social good can be an easy enough task. The real challenge comes when trying to find paid work in the latter area. This is why Engineering for Change (E4C), a global community of engineers, technologists, social scientists, NGOs, and local governments working towards sustainable solutions for underserved communities worldwide, is hosting the webinar “Jobs for Change: Engineers without Borders Around the Globe.”

“The pursuit of a fulfilling career is a life-long commitment. At E4C, we’re constantly asked the question of how to professionally enter or transition into the field of engineering for global development. In July’s webinar, we will explore how EWB-USA, EWB-Australia and other EWB-I member organizations prepare engineers for careers in global development in their own distinct ways.”

The webinar is on July 29th at 11:00 am EDT. The E4C speakers include Julian O’Shea (Director of EWB Institute, Engineers Without Borders Australia) and Skip Spensley (Education Director, Engineers Without Borders-USA) and will be moderated by Iana Aranda (Senior Program Manager, Engineering for Global Development, American Society of Mechanical Engineers).

Click here to register for the “Jobs for Change: Engineers without Borders Around the Globe.”

Student Designs Responsive Building Material to Rain


Newton had an apple but Chen… had a pine cone. During his second term at the Royal College of Art, Chao Chen was conducting a materials study and stumbled upon a pine cone on a rainy day. This inspired “Water Reaction,” for his first year final project towards his masters in product design. Meg Miller of FastCoDesign describes the project as such:

“Now, he has developed a building material, based on the pine cone’s anatomy, that can shapeshift in response to weather. For his first year final project, Water Reaction, Chen applies this new material in three fascinating ways. In the first, Chen developed a Water-Reacting Shelter covered in laminated tiles that open up on sunny days, but stack on top of each other to provide shelter when it starts to rain.”

Chen also applies the material to color shift in response to water as well as to detect and display the moisture in soil. Although all three products are still prototypes and Chen is still in school, keep a look out for this responsive material in the near future.

Click here to read the full article “Student Develops An Ingenious Building Material That Shapeshifts In Response To Rain” on FastCoDesign.

Top 3 Books for Impact Designers on Cities, Race and Public Space


An overwhelming amount of the population call cities their home. With the rise of urbanization comes a need to create a deeper understanding of urbanity. In lieu of this, Anna Clark of has compiled a list of the top 10 nonfiction books on cities, race and public space. All 10 books are authored by people of color and “explore the meeting place between public and private in modern cities.” Our top 3 picks for impact designers are the following:

  • Redevelopment and Race: Planning a Finer City in Postwar Detroit by June Manning Thomas: “Thomas argues that planners’ erasure of low-income people and African-American people doomed their efforts, and exacerbated the white flight that decentralized the city. She makes a case for how planning can integrate equity alongside economic revitalization.”
  • The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century by Grace Lee Boggs and Scott Kurashige: “We can do better, she argues, and alternative models for how we humans can organize ourselves are already happening. This is a rousing call for a mass model of leadership, reflection and critical thinking that seeks a way to make the wisest civic choices.”
  • Sidewalk City: Remapping Public Space in Ho Chi Minh City by Annette Miae Kim: “This just-published work flips our usual understanding of public space — large communal swaths of green in the middle of a cityscape — and focuses on its most humble incarnation: the sidewalk. Who ultimately has power over this public-private space?”

Click here to read the full “10 Must-Read Books for Urbanists on Cities, Race and Public Space”on