Help us raise $20,000 to celebrate 20 years. For a limited time, your donation is matched!Donate

Disruption Index: Kounkuey Design Initiative

One of 77 people, places and ideas changing cities in 2012.

Credit: Danni Sinisi

This is your first of three free stories this month. Become a free or sustaining member to read unlimited articles, webinars and ebooks.

Become A Member

Over the next two weeks, Next City will unroll short profiles of 77 people, places and ideas that have changed cities this year. Together, they make up our 2012 Disruption Index. Forefront subscribers can download the Index in full as a PDF, complete with beautiful designs and graphics by Danni Sinisi. Readers who make a $75 donation to Next City will have a full-color printed copy of the Index mailed to them.

To understand the needs of some of the developing world’s most underserved communities, it helps to have people on the ground. That’s the model of the Kounkuey Design Initiative, a non-profit that partners with low-income communities in places like Nairobi, Casablanca and Haiti to bring about much-needed community improvements. The Initiative’s work emphasizes the creation of what it calls Productive Public Spaces: Projects that transform formerly unusable space into active, productive and sometimes even revenue-generating resources for the community. These projects are devised, built and operated in conjunction with community members to ensure that they’re really needed and beneficial. Often, they fill glaring holes in places that might not otherwise be filled.

Some projects include public sanitation centers, playgrounds, schools and flood control interventions — all relatively simple in scope, but which can have huge impacts on people living in a given community. Among other awards, the Initiative was given an Innovation Challenges Award in 2012 from the Rockefeller Foundation for its online and phone-based initiative to help community members in Nairobi identify, access and improve water infrastructure projects. Through this participatory model, the Kounkuey Design Initiative’s work is not only bringing needed services to communities, but also enabling community members to build on the improvements they themselves have helped to create.

Like what you’re reading? Get a browser notification whenever we post a new story. You’re signed-up for browser notifications of new stories. No longer want to be notified? Unsubscribe.

Nate Berg is a writer and journalist covering cities, architecture and urban planning. Nate’s work has been published in a wide variety of publications, including the New York Times, NPR, Wired, Metropolis, Fast Company, Dwell, Architect, the Christian Science Monitor, LA Weekly and many others. He is a former staff writer at The Atlantic Cities and was previously an assistant editor at Planetizen.

Tags: urban designpublic space2012 disruption indexnairobi

Next City App Never Miss A StoryDownload our app ×

You've reached your monthly limit of three free stories.

This is not a paywall. Become a free or sustaining member to continue reading.

  • Read unlimited stories each month
  • Our email newsletter
  • Webinars and ebooks in one click
  • Our Solutions of the Year magazine
  • Support solutions journalism and preserve access to all readers who work to liberate cities

Join 1015 other sustainers such as:

  • Saskia in Frankfort, MI at $60/Year
  • Rick in San Francisco, CA at $30/Year
  • Sibyl at $30/Year

Already a member? Log in here. U.S. donations are tax-deductible minus the value of thank-you gifts. Questions? Learn more about our membership options.

or pay by credit card:

All members are automatically signed-up to our email newsletter. You can unsubscribe with one-click at any time.

  • Donate $20 or $5/Month

    20th Anniversary Solutions of the Year magazine