Community outreach projects initiated by former Impact! students are coming alive in Washington Heights and the Bronx, thanks to government grants from New York City’s department of Small Business Services.
One module of the Impact! Design for Social Change program challenges student teams to partner with a local New York City non-profit to co-design a solution to a pressing community issue. Through interviews and research the students develop original project concepts to address problems identified by the organization. Two of these past projects applied for and won a grant using original concepts created by the students: Explora from 2012 and Boulefont from 2013.
Explora map and photograph with logo
Light pole banners that were installed throughout the neighborhood.
Students Cecil Mariani, Laura Lin, Zhenyan Shi, Kacia Ng and Fernanda Cabral, in conjunction with the Washington Heights Business Improvement District (BID), created Explora. With the aim of driving foot traffic to upper Manhattan and boost sales for local business, Explora is a trans-media campaign and event platform that reflects the cultural vitality of the neighborhood. The campaign has been applied to events, ads, maps, light-pole banners, websites, and more. In addition to the $50,000 SBS grant, the BID raised an additional $160,000 of funding to build upon the implementation of this project and even hired the Impact! students to execute portions of it.
This past year, students Kara Bermejo, Gonzalo Perez Parades, Carolyn Louth and Sarah Markes, worked with the Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDCo) to create concepts that would enliven the main Bronx thoroughfare, Southern Boulevard, and reacquaint locals with the culture and characters of their neighborhood. The students explored a range of ideas from community engagement activities and neighborhood beautification to communication strategies. For the latter, they created a custom font – Boulefont – which drew inspiration from vernacular signage in the neighborhood. WHEDCo, included this aspect of the student’s work in their award application to the city for which they received a $50,000 SBS grant. In addition to the student work the grant will be applied towards public music listening spaces under the elevated subway tracks.
The WHEDco team, along with other Neighborhood Challenge Award winners, December 2013.
These projects demonstrate the value of the mutually beneficial partnership with Impact! Design for Social Change and New York City’s department of Small Business Services; it’s an opportunity for students to get real-world experience to co-design with a non-profit community organization and, in turn, the community organizations are in a better position to apply for funding to realize thoughtfully designed solutions to the issues they face.