Biolite Shares the Case for Parallel Innovation


Sometimes, all it takes is a spark to launch a potentially world-changing idea. Long eclipsed by coal, oil and renewables, wood is no longer regarded or used as a primary source of energy in the post-industrial world. Yet wood is still widely used for cooking in the developing world. According to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, nearly half of the world still cooks on open wood-burning fires, and improper ventilation in cooking areas leads to over four million deaths per year.

BioLite founders Jonathan Cedar and Alec Drummond shared two passions: to help solve this problem through sustainable design — and camping. As longtime colleagues at New York-based design consultancy Smart Design, they began investigating thermoelectric technology as a side project to explore alternatives to traditional wood fires, both for themselves and those living in developing countries. But it was only when they won a “camping gizmo” competition at a conference on wood-burning stoves, in 2008, that they realized the true potential of the technology: for off-the-grid use cases. More

IDEO.org Human-Centered Design Course Begins 8/20

If you’re looking to learn more about human-centered design, there is no better way than IDEO.org’s online Human-Centered Design course. Kicking off later this month, the seven-week curriculum will introduce you to “the concepts of human-centered design and how this approach can be used to create innovative, effective, and sustainable solutions for social change.” Although the content is shared online, the true value of the course is working offline in teams of 4-6 where you will be able to put the methods into practice. More on what the course entails:

You will learn the human-centered design process by applying it to one of three pre-crafted real world design challenges (provided in the course). You will also have a choice to craft your own challenge. Each week you will explore the main human-centered design concepts through readings, case studies, and short videos. Then you’ll be expected to meet in-person with your design team to get your hands dirty practicing the relevant human-centered design methods.

Click here to register for Design Kit: The Course on Human-Centered Design by August 20th, online at NovoEd.com.

Shelter Designs by Shigeru Ban & Volunteer Architecture Network Unveiled


Renowned architect Shigeru Ban is now working on his latest disaster relief project. Working through his humanitarian organization, Volunteer Architects Network (VAN), Ban is focusing his attention on a scheme to build temporary relief shelters out of salvaged brick from earthquakes. According to GOOD magazine:

“When April’s 7.8 magnitude Nepal earthquake shook the traditionally peaceful region, Ban went to work outlining a series of blueprints for modular shelters made of wooden frameworks filled in with brick rubble. In Nepal he is going small, creating 3×7 square foot shelters that are low cost and easy to assemble.”

Ban is working to be very mindful of traditional Nepalese architecture within his designs. The “transitional houses” are only one step for VAN’s three step plan, with the final stage being permanent housing. The first transitional houses are slated for construction in late August.

Click here to read more on Shigeru Ban’s latest designs on GOOD magazine’s website.

AIA Calls for Citizen Architects


The American Institute of Architects has launched their Advocacy Network and is calling on members across the country to join. The Advocacy Network provides the tools to make an impact in one’s community as well as within government and institutions.

“The Advocacy Network is robust and organized grassroots advocacy network that not only connects AIA staff and components with AIA members, but also AIA members with elected members of Congress. The ultimate goal is to build a lasting relationship between AIA and Congress, so that every member will be the messenger on key advocacy issues.”

As a member of the network, a citizen architect can become involved in advocacy at the federal, state and local level. Not to mention being part of a network of others working in a similar field.

Click here to find out more about the AIA Advocacy Network.

LA Great Streets Challenge Announce Grant Winners


In 2013 Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti, started the Great Streets Initiative to facilitate the re-imagination of neighborhoods in LA. This gave birth to the Great Streets Challenge Grant, funding up to $20,000 to community-driven projects working to invigorate public spaces. Some of the winners of this year’s grant included:

REvisit REseda Blvd will use custom Flex Furniture pieces as performance/display spaces to draw people into the streetscape and help them rediscover the iconic Northridge business corridor.

Pacoima Street Values is a kit of parts that pays homage to local ‘DIY’ placemaking efforts and the existing street activity.

FIG JAM is a free event on North Figueroa by creating vibrant connections by drawing on its past, present & future

Each applicant was instructed to propose temporary and low cost transformations for under-utilized spaces in LA. The projects will actualize this September and continue throughout February 2016.

Click here to read on all of the winning projects of the LA Great Streets Challenge.

