The Social Impact Design Initiative (SIDI) has evolved into a platform for developing new ideas and collaborating across studios. The collective conscience of the group encourages critical thinking about intentions and outcomes in our projects. It offers a platform for exchanging ideas between like-minded peers and reinforces the importance of socially responsible thinking in the… Read more »
The Social Impact Design Initiative (SIDI) has evolved into a platform for developing new ideas and collaborating across studios. The collective conscience of the group encourages critical thinking about intentions and outcomes in our projects. It offers a platform for exchanging ideas between like-minded peers and reinforces the importance of socially responsible thinking in the design process. As we continue to grow, new opportunities and untapped potential begin to surface. Developing SIDI as an active, firm-wide practice component that facilitates project involvement at all levels for interested staff is a priority. Aside from documenting and sharing the social impact design projects we engage, we are discussing opportunities for collaborating and creating large impact through our combined energy and resources.
Social impact design is characterized by a wide range of innovative project types. The SIDI group at SWA embraces the explorative nature of this work, engaging diverse communities with varying needs. Last spring we conducted an in-house survey to better understand the trends and opportunities we are cultivating and to help determine directions to pursue while working as a group collaboratively. Here are some of the results.
An introspective look at SIDI revealed both common topics and exciting new threads. After a group-wide Web-Ex meeting to determine interests, survey respondents were asked to rate the following project theme possibilities according to their top priorities: City Resiliency, Homelessness, Income Disparity, Eco-Justice, Food Deserts, Schoolyard Greening, Pedestrian infrastructure, Pop-up Design Build, and Community Charette. Of these, City Resiliency and Pedestrian Infrastructure garnered the most interest. City resiliency is a broad subject but is a particularly relevant way of framing the challenges our communities face in the 21st century. Considering new technology, climate change, and growing urban populations, continuing to seek out ways for our cities to adapt to uncertain futures is vital. Pedestrian infrastructure plays a large role in this equation, as does providing equitable, environmentally sensitive transportation for all. Additional categories of interest include Low-income Housing, Wildlife Habitat Creation, and Drought Response and Resilience. Each of these are ongoing issues currently being addressed via various SWA projects and studies.
As SIDI continues to evolve, it is vital to take a critical look at the opportunities at hand. There is consensus that raising awareness both within SWA and the general public of the relevance and importance of SIDI projects is a top priority. This can be achieved through various efforts, including a firm-wide project of significant magnitude, deeper integration of the organization into SWA culture, and continuing to share our work and engage in creative dialogue. Integrating SIDI into the overall design practice at SWA will fortify our contribution to society and the places we live, and also help to keep the firm relevant.
Trent Matthias is a designer in the Sausalito studio and a member of SIDI.