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4619 N. Ravenswood Ave., Ste 305
Chicago, IL 60640
USA

773.271.1990

We are a multidisciplinary innovation studio working with diverse partners to understand sustainability challenges and identify holistic, resilient solutions, and we are committed to training the next generation of leaders.

Blog

Insights, inspiration and opportunities to create a more vibrant and resilient future.

INSIGHT: Can This Street Be Crossed?

Peter Nicholson

Bridging Boundaries
The division was clear. The distinction between my suburb and the city of Detroit was both a physical street, and a profound racial, economic and cultural divide. The border defined “us" from “them.” Growing up there, I can’t recall anyone making an attempt to bridge that border. I came of age powerfully aware of the imperative to segregate differences. It created a mindset not easily undone, and one that is too often reinforced by the sustainability-related projects on which I work. Lately, those efforts have included recruiting a diverse cohort for our high school summer sustainability and leadership program. Even with generous scholarships available, it is a challenge, although we do significantly better than many others, if only because we try. I could reiterate some well-worn theories for the challenge but, in reality, don’t know the cause. I am aware that when I’ve crossed borders, hopefully with integrity, it’s been a fulfilling experience and one I wouldn’t have had otherwise. The same is true for providing the opportunity for others, like the young leaders in our programs, to do the same. Many negative environmental impacts fall disproportionately on low-income communities, places most in need of transformative design, and least able to access it. I abandoned becoming a product designer to instead find a way to apply Design to shift systems and empower people to lead more fulfilled lives, including those who don't look like me. Approached the right way, it’s just more satisfying and fun.