Design For The Public Good: Top 10 Initiatives To Watch In 2013
December 13, 2012
Curator and writer John Cary is the founding editor of PublicInterestDesign.org and an A+ Award juror. This story is the final in a three-part series that spotlights notable, mission-driven work in the architecture and design fields. You can read the first two here and here.
Rounding out my three-part, year-end series on public interest design here at Architizer, today I take a look ahead to 2013. The year promises all sorts of exciting, game-changing initiatives in humanitarian design. From the first-ever Public Interest Design Week to MASS Design Group’s new lab in Africa, here are the 10 initiatives we are most looking forward to in the coming year. Click through to see them all!
Full disclosure: I am involved either tangentially or directly with a several of the following entries.
1. The NEA will publish its Social Impact Design White Paper
The National Endowment for the Arts‘ white paper stemming from the Social Impact Design Summit, hosted February by the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum at the Rockefeller Foundation, should come out in a matter of weeks. Edited by former DesignObserver editor Julie Lasky, now deputy editor of The New York Times‘ homes section, this landmark white paper will, I hope, put a stake in the ground on behalf of the federal government about the role of design in addressing some of the most complex social challenges of our time.
2. The Public Interest Design 100 infographic will go global
Following-up on the Public Interest Design 100 infographic produced by PublicInterestDesign.org in partnership with the University of Minnesota and Tandus Flooring, a forthcoming global edition is already in the works and due out early next year. Once again, expect to see an array of players, working at all scales of design. While it’s worthwhile enough to make people feel seen and celebrated, the larger goal is to illustrate that public interest design takes many forms and requires a diversity of contributors to achieve real success.
3. Big Future Group will take shape
As announced just yesterday, Big Future Group is a brand new nonprofit design organization “facilitating culturally conscious and sustainable architecture and infrastructure in the developing world.” A collaboration between architect Sharon Davis, landscape designer Julie Farris, structural engineer Arun Rimal, and hydrologist Eric Rothestein, the entity and its mission grew out of the partners’ work on a Women for Women International project in Kayonza, Rwanda. Big Future Group’s first project is expected to be a school in Kathmandu, Nepal. As the name suggests, expect big things.
4. The University of Minnesota will host Public Interest Design Week
Next spring, the University of Minnesota College of Design and a handful of partners will host a first-of-its-kind “Public Interest Design Week.” From March 19 to 24, the College of Design will unite a series of otherwise disparate events–chief among them the Shelter:connect media and storytelling workshop; Enterprise Community Partners‘ Affordable Housing Design Forum; and Design Corps‘ Public Interest Design Institute and long-running Structures for Inclusion conference. Headlining the week as keynote presenters will be the likes of Michael Kimmelman, architecture critic of The New York Times, and Krista Donaldson, CEO of D-Rev: Design Revolution.
5. IDEO.org Innovation Fund will take off
Made possible by a major grant from the Wasserman Foundation, the IDEO.org Innovation Fund was announced this fall as a 2012 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) commitment. Through an internal nomination process, a pool of roughly two dozen social sector organizations was identified, from which up to four organizations and entrepreneurs will be supported to work with IDEO.org fellows and staff in 2013. Already this year, the fund has supported work with Juhudi Kilimo to design new ways to provide technical training for farmers in rural Kenya. (IDEO.org will also welcome its next class of fellows, with the deadline to apply being January 3.)
6. Design will become a Clinton Global Initiative hallmark
The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) has a long track record of carrying forward its annual meeting themes with what the Clinton Foundation refers to as initiatives to “build a better world.” Whether or not design achieves that precise status, it’s increasingly clear that design is being embraced as a welcome addition to CGI’s toolbox. The beauty of that simple fact is that CGI and its members are uniquely working across disciplines and sectors, not pigeonholing design into the subservient status that it often takes when it is not recognized as a means to address problems of all shapes and sizes. Best of all, CGI can lead the way in redefining what it means to design for impact.
7. MASS Design Lab will break ground in Rwanda
Another example of CGI’s convening power, MASS Design Group and Shaw Contract Group used the occasion to announce their MASS Design Lab (MDLab). A global hub for innovation, the collaborative space will be dually located in vastly different economies–Africa and the U.S. Rather than the typical “north-to-south” pipeline, the MDLab and its partners will focus equally or more on what the north can learn from the global south in terms of design and innovation. We have already seen the extraordinary community empowerment work and design talent that MASS brings to its built work, so it’s impossible not to have high hopes and expectations for this next important venture.
8. Studio H, the film, will debut
A worthy carry-forward from our 2012 prediction list, one can only eagerly await the debut of Studio H, the film documenting the design/build work of brave high school students led by Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller of Project H Design. As reported earlier this week, award-winning filmmakers at O’Malley Creadon Productions are in their final cut, and the film is being submitted to film festivals. A trailer of Studio H is available on the filmmakers’ website, while the actual work of the Studio H design/build program can be seen online here.
9. Grantmakers in Design will unite design and philanthropy
For all of the incredible initiatives documented over the past few days, funding for such efforts remains embarrassingly anemic and difficult to access. With the advent of Grantmakers in Design and substantial new funding pools coming online in 2013, the tides may finally be turning. Already, we see entities as divergent as Architecture for Humanity and Code for America, D-Rev as well as the aforementioned IDEO.org and MASS Design Group tapping new funding sources never thought of before. The Surdna Foundation, as another example, plans to reissue its design guidelines, with a focus on what it calls “community-engaged design.” This funding will hopefully look beyond funding for design’s sake, and instead understand and mobilize design as a critical, cross-cutting resource.
10. The Catch-All of TBAs
For a variety of reasons, many specific initiatives that have not made this list are not yet finalized or public. Imagine new funding streams, more exceptionally designed projects of all scales, more reliable ways to measure impact, new award programs, more critical press coverage, and new academic programs — all helping to advance and evolve public interest design around the world. A year from now, those dreams will hopefully be realities.