The Design Futures Student Leadership Forum is an interdisciplinary leadership development convening that centers principles of racial justice and social equity. Design Futures fosters capacity-building for future leaders to think critically about power, privilege, and positionality in the practice of community-engaged design and to rethink and elevate the role of the designer to address and dismantle systemic oppression in the built environment. We typically welcome 60-70 students from as many as 14 participating universities as well as 30-40 practitioners and university faculty attending with their students or leading workshops throughout the forum.

    Our guiding principles include:
    • Striving to build the next generation of leadership in the field;
    • Continuing to diversify the ecosystem of community-engaged design in terms of discipline, background, race, gender, and scale;
    • Elevating the rigor and critical capacity of design curricula; and
    • Curating a national network of thought leadership drawn from contributing universities and practitioner-faculty committed to the advancement of the field.

    For more detailed information about the event and its evolution, please look over our website and the annual yearbooks produced from prior Forums: www.designfuturesforum.org

    The year 2024 contains joy and terror, grief and emergence. Change is unstoppable, so how do we want to shape it? We’ve witnessed abolition, transformative justice, mutual aid, collective care and land back movements growing like weeds in the pavement of status quo, despite and in spite of everything pushing against this compelling change. The relationship between the built environment and communities facing these changes has evolved in recent years. Design Futures will be a place to reflect on what has shifted, what we have lost, and we are growing, and what more we can build if we expand our imaginations. Students at the Forum will be connecting with their peers, faculty and practitioners to actively learn how the built environment is connected to these realities, and how it can help shape liberatory futures. Through a history lecture and tours led by community leaders  we will ground the Forum in St. Louis, Missouri while taking away broader lessons that apply to other communities that we live and work in.

    While not part of this RFP process, the Design Futures Core is a critical track in the program. It will provide the foundational knowledge mentioned above and will be taught by an invited group of leading practitioners. The courses planned to be taught as part of core curriculum are as follows:

    On This Site
    Participants will learn about the history of race-based zoning, redlining, block-busting, racially restrictive covenants, and confederate monuments in American cities. They will also learn how to research specific events that may have taken place on or near a site, as well as public memorials and markers in a place. They will gain the skills to find records, such as historic newspaper reports, to get a better understanding of the history of racial segregation in their city or any other site where they are working.

    Insider//Outsider- Identity, Intersectionality, & Imagination 
    This training will be a platform to create a shared definition and understanding around the concepts of oppression including racism, sexism, ableism, classism, (etc) and how these methods of oppression intersect with each other and appear in everyday life from personal experiences to institutionalized examples. Participants will be able to identify how these oppressions manifest in the built environment and community-engaged design, and discuss tools to dismantle and address these issues to move towards justice and equity as outcomes.

    Power, Privilege, and Positionality:
    This workshop will outline and collectively explore concepts of privilege and power and how these important ideas exist in community-engaged design. Participants will reflect on their own positionality, including their fragility and their privilege, and understand how these are fluid and complex in projects. Students will workshop tools around personal agency and how to leverage their power but also learn to identify fragility and how this can also impede projects.

    In addition to the core, there will be several Design Futures Electives, which is the focus of this request for proposals. This elective curriculum is intended to provide the practical skills needed to support application of the foundational knowledge within built environment projects. Examples of practical skills include — but are not limited to — specific methodologies for building successful community partnerships and community-based accountability, understanding the intersection between design and health equity, understanding financing for low income real estate development, and tools to shift oppressive power dynamics towards liberation. These are just examples; we are very open to your ideas and what you think future leaders in community engaged design need to know! Every year we receive several proposals on community engagement, so if your proposal focuses on that particular skill, please be specific with your process and impact as well as how your workshop will highlight themes of equity and racial justice. All topics  that are applicable to design or built environments are welcomed; electives curriculum could go well beyond the traditional components of design education.

