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What I Learned in 2013: “Design With AND For”

The Village of Arts and Humanities sits in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Philadelphia. For over 26 years the Village has supported youth...

The Village of Arts and Humanities sits in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Philadelphia. For over 26 years the Village has supported youth ages of 5 to 18, in an effort to empower them. At the core of their mission sits a desire to change lives through creative entrepreneurship.


Over the course of 2013, I worked to build a Research and Development lab at the Village. The focus of the lab is to introduce the youth to storytelling, game mechanics, design thinking, and collaborative problem solving skills. Our ambitious goal is to revitalize the commercial corridor of the neighborhood though an effort that is designed by the youth and activated by the community.

I’ve learned more from the youth than they have learned from me. Within the children is an incredible spark. It glows brightly even in places where everything else seems so dark. My biggest takeaway is simple at its core but challenging to realize: Solutions to the neighborhood’s struggles rest within the youth themselves. Their potential is propelled by outside the box thinking, passion and creativity, but the opportunity requires adults to take the time to really listen.

While schools across the city are shuttered, the Village continues to find ways to sustain itself. A beacon in a neighborhood that is plagued by drugs, violence and economic disparately, in many ways it is a dot on a political map that the city has written off after spending millions on reports, surveys and outside recommendations. Meanwhile, the city has left the neighborhood out of the discussion of its own future.

So, as I reflect on 2013, I want to thank the youth of the Village for their creative spark and for teaching me an important lesson: Designing with AND for will enable us to achieve a better future. Within each of those children are ideas about innovation that their neighborhood truly needs.

This piece is part of a series sponsored by The GAP in which members of the 2013 GOOD 100 share important lessons they learned this past calendar year. Subscribe today to GOOD Magazine and receive the 2014 GOOD 100 edition this coming Spring.

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