+Acumen Offers New Free Course on Social Impact


+Acumen, a global learning community for social change makers, is offering a new course called Making Sense of Social Impact: Acumen’s Building Blocks for Impact Analysis. The course, taught by the Acumen Impact Team, will address the meaning of social impact and how to assess it, as well as preparing participants to apply the framework of understanding to initiatives and causes of personal interest.

“We believe this course will be especially insightful for those interested in impact investing, but it is by no means limited to that audience. Whether you are a philanthropist, a professional in the nonprofit, impact investing or social entrepreneurship field, or if you just want to know to ‘do good’ in a better way, this course is for you,” states the instructor.

+Acumen is a relatively new initiative by Acumen to emerging leaders with the skills they need to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges.

Click here to register for +Acumen’s free course on Social Impact.

How Architecture Can Detangle Complex Geo-Political Relationships


Coral Frontiers, a student proposal for coral regeneration on the Island of Diego Garcia, explores how architecture can shift the balance of power, acknowledging the complex connections (and the lack thereof) between the military, the human rights of native inhabitants of the island, as well as environmental challenges.

“The project was done within the studio Architecture and Activism at the Royal College of Art… The studio set out to explore how architects can intervene in the field of politics and critically engage with contemporary urban conditions… [the proposal] explores a speculative scenario in which, due to pressure by the international community and human rights institutions, the [native inhabitants] return to their homeland.”

The proposal takes care to avoid imposing design solutions, and encourages active participation and empowerment of displaced communities.

To learn about the challenges facing the Island of Diego Garcia, read more about the Coral Frontiers proposal here.

New Documentary on Design and Informal Settlements

By 2050, one fourth of the world’s population will live in informal settlements, often called slums or shantytowns. Within Formal Cities is a documentary project by intern architects Brian Gaudio and Abe Drechsler that highlights stories from these informal settlements in South America and focuses on design’s role in addressing the global housing crisis.

“To learn about the housing crisis, Brian and Abe traveled to 5 cities: Lima, Santiago, São Paulo, Rio De Janeiro, and Bogotá where they visited projects and interviewed over 30 designers, government officials, and residents. Their goal is to inform and inspire the next generation of architects to address this problem. To date, the pair has lectured at universities, given webinars, and exhibited photographs highlighting design and infrastructure projects from South American cities.”

Gaudio and Drechsler began the documentary project in 2014 when they were awarded the Duda Traveling Fellowship from the School of Architecture at North Carolina State. The partners have succeeded in receiving financial support for their project from NC State, a crowdfunding campaign, and their local chapter of the American Institute of Architects and will continue fundraising as they complete the documentary and debut it in 2016.

Watch the documentary trailer here.


Theaster Gates Brings His Placemaking Vision to Gary, Indiana


Theaster Gates is one of the most recognizable faces at the intersection of the arts and community development in the U.S. His current initiative, creating a two-track program for culinary students and those who would start food businesses in Gary, Indiana, will address what the city’s mayor calls a “pressing need.”

“Over the past 50 years of U.S. Steel layoffs, Gary has experimented with its fair share of economic development elixirs, from urban renewal in the ’60s to casinos in the ’90s. Fifteen years ago, Gary invested more than $20 million into the Steel Yard, the 6,000-seat baseball stadium. ‘It was supposed to drive economic development,’ [Mayor Karen] Freeman-Wilson says. ‘That didn’t happen.’”

Known for his successful efforts that transformed a swath of vacant homes into art spaces in Chicago, among other highly visible and much renowned initiatives, Gates recognizes and respects the appetite for grassroots change, mindful of concerns about arts, development, and possibilities of gentrification.

Read more about Gates’ work in Gary, Indiana and beyond, at Next City.

Photo: Lloyd de Grane

“Communities Building Their Own Economies”


The most effective way to tackle complex economic issues is not simply a grassroots effort, nor is a top-down approach a viable fix. It is the combination of the two, the nurturing of community-building initiatives combined with education and accountability that provides the mechanisms by which low-income communities are able to overcome poverty, generate their own assets and recover wealth.

“Empowering communities to take control of economic development is slow, patient work—and people funding or supporting it need to take this into account when assessing success. Long-term, place-based commitments are critical; parachuting in and out does little to build local capacity” states Steve Dubb of Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Myriad examples illustrate that education-centric approaches that enable and empower low-income communities have long-term, positive impacts.

