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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 without displacement.

Photo of Brannon Veal
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Built With Humanity is a one-year design fellowship program that invites Black and Latinx innovators to develop breakthrough solutions to challenges in urban sustainability.

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.” An overview of the program is outlined below. View the UX map here:

"Invite Diverse Co-Creators (Pre-Program)." Black and Latinx local university students will be recruited as fellows in order to bring holistic insights through knowledge building, problem solving, and implementation.

"Bootcamp (Month 1)." Fellows will be introduced to the ECCD framework in a 4-week bootcamp.

"Phase 1: Building Humility and Empathy (Months 2-3)." Fellows will learn about the history of gentrification in Austin and ways to acknowledge and dismantle power constructs.

"Phase 2: Accessing Community Needs (Months 4-5)." Fellows will evaluate needs through roundtable discussions with displaced community members and city planners, reverse pitch events, analysis of displacement risk, and ethnographic opportunities.

"Phase 3: Ideation and Rapid Prototyping (Months 6-7)." Fellows will ideate solutions and create low-fidelity representations of their concepts via community co-creation workshops in order to understand what works and what doesn’t.

"Phase 4: Testing & Learning (Months 8-10)." Fellows will test their prototypes within the community in order to evaluate if their solutions are usable, accessible, and relevant to the problem identified.

"Organization Formation & Fundraising (Months 11-12)."Organizations formed at the conclusion of the program will receive grants to continue their work. Fellows will have the opportunity to raise funds from investors and establish partnerships during a Pitch Night

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our primary beneficiaries will include African American and Hispanic families who have been displaced due to gentrification and lack of affordable housing in Austin, Texas. We will assess displacement risk to target communities and neighborhoods most affected.

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.


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)

  • Prototype: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Expertise in sector

  • 1-2 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.”

Likewise, prosperity has been impacted by lack of affordable housing, which has specifically hurt African American and Hispanic communities.

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

We're currently executing the project in partnership with Open Ideo Austin Chapter and in the process of reaching out to the following organizations:

Impact Hub Austin: This organization offers co-working spaces, events, and programs that connect the Austin community to a global movement for good.

Austin+Social Good: This organization aims to empower individuals whose work is addressing society’s most pressing issues, whether in a for-profit, for benefit, or not-for-profit structure.

City of Austin Innovation Office: This organization helps diverse teams examine challenges and opportunities to surface better ideas and solutions that make a lasting, positive impact.

Creative Reaction Lab: This organization educates youth to co-create solutions with Black and Latinx populations to design healthy and racially equitable communities.


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, affordable housing has recently become a galvanizing area of focus for those who want to make a positive impact on the city.

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


Join the conversation:

Photo of Ashley Tillman

Hi Brannon Veal Great to have you in the Challenge! Two quick questions, can you share a little bit about the team that's going to be running this project? Also I'm excited to check out our UX Map but for some reason it's not loading for me, would you mind re-send the link in the comments?

Looking forward to learning more!

Photo of Brannon Veal

Hello Ashley,

Here is another link to the UX map: Please let me know if it works for you.

I’m in the process of building a team of collaborators and making good progress so far! Currently, I am working on the idea alongside Lesa Walker and Erin Rainosek, who co-lead the OpenIdeo Austin Chapter, as well as a local data science team, who is helping us formulate a more detailed assessment for displacement risk in the area. I also recently connected with the founder of Impact Hub Austin to garner support for securing co-working and meeting space for the fellows during the program, with hopes of forming a long-term partnership.

Photo of Ashley Tillman

Thanks Brannon Veal for the update, sounds like you are making some great progress!

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