Making a Difference
All design work is impactful, but nonprofit organizations and design firms that offer pro bono
services, or endeavor to find funding for needed projects, in many ways are ambassadors for the
profession to underserved populations, many of which have never been exposed to the positive
impact architectural and design services can provide. Following are a few organizations that are
making an impact on communities across North America.
Designs for Dignity
Designs for Dignity was founded on the
belief that every individual should have access
to environments that support the wellness
of the human spirit. The organization
harnesses the combined power of pro bono
design and construction talent and donated
materials to breathe new life into existing
nonprofit spaces, giving them the platform
from which they can better serve individuals
in their focus mission.
Since its founding in 2000, Designs for Dignity
has logged more than 90,000 pro bono hours,
valuing roughly $12 million in design services.
Through its vendor partners, it also has
collected more than $10 million in donated
products that have been redeployed in
the community through its various projects.
For more information,
Public Architecture’s 1+
1+ is the flagship program of Public Architecture,
a nonprofit with a mission to provide the
network and knowledge necessary to use design
as a tool for social gain. 1+ connects nonprofits
with pro bono architecture and design services,
and remains the first and largest pro bono
service network within the architecture and
design professions. The program is the conduit
through which more than $58 million of
design services are pledged annually.
1+ challenges the design community worldwide
to dedicate 1 percent or more of working
hours to pro bono service, a commitment that
equates to 20 hours per year per participating
employee. Its matching portal allows
nonprofits in need of design services to post
their projects and provides firms a venue
to find potential pro bono projects. Firms also
are encouraged to find projects within their
own communities and document their work
on the 1+ website.
For more information, visit
Open Architecture Collaborative
The Open Architecture Collaborative is a
global learning network with 22 chapters
in 11 countries. Its goal is to mobilize
architects and designers with technical skills
to build community capacity and serve
as an intermediary between professional
practitioners and systemically marginalized
communities. The nonprofit also helps other
nonprofits access capital, engage with their
constituencies, and maximize the use
of their space, with chapters providing free
services and saving groups thousands of dollars.
Currently, Open Architecture Collaborative
is recruiting for its pilot training program
called Pathways to Equity, a design leadership
experience for social equity in collaboration
with the Association for Community Design.
The program aims to build public interest
design knowledge through interactive
workshops and hands-on field experience.
This program is grounded in the values
of inclusion, access, co-creation, equity,
diversity, justice, and reciprocity.
For more information,
visit www.openarchcollab.org and
The Fashion Institute of Technology’s Integrated
Service-Learning Project (ISLP) is an expansion
of the Interior Design Relief Project, which
was founded in 2013 to serve the families
in Long Beach, New York, devastated by
Superstorm Sandy. The mission of ISLP is to
expand the interior design academic fabric
to include experiential learning and to foster
appreciation for lifelong learning through
impactful civic and social engagement in and
with marginalized communities. Each client-organization served by ISLP provides unique
opportunities for informed design interventions,
based on on-site visits and understanding
that a well-designed space will help improve
the human experience.
Notable projects include addressing space
planning, privacy, and acoustics for Restore
NYC, an organization dedicated to releasing
people from sexual slavery and exploitation;
a renovation of St. Paul’s House that serves
marginalized children and adults; and a
laundry room renovation of the Bowery
Mission Women’s Center.
For more information, visit www.fitnyc.edu/
A total of $278,649
in pro bono design
services and material
donations went into
Zacharias Sexual Abuse
Center, a Designs
for Dignity project
in Skokie, Illinois.
(Image: Jill Buckner