Read specific examples of these successes at the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Image: Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative

Pathways to Practice – Lessons From The Field


A Winding Path, Not A Straight Line

“No!” said Charlie Cannon emphatically when asked if there is a “clear pathway” to an impact design career. But, said Cannon, there are many more pathways today than there have ever been. Speaking to a room full of enthusiastic young designers and social change seekers at Better World By Design – Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design’s annual student-led conference devoted to a sustainable and socially just future – Cannon summed up the sentiment of the Pathways to Practice panel by questioning the very concept that there are any easy answers, or whether that’s even a bad thing. “The idea that anyone in impact design – or even design as a whole – is only going to work in any one job, sector or problem, other than something incredibly broad like ‘changing the world’, seems improbable,” said Cannon, who serves as head of Industrial Design at RISD. “And that’s potentially incredibly freeing … you could be CEO of your own company in five years. It could be a one-person company or it could be five thousand people, but either way it’s possible.” More

Innovation by Design Finalists Announced

Ocean_CleanUpFast Company’s Innovation by Design finalists have just been announced. Entries into the competition are judged by their functionality, originality, beauty, sustainability, depth of user insight, cultural impact and business impact. In the Social Good category, finalists submitted projects to address various challenges, from ailing oceans to remote internet access.

Finalists included:

  • The Ocean Cleanup: Created by Boyan Slat and the staff and volunteers of The Ocean Cleanup. Instead of going after the estimated 5.25 trillion individual pieces of plastic in the ocean, The Ocean Cleanup uses long, ingeniously designed floating barriers to let the ocean currents concentrate the plastic itself.

  • Advanced Ordnance Teaching Materials (AOTM): Created by members of the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation. The AOTM comprises 10 models made using consumer grade 3-D printers that teach technicians-in-training across borders and language barriers how to properly defuse and dispose of bombs .

  • New Ebola Protective Suit: Created by Jhpiego, Johns Hopkins University Center for Bioengineering, Innovation, and Design, Clinvue. The suit includes a clear visor incorporated into the suit and air vents in the hood for keeping cool in hot climates—and, most ingeniously, a single rear zipper that easily causes the suit to peel away, without the contaminated exterior ever touching the wearer’s skin.

The Innovation by Design competition is a showcase for design solutions and inspiring stories about projects that speak to the nature of innovation. Read about the rest of the finalists in the Social Good category, as well as the other competition categories at Fast Company.

Eco-Hacking: Open-Source Solutions for Energy Access

By Michael Floyd

On August 15, 2015, scores of makers, engineers, designers, and mentors began to arrive at a 16th Century chateau west of Paris for five weeks of open source eco-hacking. Their goal: to refine and prototype a set of twelve open source hardware solutions for a sustainable low-carbon economy. The gathering is called POC21—for “proof of concept”—a cheeky play on “COP21” (the international climate summit scheduled to take place in Paris this December). POC21 transformed the castle and its idyllic grounds into a maker’s paradise: an open source laboratory, accelerator, and rapid prototyping facility. As one participant put it, “The geeks have officially stormed the castle.”

Several of the projects seek to change how we generate, conserve, and monitor the use of energy. Here, we profile three projects that aim to increase our control over our personal energy generation and consumption. If successful, their efforts will move us closer to an efficient, low-carbon, distributed energy system that can be adopted worldwide. More

Design Trust for Public Space Call for Fellows


Design Trust for Public Space is now accepting applications for fellowships in urban design, green infrastructure, and lighting to work on a pilot project that is part of El-Space: Creating Dynamic Places Under the Elevated. The deadline to apply is October 2, 2015. Design Trust fellows are chosen for their expertise, experience, and skill set. Fellows will share their talents with a wide array of partners, staff, and community stakeholders, and work effectively to reveal innovative responses to the city’s most significant challenges.

“The pilot will form a gateway to the waterfront, increase environmental health, and enhance pedestrian safety for residents of Sunset Park and workers at Industry City and adjacent sites. It will also test replicable lighting, green infrastructure, and urban design strategies in anticipation of an eventual NYC DOT capital project at the site, and application at ‘el-space’ locations citywide.”

Fellows will be responsible for developing the design and maintenance strategy for the pilot site, monitoring and documenting the pilot’s use and performance, and assessing and synthesizing the findings.

Learn more and apply before October 2, 2015 at Design Trust.

Cornell Study Shows Good Design Means Better Health Outcomes


Many health care facility owners hold the assumption, that new design and construction offer little to no financial returns. In a recent Cornell study published in Health Environments Research and Design Journal, the opposite of this assumption is proving to be true.

“Good design is good for business. Building facilities that follow guidelines – as shown by research – will likely to develop more economically viable health care for the community. Smart spending upfront prevents high costs in the future, and results in fewer infections and injuries for both patients and staff,” said Rana Zadeh, assistant professor of design and environmental analysis.

Studies have shown that good design interventions lead to reduced rates of hospital-acquired infections, patient falls, patient anxiety, and staff injury, all of which result in significant savings.

Click here to read the full article on the Cornell Chronicle