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Kareeshma Ali on How Human Centered Design Creates Meaningful Engagement

July 31, 2019

Authentic and meaningful engagement in any community design process is difficult and oftentimes is overlooked.

“I often hear a criticism from peers in the industry — and have experienced it myself — that while we do engage communities in our work, that engagement doesn’t always feel authentic or even significant. I wonder if it’s because we view ‘community engagement’ as another task to be completed by the experts, rather than an integral piece of the puzzle. We often place significant emphasis on our learned expertise, with lived experiences of community members taking a backseat until they are needed to validate the work we do,” says Kareeshma Ali, design research lead at Greater Good Studio and our webinar presenter on July 31, 2019.

What does it mean to place the user’s experience at the center of a design process, particularly in the context of built environment design and community development? Our webinar on human-centered design may have the answer.

Ali will discuss the role that human-centered design, a design process rooted in iteration and empathy, can play on the design processes of the built environment. She will share insights and opportunities from her experience working at both traditional design firms and at a social impact design consultancy. The presentation will delve into human-centered design research methodologies, community engagement strategies, and Greater Good Studio's overall philosophy when it comes to placing the user's experience at the center of a design process. Along with specific tactics, the presentation will also highlight challenges design professionals face in this work and opportunities for further exploration.

“[R]ather than dedicating only 10 percent of the time to community engagement and 90 percent to design,” says Ali, “how might we take a more balanced approach with the belief that meaningful learning and community empowerment will inevitably lead to a greater design?”

Kareeshma Ali is a design research lead at Greater Good Studio, a social impact design agency based in Chicago. Ali has a background in place-based work and holds a dual Masters in Architecture and Urban & Regional Planning, and a Post-Professional Certificate in Social and Environmental Design. Her experiences range from working with grassroots organizations, residents, and elected officials on projects testing quick, tactical interventions to developing long-term master plans. She has and continues to work in diverse contexts, while always striving to practice thoughtful community engagement, and co-creating design solutions with local communities.

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