    For Design Futures 2024, there are a few topics we would be especially excited to receive proposals around: (1) embodied healing and somatics, (2) spatial justice and the role of the built environment in settler colonialism and (3) workshop space for attendees to co-create an experiential offering for the other students at the forum around a relevant topic such as healing, spatial justice, liberatory spaces, etc. that they would execute after the elective session during the Forum. 

    Strong workshop proposals must:
    • Be interactive experiences for all participants. While it may be necessary to have a lecture style introduction to the workshop, it should be brief and prepare the students for some kind of hands-on, interactive learning experience. Any lecture-style portions should not exceed 15 minutes on a 1.5 hour session.  
    • Have clear learning objectives that are tied to developing specific skill sets.
    • Be appropriate for a multi-disciplinary group. While the majority of participants are attending schools of design and/or planning, we also have participants coming to this work from different fields such as urban ecology, engineering, public health, business, and others.
    • Directly address how your own work addresses racial equity and social justice.
    • Provide a “takeaway for practice” handout or resource (e.g. best practices, case studies, community engagement workshop planning, etc.)
    • Fit into a 2.5 hour or 1.5-hour time slot.
    • Be accessible to folks with different access needs (e.g. visual, mobility, sensory). Design Futures will be collecting access needs requests during registration and will share any relevant needs with facilitators. 

    Design Futures will provide a $2100 honorarium (covers both the stipend and travel) for each non-local facilitator, for up to two facilitators for a total of $4200 available for each workshop. Facilitators coming from the St. Louis area will be paid $1500 each.  Any workshops that include additional faculty beyond two members, will be expected to fundraise any additional monies. Honoraria will be issued at the time of workshop delivery. Alternative payment schedule is possible and can be discussed individually, as required.
    All workshop proposals submitted are reviewed in full by the selection committee. The committee is composed of at least 5 members; the Design Futures Executive Director, two members of the Advisory Board programming committee, two representatives from the host institution.

    In addition to assessing the quality of the workshop proposed, the selection committee has a mission to foster a diverse faculty cohort and will take into consideration the backgrounds of the workshop presenters (in terms of gender, race, age, professional affiliation, geographic location, and career advancement) when making its final decisions. We value intergenerational spaces and we encourage proposals from practitioners with less than five years of experience to design and facilitate workshops they would have liked to experience in the early stages of their career or in their education.

    Please note that priority will be given to workshop facilitators that are available to attend the first day Opening Circle and Framing of the Forum (Monday, May 20). We will be creating shared agreements and laying the foundation for relationships and building a community of practice during the week. We hope that facilitators will be a part of the Opening Circle and available for students prior to their workshop. Design Futures faculty are also expected to commit at least a day and a half of their time to participating in Forum events—most of our colleagues find that attending other sessions is quite beneficial to their own professional development, and they find engaging deeply with students to be energizing and enriching as well.

    Please be advised that only one application per institution or organization is permitted.

    If I have applied in the past but was not selected, can I reapply?Sure! If you were not selected in the past, please review the criteria to better understand what makes for a strong application. We have tried to make our criteria clearer each year so that workshop leaders can better focus their proposals.

    I have questions about my application and/or the submission process. Where can I get help?Email designfuturesforum@gmail.com with any questions you have about your application or the submission process. Please email at least one week in advance of the deadline if you have questions about content for your application.

    More than one person in my organization wants to submit a proposal, how do we proceed?Given that we limit applications to one per organization (be it a school, professional firm, non-profit, etc.), if there is interest from more than one person or group of people in your organization we ask that you develop an internal selection process and choose which proposal you would like to put forward for consideration.

    Can I submit an application to lead one of the core workshops?No. This year we are reaching out to specific people to lead these workshops. In future years we will likely run an RFQ process to lead the core workshops, but this call is for proposals for the elective workshops only.

    What workshop proposals have been successful in the past?Please check out the yearbooks from previous forums at www.designfuturesforum.org to see the range of content (and workshop leaders) from previous forums. We believe that this field continues to evolve so our interests are not limited to what has been taught before. We’re open and excited for new topics that fall into our selection criteria.

    Design Futures Forum is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit
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