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Built With Humanity: Solutions for Gentrification in Austin, Texas

A design fellowship that invites Black and Latinx innovators to collaborate on sustainable urban design.

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*Please Upload User Experience Map (as attachment) and any additional insights gathered from Beneficiary Feedback in this field

In July 2018, we hosted a workshop to "prototype" the fellowship program. At the end of the event, we administered a survey to collect feedback from our participants. Based on the responses, we discovered the following: 1) the program theme should target affordability and workforce inclusion as it relates to gentrification, 2) a cross-sectoral approach is necessary to eliminate silo-ed efforts, and 3) fellows will require exposure to local businesses and decision-makers.

Why does the target community define this problem as urgent and/or a priority? How is the idea leveraging and empowering community assets to help create an environment for success? (1000 characters)

From 2010-2015, the cost of living in Austin increased 37% and is still increasing. In addition, local housing costs are outpacing household income at a rate of nearly 750%. Meanwhile, there are over 99,000 families in Austin who are not making a living wage, a phenomenon that has also resulted in an increased homeless population. According to residents, the most painful aspects of gentrification include the threat of poverty, feeling coerced to sell their homes, and unfair targeting by city policies and developers. We seek to leverage local entrepreneurial assets to bring opportunity to low income minorities. Specifically, we developed a strategic collaboration with the following: 1) Austin Center for Design 2) Impact Hub Austin, a co-working space and social entrepreneurship network, 3) Creative Reaction Lab, an award-winning organization that established the equity-centered community design framework, and 4) the Austin Office of Innovation.

How does the idea fit within the larger ecosystem that surrounds it? Urgent needs are usually a symptom of a larger issue that rests within multiple interrelated symptoms - share what you know about the context surrounding the problem you are aiming to solve. (500 characters)

In Austin, housing segregation began with the creation of the Koch and Fowler city plan, which proposed the creation of a “Negro District” (East Austin) in 1928. In 1935, a federal program formalized the boundaries for this district. Economic divestment caused by these policies, coupled with rapid development, caused East Austin to become one of the most rapidly gentrifying areas in the United States. Top-down interventions haven't been effective, therefore trust in the government is waning.

How does the idea affect or change the fundamental nature of the larger ecosystem that surrounds it (as described above) in a new and/or far-reaching way? (500 characters)

Built With Humanity (BWH) transforms the paradigm of urban development by utilizing community knowledge and resources to counteract displacement. The design fellowship aims to undermine the economic effect of historically racist housing policies by educating Black and Latinx innovators to lead equity-centered innovation in their communities. Specifically, the program will promote equitable community development through minority-led businesses that support affordability and workforce inclusion.

What will be different within the target community as a result of implementing the idea? What is the scope and scale of that difference? How long will it take to see that difference and how will it be sustained beyond BridgeBuilder support? (500 characters)

Fellows will: 1) be committed equity designers on behalf of their communities, 2) increase economic opportunity while preserving Black and Latinx culture, 3) raise awareness of structural segregation, and 4) support Austin’s Strategic Plan addressing development. We aim to create ventures that support higher incomes for 100 at-risk families within 3 years and/or lower costs of living for those families in the same period. Ventures will be sustained by earned income and a mentorship network.

How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

Fellowship Structure: - We will utilize AC4D courses to provide comprehensive design education. - We will focus our efforts on two key areas: workforce inclusion and affordability. - We will include a total of 4 fellows who will work together throughout the duration of the program. Note: AC4D confirmed that 14 of their traditional students will also focus on gentrification if we are awarded the grant. - Each cohort will consist of 2 student fellows and 2 community fellows (with lived experience). The program will allow adults (18-29) without college degrees to participate in order to provide more opportunity to all community members. Community Design: - We will take a collaborative approach to engaging the city planning, economic development, local business, developers, and community members. - We will place special emphasis on designing ventures that preserve culture.

