We will post information about the summer 2017 program in December, 2016.
If you have any questions, contact us!

Download the 2016 pdf about the program.

Workshop 1:
Strategies for
Creative Intervention

July 11 – 22, 2016

While the road to social change is paved with good ideas and good intentions this does not mean these concepts ever reach their full potential. For an idea to be sustainable it needs to be more than a good idea, it needs to be built on a solid strategic foundation.

Many design, communication and architecture professionals have turned their efforts to projects geared toward positive community impact. Some take an entrepreneurial approach and others weave a social agenda into their overall practice.

This two-week workshop will focus on three critical areas: ecosystem mapping, creative sessions and prototyping. Participants will develop the strategic foundation for a socially minded, design-driven project and leave with an understanding of the steps needed to make it a reality.

Ecosystem mapping will explore all the elements of a system to gain an understanding of where and how to intervene for positive change. Creative sessions will help to develop best practices in forming well-articulated key questions for guiding inquiry, along with designing effective ideation sessions. Participants will then render quick, rough prototypes.

This critical process allows designers to fail early and often so that precious resources can be used more productively in future project iterations.

To get the most out of the session, participants should arrive with a project concept to build upon—real or conceptual. An assignment, with guidance, will be distributed a month before the start of the program to prepare everyone in advance.

A series of lectures featuring leaders in the areas of design and social change will be presented. This is a rare opportunity to engage with innovators in the field in an intimate and conversational atmosphere.

Workshop 2:
Strategies for Community Engagement

July 25 – August 5, 2016

Design is a discipline that can provide better interactions around complex issues. Design’s job is to make messages more visible, communications simpler to understand, and services more accessible and effective.

Community engagement refers to the process by which a community (represented by a selection of organizations and individuals) is actively involved in building a collective solution for its own benefit.

By collaboratively improving the design and delivery of public services, designers can assist communities in building more satisfying and meaningful lives.

Each participant will engage as a team member in the development of a project concept for a New York City, community-based neighborhood non-profit organization.

Team members will learn to partner with local community leaders, organizations and residents to develop collaborative relationships. Interview and research techniques will guide teams through the process of information gathering as well as navigating complex social, political and cultural factors. Creating a process that is transparent and participatory is critical to success.

A partnership with the New York City Department of Small Business Services and their community outreach division, will take the program out of the realm of theoretical thinking and extend it into the real world, giving participants experience that is transferable to their own communities.

The program is designed for advanced college students and for creative professionals who want to learn how to work more effectively with civic and community groups, as well as the ‘end users’ and front-line providers of public services.

Conversations with a dynamic range of experts and community leaders will engage students in a dialogue around a number of relevant topics.

» Read an update about past Impact! community engagement projects.


This summer we will be working in two dynamic New York City neighborhoods:

Brownsville is a residential neighborhood located in eastern Brooklyn, NY, dominated by public housing developments. Social problems in this community range from poverty and drug addiction to high crime rates. In addition, tensions between the residents of Brownsville and the New York City Police Department (NYPD) have become a focus in recent years.

For this project, teams will be collaborating with the Department of Design & Construction, the NYPD and local community partners to create an implementable, collaborative platform of participation that enhances communication between police and the NYPD, community organizations and other city agencies with program sites in Brownsville and provides trusted information-sharing opportunities. This platform will aim to provide Brownsville with key, trusted and local information that can support the community and leverage communication strategy to foster a positive relationship between residents and the NYPD.

Most visitors think of Staten Island as a brief stop on a round trip ferry ride to view the Statue of Liberty. It is a vibrant community, one of New York’s five boroughs (which include Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx). The Bay Street Corridor, located on the North Shore of Staten Island is a gateway for people entering Staten Island from the ferry. Community planning efforts for Bay Street have recently begun as part of the Mayor’s new housing plan, which aims to build and preserve affordable housing through community development initiatives and foster a more equitable and livable New York City.

For this project, teams will be collaborating with the NYC Department of Small Business Services and local community organizations to address a pressing local issue related to commercial revitalization that in turn will also support the Mayor’s housing plan. The project may entail streetscape improvement, placemaking, local park revitalization and/or other economic development efforts.

Learning outcomes
After hearing more about the project scope and direction on the first day of the program, participants will decide which neighborhood they would like to work in.

Learning outcomes will include:

– level up on research skills (ethnographic / observational / empathetic)
– partner with local community leaders, organizations and residents
– identify and form collaborative relationships
– navigate social, political and cultural factors on the ground
– create projects and strategies that truly reflect community needs
– learn to work with limited resources and put ideas into action

About SVA

The School of Visual Arts is a dynamic multidisciplinary institution in New York City with a faculty of more than 1,000 and a student body of over 3,800 representing 46 states and 49 countries.

SVA is widely recognized as one of the finest art and design schools in the country for its innovative and experimental program philosophies, its participation in the cultural life of New York City and the accessibility it offers to its unparalleled faculty of professional artists and designers.