Collage showing people in work, leisure, and education activities
Collage Study,
Monica Rizk (M Arch 2022) and Rand Zalzala (M Arch 2022)

New Grant, New Phase:
Flourishing Communities to Build Mobile Learning Lab

New Grant, New Phase:
Flourishing Communities to Build Mobile Learning Lab

Last year, Julie Kim's team won a $180,000 grant to continue collaborating with the English Avenue community, identifying needs and planning solutions. This year, they’ve won another $180,000 to build on the momentum of their work. Their approach extends current efforts, focusing on the following: 1) understanding of socio-economic issues; 2) advancements in technology and production; and 3) energy performance, resiliency, and sustainability.

The grants, from New America's Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN), are intended to place diversity, equity, and inclusion in the heart of technology development. According to PIT-UN, "If not designed and used responsibly, technology can inflict harm on people, especially vulnerable communities who are often left out of technology and policy decision making."

Kim's lab, the Flourishing Communities Collaborative, is a natural fit for this grant. For over a year, Kim's team has been doing extensive field research and getting to know pillars of the English Avenue community.

"We're working hand in hand with the community," Kim said. "We're providing them with specific tools that allow them to use design thinking to solve their problems."

"This year's winning projects share a common attribute. They center on the needs of communities," said Andreen Soley, director of Public Interest Technology at New America. "Our equity and inclusive focus is the engine that drives all Challenge projects. It means modeling the development of technologies through co-designing with the communities and individuals that are meant to be recipients of the tools being deployed."

Mobile Learning Lab Focuses on Social Infrastructure Needs

This year's proposal, Building a Sustainable Mobile Learning Lab for Westside Neighborhood, English Avenue, "builds on our discovery of specific social, technological, and cultural needs in this underserved community," Kim said.

Over the next year and a half, Kim's team, led by Kim and co-PI's Tarek Rakha and Danielle Willkens, will design, build, and deploy a Mobile Learning Lab.  The Lab will be an exhibition and learning space, expanding access to policy and development discussions. Neighborhood residents will be able to join in the conversation about current and future needs of this historically rich neighborhood.

"The Mobile Learning Lab seeks to celebrate aspects of the diverse neighborhood identity by offering a platform for shared experience, open engagement, and exchange," Kim said.

The initial installation will be temporary, but the mobile station can easily transform into a more permanent classroom/training center.

The sustainable mobile field station will build capacity and support efforts towards achieving the shared aims for more permanent solutions stated in the 2017 Land Use Framework Plan for the Westside Neighborhood. The goal of this new project and their current one will further the positive social impact of technology for all communities.
The Flourishing Communities Collaborative is committed to empowering through design by engaging communities who would not otherwise have access to technology, architecture, construction, or engineering - providing design methodologies and enable the application of design thinking to their problem-solving pursuits.

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Ann Hoevel
Director of Communications
College of Design
E-mail Ann Hoevel
+1 404-385-0693