A Syllabus for Urban Design on Race and Justice


Days before the protests in Baltimore escalated, the African American Student Union (AASU) of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design hosted an urban design conference focused on social justice. Dana McKinney, the president of AASU, is focused on the fact that Harvard’s Design School simply does not offer courses that consider race and justice. Bryan Lee, 2014 “Member of the Year” for the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), eloquently describes the latter issue as:

“The issue is an ideology that finds its roots in architectural modernism, which eliminates ethnocultural and even sociocultural conditions from the variables that define quality architecture,” says Lee. “When we eliminate these essential considerations, we lose the ability for architecture to respond to the colloquial design languages of the people it serves.”

In Bertin Mock’s article for City Lab, “There Are No Urban Design Courses on Race and Justice, So We Made Our Own Syllabus,” he reached out to a handful of urban designers and architects to see what text’s they would suggest for a design course on race and justice. Some included: Aesthetics of Equity by Craig Wilkins, Urban Planning and the African-American Community by June Manning Thomas, and Race, Poverty, and American Cities by John Charles Boger.

Click here to see the full list of texts and to read the full article on City Lab.

Image courtesy of Patrick Semansky

A Sanctuary for Beekeeping & Honey Extraction in Tanzania


Tanzania has a rich history of beekeeping, and New York based Jaklitsch/Gardner Architects are tapping into this for their new design in Dodoma, Tanzania. The Mizengo Pinda Asali & Nyuki Sanctuary is going to serve as a central “hub” for not only honey extraction, processing and sales but also for education and as a bustling public amenity. ArchDaily describes the project as:

“Combining a traditional practice with contemporary wildlife and land conservation guidelines, the center aims to encourage local industries without compromising cultural values. ‘Our shared vision is that the design of this building will bring a sense of dignity to the enterprise – a place where modern equipment and techniques blend with traditional methods,’ said Mark Gardner, principal of Jaklitsch/Gardner Architects.

The sanctuary is slated to be constructed in three phases. The first phase is focused on creating spaces for education, harvesting and a market. Using all local labour and materials, the design of the sanctuary draws on several passive energy techniques for ventilation and air circulation.

Click here to read the full profile on the Mizengo Pinda Asali & Nyuki Sanctuary on ArchDaily.

Architecture Professor Creates Community Design Lab at ISU


In early March of this year, ISU partnered with Design Corps to host the Public Interest Design Institute. This two day course offered in-depth methods based on the Social Economic Environmental Design (SEED) metric. This is just one of the many initiatives that the ISU Community Design Lab offers. Pioneered by architecture professor Nadia Anderson, she describes the Community Design Lab as the following:

“Partnership with communities is the foundation of what we do,” Anderson said. “While we bring professional expertise and research to the table, the local knowledge and decision-making provided by our community partners is essential.”

Some of their current projects include: design concepts for local retailers, planning projects with neighborhood development organizations, and affordable housing prototypes.

Click here to read an article on the past, present and future of the Community Design Lab on ISU’s website.

10 Ways to Improve Your Design Practice

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality,” said American scholar Warren Bennis. His insightful statement was clearly demonstrated by the impact design leaders at this year’s What Design Can Do! (WDCD) conference. Over the course of two days, over 800 people converged on Amsterdam’s Stadsschouwburg theater to participate in the fifth annual event celebrating the impact of design on today’s most pressing issues. Nearly 20 practitioners – ranging from architects and graphic designers to chefs and researchers – presented their methods, theories, and projects to create positive social change.

Impact Design Hub captured ten of the best statements from leading practitioners during WDCD, who not only have a profound vision for the future but are working daily to make these visions a reality. We hope these inspire you to approach your design practice from a fresh perspective. More

How to Kick-Start Your Social Impact Career


Anyone interested in working or already working in the social impact sector knows that there is no one path to build a career in this field. Acumen recently reached out to Aliyah Kurji, 2014 Acumen Global Fellow and now Innovation Manager at Acumen, to get some tips on how to successfully build a social impact career. She took the leap from the private sector into the field of impact design and created a list of 8 ways for others to get into the field as well. Here are our top 3:

1. Don’t be put off by the ambiguity
If you’re looking for a structured path, you’re in the wrong spot, the search differs for everyone and you need to create a path that works for you.

2. Don’t expect the first job to be the ‘perfect job’
When switching careers, in any sector, you are likely not qualified for your ‘dream position’ right off the bat.

3. Talk to people you wouldn’t usually talk to
“It was easy because people often ask what you do so that gave me the opening to say I’m actually interested in the social enterprise sector and looking for something in this area. Do you know anything about this?”  Most of the time they knew something or someone they could introduce me to.

Click here to read the full blog post by Aliyah Kurji on Acumen.