Jessica Dailey

Parsons DESIS Lab Explores Social & Sustainable Activism in North Brooklyn

by , 11/07/11

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At Inhabitat, we believe that good design can change the world — and we’re not alone in our quest to make this happen. Parsons the New School for Design was founded on this same idea, and today the institution is at the forefront of design thinking and education. The school’s Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability (DESIS) lab has spent the last year immersed in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, uncovering ways that we can better our city through social and sustainable design-driven initiatives, ranging from healthy local food programs to alternative modes of transportation. For the next two weeks, the DESIS Lab will be sharing these ideas with the community through workshops and an exhibition at Arts@Renaissance.

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Called “Amplifying Creative Communities in NYC: North Brooklyn,” the exhibition and workshop series were created entirely by the DESIS Lab and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation’s NYC Cultural Innovation Fund. North Brooklyn is the second neighborhood to be examined through the Amplifying Creative Communities project. In 2010, the DESIS Lab worked in the Lower East Side. The idea behind a “Creative Community” is that its an area where residents aren’t waiting for the government and businesses to make changes — the community members are taking things into their own hands. The Lab’s goal is to build upon the community’s already started initiatives to make them stronger and more sustainable.

For the past year, graduate students and faculty members from the Lab spent a lot of time in North Brooklyn talking with local civic leaders and residents to find out what kinds of small-scale community activism is happening and to learn about the challenges faced by the neighborhood.

“This project evolves from the basic principle that sustainable social innovations are present in hidden, less evident forms in cities around the world through the efforts of individuals or small, self-organized groups that seek to improve their lives and environments through collaboration,” said Eduardo Staszowski, director of the DESIS Lab.

The workshops are presented in collaboration with several community organizations, including St. Nick’s Alliance, IDEO, ioby, and Green Map System, plus the Cornell University Interaction Lab. The exhibition is designed as an open studio for the participants and visitors, as it will inform their activities during the events. Visitors are also invited to add their ideas and comments to the exhibition, making the installation grow and change as the community contributes.

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This coming week, IDEO, a design and innovation firm behind projects like the Faraday Electric Bike, will host a series of workshops with Parsons students from a variety of disciplines. The students will use the research from the exhibition to design workable solutions like services, toolkits, and policy recommendations to the challenges North Brooklyn faces.

On Saturday, November 12, ioby will launch its online “Recipes for Change” toolkit that will allow community members to propose and implement new solutions. This day long workshop is open to the public, and ioby project leaders will be teaching the public how to use the online resource. You can RSVP here. Green Map System is hosting a different public workshop on November 16 to create Green Maps for North Brooklyn. The open-source project compiles information on eco-friendly businesses and projects into easy-to-use maps that they hope will spur more sustainable development. You can RSVP by emailing web@greenmap.org.

The last two days of the event are a public conference called ShareNYC, which aims to bring together entrepreneurs, community leaders, social innovators, and designers who are exploring how sharing ideas, resources, and tools can shape our future in a more sustainable way. You buy tickets and can register for the event here.

Amplifying Creative Communities: North Brooklyn
November 11–20, 2011
Arts@Renaissance
2 Kingsland Avenue at Maspeth Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
Opening Reception: Thursday, November 10, 6–9 pm

+ Parsons DESIS Lab

+ Amplifying Creative Communities

Click here to find out more!

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