Building Power With Design Justice

Building Power With Design Justice

Community Powered Workshop
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The Community Powered Workshop is a local nonprofit that connects and amplifies the voices of communities who have not yet been heard to create powerful places that promote a healthy future and break barriers of systemic injustice.

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RSVP for Community Powered Workshop's annual fundraiser event, "Just Places: Building Power With Design Justice."

This post is sponsored by Community Powered Workshop. All Austin Common sponsors are screened by The Austin Common team to ensure they’re doing good for their employees, customers, our community, and the planet.


Join Community Powered Workshop to explore design justice: what it means and what it looks like in action.


2020 has been a time of deep processing for Austin-based nonprofit Community Powered Workshop. The staggering events of this year have bolstered an ongoing, but relatively new discussion in design and architecture fields: the notion of design justice


Nearly everything around us is built with a goal in mind that benefits some, but may negatively impact others. Design justice recognizes the legacy of exclusionary design and planning processes that reproduce the structural inequalities we live with today. A more just design process centers community voice and power to advance collective liberation.  


If we place trust and value in the community and redistribute power in our design process, everything around us could be built with more equity and justice.

Design justice is the theme of our virtual 2020 annual fundraiser. Join us as we host:

We’ll discuss what design justice looks like in Austin, highlight strategies of community power and wicked leadership, and celebrate the night with local DJs and a casual chat.

More on design justice 


Design has a critical impact on our daily lives, yet many people whom design touches have no power to inform the priorities and outcomes of that design process. Traditional design processes may invite feedback in later iterative phases, but inviting collaborators in earlier formative steps less so. 


This is most critical when it comes to communities who are historically under invested in. Community planning and services are meant to serve all, yet those most impacted by flawed design are often the least influential in the process. 


Design justice restores equity in the design process by rethinking the process itself; emphasizes collaboration, innovation, and equal input; and advocates for more diversity at the table, especially those historically marginalized. 

Design Justice

We at Community Powered Workshop see design justice as the DNA for how we work inside and out. 


Central Williamson Creek Greenway, one of our community partner projects, is reimagining the 76-acre South Austin green space as a resilient, healthy and connected area that all residents can enjoy.


Project development consists of both city and community working groups, which have equal footing in decision making. We’ve coordinated training and professional development for the Community Working Group, including monthly capacity building, trainings on empathy, public speaking and leadership development. This has allowed local leaders to take ownership in this effort.


The development process for the greenway is led by our vision plan, which from the beginning was shaped by community members, including selection of the landscape architect. The Community Working Group has coordinated with the architect on ongoing engagement activities, including a series of “idea cards” to understand residents’ greatest priorities for greenway improvements.


One major focus of the project is homelessness, as there are people experiencing homelessness that reside in the greenway. Instead of displacing these individuals, we have invited them into our design process. One of our Community Working Group recruits has lived experience as being homeless, and has acted as our community mentor on the topic. We’re also in early stages of collaboration with The Other Ones Foundation to better understand how we can widen our vision plan to include the interests of those experiencing homelessness.


In this model, we fundamentally shift what expertise is most elevated and valued. Power is redistributed to community members when they get a seat at the table—or better, when they create a whole new table to claim a seat. The traditional power-holders recognize the value of expertise in their lived experience, and bringing their own resources to bear.


We look forward to seeing you at our event in December! RSVP on Eventbrite, or find more event info on our website: Registration is fee, donation encouraged.

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