2009 Implementation Award Winners Update
The first ever Design Ignites Change Implementation Award winners were announced in February of 2010 and the grantees have since used the funding to do remarkable work in their communities.
Pecans! is a project from PieLab in Greensboro, Alabama, which teaches local 16-24 year old students working towards their GED how to utilize a local resource by turning it into a profitable business; empowering them to find opportunities right in their own town. We are proud to share that the Pecans! products have been launched and are available for purchase online. Don’t worry — we made sure to taste test the products and assure you that they are delicious!
To launch this business, the students had to learn about branding, package design, making a business plan, online commerce, accountability and calculating costs and profit. Robin Mooty, a former PieLab designer who oversaw the project said, “One really cool thing about the project has been how much the students have to use the computer. We set up an email account for the business and taught them how to check it. Then they wanted to have their own, so we set them up with emails! Seems like such a small thing but it is a huge for them to now be connected to a whole new world of modern opportunity all because they can now communicate through email.”
Introducing the students to email and setting them up with their own accounts was not one of the original goals of the project but it became a valuable side-effect that will surely make a big impact in their future. Melvin Webster, one of the students, said that his favorite part of the project has been “learning about how to fill the orders online and how to write emails.” We suggest you help Melvin practice his order-fulfillment skills and buy some pecan brittle and butter! As a testament to their success, PieLab and the Pecans! project were recently featured in a significant New York Times Magazine article.
Another winner, A Book By Its Cover: Reading Stereotypes, is a book pen-pal project for children in Kansas City, Missouri, orchestrated by Ramzy Masri, a recent graduate from the Kansas City Art Institute. This powerful exercise addressed issues of tolerance and diversity by working with 200 students from six different elementary schools. Over several weeks, the students had discussions about situations where they felt or saw prejudice, discrimination or bullying; then each child worked with an art student to tell their own story by creating a book. These books were traded with students at another local school, often of a different ethnic and racial demographic, and notes inside the books were exchanged. Ramzy also designed a beautiful series of children’s books about diversity to help facilitate conversation.
The students responded very well to getting creative about tough issues, often creating allegorical stories in their books to help express themselves. Ramzy explained, “The discussions we had weren’t designed to have an end ‘Aha’ moment, but rather served as an open forum for expression – a chance for the students to express concerns, offer potential solutions and indulge in storytelling about their own experiences with the subject matter. I see it as one small step to building bridges instead of knocking them down. If I managed to change one young mind about discrimination, then the whole effort was worth it.”
The end result was an experience that touched not only the students but their teachers and the volunteers as well. One of the volunteers, Theresa Joy Hitchcock, explained, “Not only do I think this was a great project to help kids around Kansas City consider their understanding of diversity but it was a meaningful experience for myself as a volunteer to understand the complex definition of diversity and just how far society has come in wanting to understand and share our common experiences.”
Jody Witt, a fourth grade teacher at Nieman Elementary said, “The students loved reading the other stories and felt great about creating something they could keep and be proud of.” Connecting with each other through their stories, the students had a fun learning experience that planted the seeds of tolerance inside the schools and created connections between young minds across the city.
The final 2009 winner, Freewall: Making Space for Diversity, was another project that addressed tolerance among students in Kansas City. Logan Smith, also a recent KCAI graduate, created an elegant, simple and beautifully executed interactive poster for the Center Alternative School – a high school for students who often have to deal with serious developmental problems at home that can lead to issues with anger or self-esteem. The poster hoped to build community by having students focus on positive elements in their lives, shifting any focus away from hate and rejection to love and acceptance. Logan created a touching video which includes interviews with the principal of Center Alternative School, as well as some of the students that participated in the project.
Design Ignites Change is honored to have helped make these projects a reality through its awards program. They are powerful case studies of how the combination of students and design can be a catalyst for meaningful and dynamic change in communities. Our most recent award winners are currently implementing their projects and we look forward to sharing their results in a few months. In addition to the Implementation Award, Design Ignites Change has also added the Idea Award, which recognizes outstanding student design projects dealing with pressing community issues that are not ready for execution. The next award application deadline is December 31st, 2010.