Design for Social Innovation and Public Good
A new movement is gaining momentum in the design world— a movement to expand the applications of high design beyond its elitist client base to solve complex social problems. This panel will engage an array of leaders in the public interest design movement who use design thinking in various ways to address global challenges and engender social innovation at different scales. John Peterson will bring his experience developing the largest interactive matchmaking database for pro bono design services between top architecture firms and deserving nonprofits to the discussion; Jess Zimbabwe’s contribution will be informed by work empowering civic leaders to use design thinking to solve public problems; John Bielenberg will bring his perspective on the influence of graphic design campaigns to bring awareness to complex social problems; while Barbara Brown Wilson will draw from her work in higher education to discuss the role of active learning and interactive online project evaluation to empower students to become social innovators. Suzi Soza, from the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service’s Dell Social Innovation Competition, will moderate the panel.
Barbara Brown Wilson is the Director of the Center for Sustainable Development and an Assistant Professor of Community and Regional Planning and Sustainable Development in the School of Architecture at UT Austin. She teaches courses on urban planning history and theory, the ethics of sustainable development, affordable housing, sustainable community development, and urban social movements. Her research focuses on the ethics of sustainable design, and keeps her actively engaged with the public interest design movement. Current projects include extending the work of the Alley Flat Initiative to develop integrated codes for green, affordable infill development in Austin, conducting project evaluation for the Texas Gulf Coast Recovery Rapid Housing Pilot Project, and working with the SEED Network to build an inclusive national platform for socially-oriented green building assessment systems.
In addition to her teaching and research, Dr. Brown Wilson is also active in service of her academic, professional, and local community. As director of the CSD, Dr. Brown Wilson oversees the Center's research, educational, and community outreach programs, including serving as co-director of the Central Texas Sustainability Indicators Project. Her background in organizational development and facilitation informs her work overseeing the many projects underway at the CSD. She was a co-founder of the Austin Community Design and Development Center (ACDDC), a nonprofit design center that provides high quality green design and planning services to lower income households and the organizations that serve them, and continues to serve on the board of directors for ACDDC, Design Corps, and the Texas Low Income Housing Information Service. In 2010 Dr. Brown Wilson received the Bank of America Local Hero award for her service in the Austin community.
Jess Zimbabwe, AIA, AICP, LEED-AP, was named Executive Director of the Daniel Rose Center for Public Leadership in Land Use in February 2009. The mission of the Daniel Rose Center is to achieve and support excellence in land use decision making. The Center’s flagship program is the Daniel Rose Fellowship for public leaders, which brings the mayors and senior leadership teams of 4 cities together for a year-long program of learning from land use experts, technical assistance, study tours, leadership development, and peer-to-peer exchange. The Rose Center also holds forums on topics of public/private interest and workshops to educate public officials. Jess serves as the Rose Center’s first Executive Director.
Before joining ULI, Jess was the Director of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, a 25-year old program that is run as a partnership of the American Architectural Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. In that capacity she worked with over 125 American mayors and cities to help local leaders better understand issues of urban design so that they could advocate for better built environments in their own communities. During her time at the Mayors’ Institute, she also served as Vice President for Programs at the American Architectural Foundation, overseeing that organization’s Great Schools by Design program, which brings design and planning expertise to local appointed and elected school district leaders, and developing the Sustainable Cities Design Academy, a program to provide technical assistance to local community leaders who are engaged in planning a sustainable building project in their community.
Before joining the Mayors’ Institute and American Architectural Foundation in 2006, Jess served as the Community Design Director at Urban Ecology in San Francisco, California, providing pro bono community planning and design assistance to low-income neighborhoods in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her primary project was the design and development of a community cultural center in the San Antonio district of East Oakland. The position at Urban Ecology was made possible by the Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship. Her previous work experience includes architecture, housing, and community development work in New York and Baltimore.
Jess earned a Master of Architecture and Master of City Planning from UC Berkeley and a B.A. in Architecture from Columbia University. During her graduate work, Jess was awarded Berkeley’s Branner Traveling Fellowship, and visited 27 national capitals, researching public use of space in and around parliament buildings. She also received the Architecture Department’s Graduate Instructor of the Year Award. Jess received a 2008-2009 Comparative Domestic Policy Fellowship from the German Marshall Fund, and was a 2004-2005 Fellow of the Women’s Policy Institute of the Women’s Foundation of California. She serves on the Board of Directors of Next American City. She is a licensed architect, certified city planner, and a LEED-Accredited professional.
John Peterson is the founder and president of Public Architecture, a national nonprofit organization mobilizing designers to use their skills and expertise to drive social change. The 1%, a program of Public Architecture, has built a network of over 15,000 design professionals providing $38 million of pro bono services annually across the country. He is also the principal of Peterson Architects in San Francisco. John is the recipient of numerous design and social innovation awards. He writes and speaks internationally about the role that the design of the built environment has in improving underserved communities. John has degrees in Architecture and Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design. He is an adjunct professor at California College of the Arts and was a Loeb Fellow at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.
I am the Executive Director of the Dell Social Innovation Challenge - the largest student competition focused on social innovation. In 2012 we will have 3,000 entries from more than 15,000 university students in 90 countries worldwide.
I am also a faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin where I teach Social Entrepreneurship. Over the past ten years I have experimented with how to best teach innovation and entrepreneurship - is this something that can be learned? I have found that human centered design is a critical component.
My first Masters was in economics and development policy. Four years later I went back to school for a Masters in Architecture and discovered an entirely "new" methodology for learning and creation that could be of tremendous benefit for many of the other issues I was concerned about.
I now try to be an ambassador for "design thinking" in my work to catalyze and arm the next generation of social entrepreneurs.