What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (You can attach a timeline or GANTT chart in place of a written plan, if desired.) (1000 characters)

Implementation steps for the pre-fellowship phase are: Present-Dec 2018: Market and advertise the fellowship among local colleges and universities, as well as community organizations. Formalize partnerships, including the commitments and responsibilities for each partner, outlining the their scope of work, and agreeing on the budget allocated for their contribution. Jan-Feb 2019: Finalize the curriculum for the practicum including learning outcomes, activities, and program schedule with oversight from design and business sector partners. Our goal is to build upon best practices in equity-centered design as successfully implemented in other cities. Also interview applications, and make the final selection for fellows. March-April 2019: Finalize budget allocation and fellowship work breakdown structure. May-July 2019: Final preparation for August boot camp and program start.

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (Feel free to share an organizational chart or visual description of your team). (500 characters)

The fellowship is a collaborative effort between three organizations. Impact Hub Austin: Fiscal Sponsor. Business Mentorship. Austin Center for Design (AC4D): Educational Partner. Creative Reaction Lab: Educational Partner. Support has also been provided by Austin's Chief Innovation Officer and Austin's Office of Innovation.

What aspects of the idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (500 characters)

We desire to cultivate an ongoing relationship with GHR Foundation and OpenIdeo given the nature of our work. We are open to discussing alternative funding structures if selected as a finalist.

In preparation for our Expert Feedback Phase: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in your project? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea and needs.

1. What are some of the blind spots we may have in the way we are addressing the problem? 2. What is your advice regarding the best use of funds within our project budget? For example, should we have more fellows for a shorter duration? 3. How can we best foster collaboration between our fellows, city, investors, and collaborators? Each stakeholder has conflicting interests; therefore, we need help in knowing how to find common ground. Historically, the conflicting interests of community members and government has been an issue.

Final Updates (*Please do not complete until we reach the Improve Phase*): How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

In July 2018, we hosted a workshop to "prototype" the fellowship program. At the end of the event, we administered a survey to collect feedback from our participants. Based on the responses, we discovered the following: 1) the program theme should target affordability and workforce inclusion as it relates to gentrification, 2) a cross-sectoral approach is necessary to eliminate silo-ed efforts, and 3) fellows will require exposure to local businesses and decision-makers. Based on expert feedback, the fmain changes were made: 1) collaboration with a local urban planning consultant to map areas of that are being highly gentrified using ARCGIS, and 2) the fellows will go through structured coursework in Austin Center for Design’s one year program.

During this Improve Phase, please use the space below to add any additional information to your proposal.

Current Impact: Each institution in our collaborative has had extensive impact in applying design to "wicked problems" like gentrification. There is tremendous opportunity to leverage innovation expertise to significantly improve equity in East Austin and all over the US. Current Impact: AC4D: Impact Hub Austin (Accelerator Business Portfolio) Creative Reaction Lab

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Built With Humanity is a one-year design fellowship that invites Black and Latinx innovators to develop breakthrough solutions to sustainable urban design. We define sustainable urban design, as an approach that seeks to foster resilience in urban areas by optimizing social, economic, political, and social well being. The program is based on the equity-centered community design (ECCD) framework, a flexible system at the intersection of community development, design-based problem solving, and equitable outcomes. The theme for the first cohort is: “Solutions for Gentrification in Austin, Texas. Students will complete 1 year of studio and coursework at the Austin Center for Design + a practicum based on the ECCD framework. Fellows graduate with a certification in Interaction Design and Social Entrepreneurship in addition to receiving mentorship and financial support to launch their ventures. See the attached image and the “Built with Humanity Curriculum Overview” that has been attached to our proposal submission.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our primary beneficiaries will include African American and Hispanic families who have been or are at risk of displacement due to gentrification and lack of affordable housing in east Austin, Texas. We will assess displacement risk to target communities and neighborhoods most affected. (see attached map of the detailed areas we aim address in east Austin. A study by the University of Texas in 2017 found that in East Austin, a once predominantly low to moderate income African-American and Mexican-American neighborhood, saw a 442 percent increase of white residents between 2000 and 2010, while its African-American population dropped by 66 percent. According to the study, a bulk of the residents who moved away — more than half, according to UT survey results — did so because housing was no longer affordable. Source:

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

Existing initiatives include: 1) the Anti-Displacement Task Force, a 17-member group of appointees launched by the city of Austin to combat the displacement of minorities, 2) People’s Plan, a group of six resolutions/draft ordinances that are aimed at creating solutions for displacement and gentrification, and 3) an initiative formed by the University of Texas School of Architecture to build affordable housing into alleys. Unfortunately, few initiatives are implemented and sustained and even fewer include meaningful and consistent collaboration with the communities who are being displaced. Built With Humanity seeks to turn Black and Latinx innovators into "equity designers" equipped with the skills, resources, and connections needed to develop effective solutions, while bridging healthy and holistic conversations with city planners and other relevant parties.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Built With Humanity is a non-profit organization that empowers underserved communities to transform cities through equity-centered design and social entrepreneurship. The fellowship is the starting point for this larger organization. We aim to educate young people from underserved communities to be equity-designers for their communities in cities across the United States. Website (In Development): (it will eventually be:

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • No, but we are a formal initiative through an accelerator, hub, or other entity.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

As a native Texan and African American, addressing homelessness and inequality in my state is a great passion of mine. The problem of gentrification further increases racial and social divides while disrupting tight-knit communities that are essential to the city. Thus, Built With Humanity was birthed out of a desire to bridge both sides, while inviting overlooked perspectives to the table in order to accelerate solutions.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Peace has been impacted by the racial history and segregation in Austin, now one of the fastest-gentrifying cities in the U.S. The city has a long history of inequality, with East Austin at the frontline. City officials deliberately drove African-Americans and Hispanic residents into the neighborhood as part of the city’s 1928 master plan. “East Austin was created as a reservation for the black and brown people — that’s what people called it,” said Daniel Llanes, a longtime East Austin resident and community activist. “But in the early '90s, the city council did a blanket rezoning of East Austin. When that happened, it accelerated gentrification here, because the properties that had been residential suddenly had the ability to be commercial, so the property owners pushed residents out and got commercial renters in because they could. Prosperity has also been impacted by these policies. Presently, the lack of affordable housing and low living wages effect local minority communities.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Partners include: 1) Austin Center for Design (AC4D): Will provide instruction on design and social entrepreneurship. 2) Creative Reaction Lab: Will provide instruction on implementing the equity-centered design framework (ECCD) within interventions. 3) Impact Hub: Will provide business mentorship to help fellows establish organizations at the end of the program. 4) Austin Office of Innovation: Will provide guidance on policy regulations as well as city and government support behind the fellows.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Austin is a hub for social innovation with many of the city’s entrepreneurs bent on building organizations that will change the world for the better. Austin is also home to the University of Texas, which is contributing knowledge and talent to the local impact investing market and beyond. Lastly, gentrification has recently become a galvanizing area of focus.

Geographic Focus

Built With Humanity will initially focus on the Austin, Texas area.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

Built With Humanity is a 12-month design fellowship program.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No
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Attachments (9)

Built with Humanity Curriculum Overview.pdf

Provides a detailed description of coursework that the fellows will complete

Letter of Support_Ted fellow 2018_Creative Reaction Lab - Built with Humanity Fellowship.pdf

This is letter of support from 2018 TED fellow Antoinette Caroll from the creative reaction lab providing support for being a partner developing the fellowship. The Creative Reaction Lab is also the pioneer of the Equity-Centered Community Design Framework which was named one of Fast Company's world changing ideas in 2018.

Impact Hub Letter of Support_Impact Hub Austin (1).pdf

Impact Hub Austin provides deep connection to social entrepreneurship in Austin as well as a network of business mentors and advisors that can support the creation of the fellow's initiatives and ventures.

Innovation Office support for Build with Humanity.pdf

Support and endorsement of the project was also provided by Austin's Chief Innovation Officer in the attached letter.


Austin Center for Design is a pioneer in rigorous design education focused on humanitarian issues in a local context. This is a portfolio of work from their students, are examples of the kind of work fellows will produce as they go through this impactful and powerful program.


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