The adoption of equity-centered community design.

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The Equity-Centered Community Design Field Guide

Development of ECCD + release of the field guide

The creative problem-solving framework of Equity Centered Community Design was developed by the Creative Reaction Lab Team in response to _________________. Over the course of <amount of time> the process was tested and refined through the creation of activities that assisted in practical application of Equity-Centered Community Design concepts. In early 2018, the framework was recognized by Fast Company as a World-Changing Ideas finalist.

With the support of Sappi Ideas that Matter, the Equity-Centered Community Design Field Guide was created and made available as a free digital download and later released as a pocket-sized hard copy.

one year post-release

Since its release in March 2018, the digital Field Guide has been downloaded 1,600+ times and 500+ pocket-sized hard copies have been distributed through online purchase, workshops, and conference settings. To give Creative Reaction Lab a better idea of whom is using the Field Guide and how, those who opt to download complete a form that reports their intended use of the Field Guide in addition to providing information on the sector they represent and other optional demographic questions.

Sectors Represented by Folx Who Downloaded the Field Guide (respondents were encouraged to "select all that applied" for their work)

[*some of the sectors reported under “Other” included: holistic healing; architecture + planning; religion; event strategy, design, + production; venture capital / impact investment; automotive; consulting; and hospitality.]

“I want to better understand my project scoping and process using an equity-centered framework. To have ways to check back with my intentions and see if they are equitable in how I approach my work as a designer.”


“I'm hoping the guide will provide some direction for our predominantly white, middle class staff to consider their own privilege in the implementation of equity work. Despite incredibly good intentions, we need more direction on how to better support the students whose identities are not represented in our teaching staff.”

Ethnic identities reported by 81% of
folx who downloaded the Field Guide*

[*While the graph above grouped racial and ethnic identities for the sake of reporting, the following ethnic identities were self-described: Aboriginal Australian, Ashkenazi, Alaskan Native, Brazilian, Canadian Caribbean, Cantonese, Carrier Sekani, Chinese, Choctaw, Colombian, Congolese, Cuban, Edo, Filipinx, German, Goan Torontonian, Indian, Indo-Caribbean, Jamaican, Japanese, Japanese-American, Korean, Luo, Mexican, Mexican-American, Nigerian-American, Nuu-chah-nulth, Peruvian, Portuguese, Puerto Rican, Punjabi, Scandinavian, Seminole, Senegalese, Sephardi, Sri Lankan, Taiwanese, Thai, Vietnamese, West Indian, Xicana, Yoruba]

How have you been using the Field Guide?

What has resonated? What has been challenging?


What does ECCD look like in real life?


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history + healing: Where we live nyc

Where We Live NYC is the City of New York’s community-driven process to develop the next chapter of fair housing policy that confronts segregation, fights discrimination, and builds more just and inclusive neighborhoods. The process includes extensive engagement with residents, community leaders, and government partners – including  60+ focus group style “Community Conversations” led by community-based partners in 14 different languages, and a Fair Housing Stakeholder Group that includes 150+ advocates, service providers, researchers, and community leaders who have been engaged throughout the process.


The Where We Live NYC team reported that the Equity-Centered Community Design Field Guide informed their thinking when developing this effort and shared that the emphasis on history and healing bolstered their commitment to discussing the historical legacy of segregation and fair housing in their city. They started each Community Conversation with historical presentation and developed a brief video for their website to invite New Yorkers to reflect on how this complicated past shapes their lives and neighborhoods today. As their website explains: “In order to build a more just future for our city, it’s important to discuss our shared history and reflect on some of the laws, policies, and practices that impact fair housing in New York City today.”

planning for equitable design processes: MICA - m.a. in social design

In the fall of 2018, adjunct faculty member Ashley K. Eberhart led graduate students through a four-day unit in which they practiced integrating Equity-Centered Community Design when designing for a real-life issue in Baltimore - vacant housing. Having spent several weeks prior learning about power and systemic injustice, students were prompted to bridge their theoretical learning into their own engaged practice as designers that center equity.

