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in facilitating conversation in community building

There’s also the matter of priorities. Designers have an opportunity to make a lot of money, and they also have an opportunity to improve communities—as these two do not always align, designers must make choices about how they work and who they work for. Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller of Studio H know better than most about what it takes to build a livelihood—to do meaningful work. Studio H is a design/build curriculum partly funded by the regional community college and housed in the Bertie County High School. Now in their second year, they teach their students about design thinking, 2/3d design, production and fabrication, communication and documentation, all in an effort to, in their words, “develop creativity, critical thinking, citizenship, and capital to give students the skills they need to succeed, while building the assets the community needs to survive. Given the opportunity to engage within a public education system, we believe the next generation will be the greatest asset and untapped resource in rural communities’ futures.”1

Chicktopia, designed and built by students from Studio H.

We witnessed first hand how a designer as facilitator approach could make a big difference, when invited by the Associate Provost of Academic Affairs to help facilitate a meeting, above, of the National Science Foundation’s epscor initiative (Office of Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research). Each of the ten epscor partners in Rhode Island has research equipment that can be shared by the entire network, but this was not a network that they could see. We provided a way to visualize this network through a collaborative mapping activity. Participants worked together to find the connections, overlap, and opportunities that existed between their institutions. The map became a centerpiece of the meeting, capturing the energy of their potential collaborations as well as a vision for their future. Bringing in visual prompts early on in their process represents tremendous opportunity for designers—to help others see that which cannot be seen.

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Design Agency, 2nd edition  
Design Agency, 2nd edition