June 1, 2020

Sasaki Foundation Announces Design Grants Finalists

Sasaki Foundation Announces Design Grants Pitch Night Finalists

The Sasaki Foundation announced today the finalists for its third annual Sasaki Foundation Design Grants program. These six teams will pitch to a panel of judges on Wednesday, June 3, 5:15-7:00 p.m. at a virtual event sponsored by Columbia. The Design Grants are an annual competition to showcase projects that support and drive interdisciplinary innovation and empower our local communities.

Each year, the Sasaki Foundation announces research topics that address current trends and inequities in design. In 2020, the Foundation focused on Proactive Approaches to Climate Adaptation, New Models for Housing, Innovation in Transit & Access, and Creative Community Building, under the theme of Shared Futures: Charting a Course for Action. This theme recognizes that multiple futures are at stake, and we can make a difference by acting now.

“We were extremely impressed by the response we received to this year’s call for proposals,” says Alexandra Lee, Executive Director. “The Foundation is excited to consider proposals that address some of the most challenging issues facing local communities, including homelessness, resilient affordable housing, gentrification, environmental justice, economic resilience, and gender inequality.”

Applicants proposed projects to win cash awards and office space at the Incubator at Sasaki (pending state and local COVID-19 guidelines). In the program’s third year, the Foundation received 12 applications from multi-member teams competing for the opportunity to take advantage of this unique nine-month residency at Sasaki, a global design firm. The projects represented 45 organizations and institutions, 8 Boston communities, 21 Greater Boston cities, and 5 Gateway Cities.

“We have a fantastic team of judges, representing the Barr Foundation, Conveyal, MONUM, and Sasaki, who will evaluate the teams on the design, equity, inclusion, innovation, and impact of their ideas,” says Laura Marett, Jury Chair and Secretary of the Sasaki Foundation’s Board of Trustees. “Pitch Night is shaping up to be an exciting night and we welcome all to join us online this Wednesday.”


The names of the 2020 Design Grant finalists are:

Play Collaborate Change

Community: Boston Metro

Focus Area: Creative Community Building

We design skills training experiences, teambuilding workshops, and volunteering activities leveraging design thinking, behavioral science, the sustainable development framework, game mechanics, and real-world challenges “donated” by nonprofits working with underserved communities. Our project is a collaboration with Breaktime—a Cambridge-based nonprofit social enterprise helping youth experiencing homelessness—to create a game prototype to engage with these youth and their need for equal and fair employment opportunities. We focus on co-designing solutions with people directly affected by the challenges; facilitating a mutually beneficial knowledge, skill, and resource exchange between communities, nonprofits, government, and private entities; and enabling effective public-private-civic collaborations.

McKnight Adaptive Preservation Community Sustainable Redesign Project

Community: McKnight District (Springfield)

Focus Area: Proactive Approaches to Climate Adaptation, New Models for Housing, Innovation in Transit and Access to Mobility Choices, Creative Community Building

The McKnight Neighborhood in Springfield, MA, is a 19th century streetcar suburb, much of which has been designated as a National Register Historic District. The design project will build on ongoing community work to develop a coherent resilience strategy including historic preservation combined with widespread adoption of high-efficiency retrofitting, community solar generation, and geo-thermal heat collection to provide for development of zero net energy affordable housing and elimination of fossil fuel consumption with revived walking/biking/mass transit-based transportation system including redevelopment of an abandoned rail line for light rail use and transit-oriented development.

The Mattapan Mapping Project

Community: Mattapan

Focus Area: New Models for Housing, Creative Community Building

The pace of urban redevelopment and population growth in the Greater Boston area places residents of historically underinvested, racialized, low-income neighborhoods at risk of displacement. The multi-layered drivers of displacement make data—both quantitative and qualitative—hard to aggregate and track. Therefore, it remains unclear as to which policies could allow for neighborhood improvements without posing displacement pressures on the most vulnerable residents. The Mattapan Mapping Project combines nuanced demographic statistics, land use trends, and audio and video media on an online interactive platform to inform strategies by policymakers, activist scholars, and residents to confront displacement.

Economic Development: Interdisciplinary Collaboration, Co-creation, and Design

Community: Codman Square

Focus Area: Creative Community Building

Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation in Partnership with the Corcoran Center for Real Estate and Urban Action will apply design and design principles to answer the primary research and action question: what is a healthy mix of retail and small business for the neighborhood, and co-generate a community-grounded strategy to support and promote local business that will strengthen the community, improve economic mobility, and advance quality of life for all residents.

Columbia Road Gender and Mobility Initiative

Community: Dorchester, Roxbury

Focus Area: Innovation in Transit and Access to Mobility Choices, Creative Community Building

The Columbia Road Gender and Mobility Initiative explores the mobility limitations that stem from gender inequities, particularly the gendered experiences of streets. The redevelopment of the Columbia Road corridor provides an opportunity to address the structural problems emerging from the gender data gap that exists in city planning and for meaningful public engagement on the corridor’s renovation. Accordingly, this initiative will amplify women and gender-expansive silenced voices and help them to have a better mobility experience through gender-specific participatory processes that elevate the perceptions of women and non-binary people in an aim to co-design cities that are legitimately for all.


If you would like to attend Pitch Night on June 3, please RSVP. We hope to see you there!


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