Four small groups each focused on a key piece of Equity-Centered Community Design (History + Healing, Acknowledging + Dismantling Power Constructs, Building Humility + Empathy, and Inviting Diverse Co-Creators, respectively) to dig deeper into understanding their influence and how they show up in the community. Students reported that their time together opened up dialogue on how Equity-Centered Community Design can take place in projects of any size, how to recognize the limits of a short project, and the responsibility and accountability that designers have to the communities with which they are designing.


inviting diverse co-creators: equity advisors for california community colleges

Nadia Surtees (IDEO) and Samantha Zucker (Samantha Zucker Design & Research) collaborated on a project supporting a community college system. With Equity-Centered Community Design in mind, they created roles for Equity Advisors to provide input throughout the prototype testing process and had people they met during their research phase join the project as researchers. Each of these researchers also brought three peers with them who provided feedback on the prototypes as well.

Have a story to share about how you are integrating Equity-Centered Community Design into your work?

Send us a message at

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What we’ve been up to recently…

Callie Giovanna / TED

Callie Giovanna / TED




Thus far, FY19 has given us an opportunity engage with people through Venture Cafe, Chalkboard Project, TEDWomen, Shared Prosperity Partnership, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Kravis Lab for Social Impact at Claremont McKenna College, Bowling Green State University, the Obama Foundation, and Ashoka U among others.




We’re been testing various activities that support integration of an Equity-Centered Community Design mindset.

  • Educators in St. Louis reflected on the various perspectives and portrayals associated with the killing of Michael Brown, Jr. and the power that they have in shaping narratives and the ways we recall history.

  • Innovation leaders built prototypes of their ideal innovation communities that incorporated the diverse perspectives of their teams, then redesigned with stronger considerations for equity and inclusion.

  • Philanthropic staff examined the development of their identities and how this might influence their interactions, then explored and critiqued their relationships to power as funders.

  • Students, staff, faculty, and community members identified the diverse values and expertise that different sectors bring to the table and discussed existing barriers to collaboration and how we might overcome them.


What comes next?

We’ve been exploring the data that has been collected from the past year to identify trends within the experiences of folx who’ve engaged with Creative Reaction Lab and the Equity-Centered Community Design Field Guide. We’re also working to refine our evaluation efforts so that we are more effectively measuring how and what people are learning within our Leaders for Community Action and Equity workshops and in youth programming Design to Better [Our Community] and the Community Design Apprenticeship Program.

[If you’re curious to know more about that process, check in with our Learning + Education Manager at - she’d be happy to share!]

It’s been made loud + clear: people want MORE.

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One thing that has been made clear in our review of the evaluation data is that people want more.* More processing, more practice, more activities, more questions, more examples, and especially more time. Feedback around this has been consistent and we hear you loud and clear!

[*to be fair, we’ve also consistently heard “less” - participants have expressed that they’d prefer to have less activities if it allows more time to process]

Because the format of our private workshops are dictated by each client, we decided to develop public-facing opportunities for which we can determine the length and agenda to meet more of the needs that have been expressed by past attendees.

Having increased our staff capacity in Fall 2018, we are working to make this happen - starting with the Equity by Design Bootcamp Series. We are piloting two weekend-long engagements this year, one in Oakland and one in New York City. Our aim is to provide a space to dive deeper into Equity-Centered Community Design and give attendees an opportunity to engage in co-creation and practice working through ECCD with a real-life scenario.

Folx have already begun reaching out asking if we can bring a Bootcamp to their city, to which our response is “Let’s talk!”. We have a few sites in mind for the coming year, but we’re open to discussion and are seeking on-the-ground partners who can champion these engagements in their cities.

Check out our sponsorship deck here and let us know how you’d like to partner by sending us a message at