I was super excited to be a part of this forum, as my 5+ years experience at the Natural Learning Initiative before coming to grad school involved a LOT of this work, but I learned about it as I worked and had not known much about the larger field and professional network of Public Interest Design. [Contextual sidenote: at the NLI, we typically worked in child care centers in under-resourced rural and urban neighborhoods across North Carolina, rallying the community around the benefits of integrating nature into the child care outdoor play spaces, designing the spaces through stakeholder workshops, and finally assisting the community to implement the design on their own].
Being at Design Futures, surrounded by both student and professional peers from across the country with similar passions and questions was incredibly encouraging, challenging, and stimulating. There was far too much I learned to go in depth in a quick blog post here. To give you an idea, here are some of the questions we posed and explored, together:
- How can our design leadership energize the power already existing in a community?
- What is the practical and value difference between episodic community participation and ongoing civic engagement?
- How are the stories of our cities made evident in the built form? How does that affect those who live there differently - who is benefitted and who is burdened?
- How can we leverage existing projects and grants to create new jobs and train people for living wage jobs?
- How does understanding our own position, privilege, and power open doors to leveraging that power when working with communities who are excluded from it, in different ways?
- Can we own that we are often both Dicks and Ricks? And can we acknowledge when we're being more of a Dick and work to be more like a Rick? (p.s. maybe the best resource I was given in the conference was this booklet about Dick and Rick made by the Equity Collective)
- How can we use our design expertise to tell and celebrate local community stories through the projects we create?
- How do we measure social impact after the fact? What metrics are there? How do you know if you were successful, or not?
- How does empathy and humility play into our work as designers? How should it?
- How does public interest design work, practically, in different professional contexts?