designing the WE 
Public Service Award

Designing the We is a for-benefit social design studio that guides clients, collaborates with neighbors, and designs across systems to address deep structural fault lines in our society. We work with cities large and small, not for profit organizations, financial institutions, national networks, and local organizers. The projects, policies, and programs generated by Designing the We advance human dignity and vibrancy in community-driven social, cultural, and economic development.

Designing the We is most known for its Undesign the Redline project, which has traveled to dozens of cities and towns across America. Redlining is how structural racism was designed into cities and places. It has never truly been undone. The legacy of racist policies is still felt in inequities in housing, wealth, education, health, and the built environment. But without a broad understanding of how we got here, these same outcomes fuel perceptions that serve to reproduce inequity. Breaking this cycle has required demystifying this history and bringing the tools of design, engagement and pedagogy to bear. Undesign the Redline is a community engagement and organizing tool meant to spark realization, conversation and action. 

Designing the We’s educational, engagement, and activation tools allow everyone to understand the crises in systems, not just symptoms, and begin a process of co-creation and humanistic design that is fundamentally optimistic and forward looking. Recognizing that our greatest challenges are by design, designing the We does not see any challenge as being outside of our collective reach to transform by designing together. We just need a method to be deliberate. Designing the We calls this process our “three Rs” — re-framing narratives, re-designing systems and re-investing in people. 

Designing the We’s methods are deeply engaged with communities who will steward the co-creative process, intentionally anti-racist, and draw from the well of process knowledge from past movements, like popular education, participatory action research, situational analysis, and humanistic design. By curating and iterating this design process to fit the needs and opportunities of each context, Designing the We has worked on projects as wide ranging as an expansive public park, fair housing policy, and incubating new organizational initiatives. Their decades of combined experience in urban design, planning, social impact business, organizing, research, and architecture lend foresight guided by our mission. 

And that is what Designing the We is all about: its mission for positive transformation to a more equitable world, which is a commitment the company takes seriously and joyfully. Together with its partners, designing the We goes to work with its design tools every day to change the systems of inequity. The company strives to be more than ‘good’ and to have truly meaningful impact in a context where unequal legacies like redlining mean treating everyone equally means keeping everything the same. Designing the We believes it will take collective effort and collaboration to design the more just and inclusive world we imagine.