Civic Creatives Overview
De Nichols presented an overview of Civic Creatives at Leadership By Design: Home Edition. Enjoy!
The following transcript may contain typographical errors. Please forgive any mistakes!
As I pull up my slides, I just want to thank us and the entire Chicago camps team once again for inviting me multiple years to be a part of this, so glad that we were able to work it out even with under these conditions. Like you said, my name is De Nichols, I am based in this Tennessee, but usually I am in St. Louis Missouri. I was just wear… My team said the creative to was based… For the last year, I’ve actually lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, as a lone fellow at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.
And so I am in a point of constant transition in the miss of this pandemic and the academic crisis with re-imagining different ways that my team and I can operate in this world, we create and produce different experiences and tools that help cities address different social challenges that come up within the built environment, and I’ll talk a little bit about some of those as I go, were founded in 2013 as a non-profit called Catalyst by design, and it was with two of my grad school friends, we did all of this as students at Washington universities, Brown School of Social Work, because we were each coming from backgrounds like education, for me, design as well as philanthropy that in many ways had overlapping goals, but we wanted to ground it in a creative process in order to really harness and leverage our abilities to make change.
And we pivoted towards a for-profit LLC structure in 2016, primarily because we realized that in the mist of doing our work, we were actually competing with the people that we wanted to be in partnership with, and so we pivoted towards a social enterprise model that allowed us to work with our clients at a skill that for Blaenau, revenue and profit in order to reinvest into projects that we wanted to do in season across the nation, when it comes to our services. It’s a wide range there. The three main things that we help organizations, city government and other grassroots organizations do within our process, one is identify the calls is that they want to do, that includes diving deeply into research, design research with them on the ground, being a part of a very robust brainstorming or as we call it, visioning process, and really creating experiences, even I’ll include one that later that has been critical, creating experiences that allow people to connect across many of the divides that are existing in our city, but also in ways that are fun and creative and productive towards idea generation.
Secondly, once we have that research, to me, We have those ideas, we shepherd the process of designing, prototyping and implementing a lot of those ideas, and then working with various partners across our network… We manage the project itself, lead a lot of the story telling and data visualization for it, so that each client, each team, each partner, can be clicked with the tools and a deeper sense of a nuance process in order to understand and measure and articulate the impact that they’re striving for… And then what is the magic for me is when we step away from the project and allow our partners to start to connect with each other through our own civic match-making processes, with those services, there are five areas of impact that we primarily work in, arts and culture, civic media and storytelling efforts that are really developing and innovating across cities as MELAS, access and Eli and Racial Justice, when it comes to arts and culture, a lot of our work has included art and cultural planning for the city, as well as working with under invested or disinherited institutions in museums in order to help them build their capacity through creative strategy, like the grid Museum of black history, which is one of our partners right now.
When it comes to storytelling, so much of that really is embedded in activism and grassroot work with using storytelling as a catalyst, as a tool, as a mechanism for sharing truth, reckoning with, in some of the social issues and racial injustices that exist in the city and many of our partners have included public radio, public television within a local skill in order to meet the masses in the built environment oftentimes through projection mapping… Sorry, projection mapping.
In a… Many of our larger scale projects are within the innovation and development areas of impact, right now, one of our major partners or major projects is the brick land development in siculus, Missouri, and we are leading not only the arts and cultural strategy for so of this five plus mile series of Trills in parks will exist and leave through the city, but also is equity frame working and in terms of thinking about how might this build space or series of spaces, a conduit for healing some of the divides and segregation that exists in the city and with that comes ideation around what are the temporary ways in which art can make a difference, and what are the long-term solutions in which we can really shift cultural values amongst those who engage ride along the Greenway.
So infusing a lot of that social work background that I have really comes into play in the ways that we approach and address issues within the development and innovation process, and with food access and a building platforms and building spaces really become critical because the way in which we access food is so drastically different based upon your zip code and the amenities and the SIS of disinvestment that… Or scale of disinvestment that has happened in the city with one of our projects, including the sales metro market, we worked with doctors in the city in order to transform one of the buses into a walkable mobile Farmers Market, and with partnering with farmers across the nation. We’re able to help ensure that residence and some of the lowest income communities and neighborhoods are able to access fresh produce in prepared meals as well as food education on a weekly basis. In addition to that, we’ve created platforms like food Spark, which bring community members together across different topics in different divides in order to use food as a catalyst for not only conversation about these social issues, but as a point of connecting people who have similar ideas about how to address them, and through our monthly fee, Spark Spark dinner, we actually provide micro grants to community change makers in order to fund their ideas, especially those individuals who may not have been supported by our local foundations, government contracts or other innovation channels and funders for their ideas.
So this is a very accessible place to come and get money that is from the community pool, from community members who are saying We are putting our 10 in our 20s behind your idea in order to support you.
And then finally, activism is critical to my life and to my practice into my team, and we have been a part of many movements across the nation, but most notably, the Ferguson uprising in Fez is A, which is 20 minutes outside of scales and in the miss of organizing artists on the ground, working with designers to build sculptures and experiences like the MIRA, which was actually collected by the Smithsonian Institute for its national mesenteric American history and culture. We’ve worked with organizations like four through Ferguson in order to create plans and processes that address these systemic is on a STIC design approach. And so one of those ideas or one of the structures right now is the development of racial healing and Justice justice fund that will invest in community change makers in order to give them the… The funding, the technical support, as well as the connections in order to scale their ideas and efforts in order, or that are striving towards Eagle change and the city and the region at large.
And outside of that, there are numerous ways in which we’ve been able to leverage our platform in collaboration with others in order to teach a lot of this in… As one of the co-founders and principals of our team, I do this a lot through conferences, through educating those who are in the pipeline of becoming professional designers and working with youth as well in order to teach some of these skills. And some of our processes to them as they’re working on efforts that are not even a part of our work.
And so that’s a little bit about creative. I would love to check with you in the slack to talk even more about some of these ideas and do even more deeply into different parts of our process.