Power to the People: Empowerment and Disruption in Community Engaged Design

Toni L. Griffin. Photo by Noah Kalina

In Summer of 2016, Toni L. Griffin of Urban Planning for the American City facilitated the Designing Equity convening – an event focused on community engaged design practice co-hosted by the Surdna Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. The day-long discussion included designers and community activists, and academics, as well as representatives of governmental and philanthropic organizations. In this blog post, Griffin reflects on the take-home messages from the session; distilling them down into what she calls the “essential ingredients” for advancing community engaged design and its impacts: 1) Power: recognizing where decision-making power lies, and where it’s absent; 2) Restoration: restoring acceptance of difference between and across practitioners and the communities we serve; 3) Ownership: building ownership of process, outcomes, and material and non-material benefits; and 4) Disruption: undoing the fundamental frameworks of “classism, power imbalance, environmental injustice, unconscious bias, and imperialism” that shape the unjust conditions that community engaged design aims to transform.

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Organizations Referenced

Surdna Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Urban Planning for the American City

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