Neighborhood Allies is a Founding Member of Creative Reaction Lab’s Institute of Equitable Design and Justice

Dec 1, 2022

In 2019, Pittsburgh was ranked the eighth most gentrified city in the United States. Black and Brown residents being left out of the design and community development process is a major contributing factor to this reality. As a result of this data and a study of the gap created in the system by the closing of the Design Center of Pittsburgh, Neighborhood Allies crafted the newly launched Social Impact Design program.

About Our Program

Social Impact Design is an architecture and urban design program that is grounded in Equity-Centered Community Development – a process that is people centered and encourages designers to co-create with the community by empowering those who have historically been left behind.

We strive to deliver design projects that uphold equity as the bottom line through research, engagement, project development, and project delivery. Design services are offered through a series of charrettes and educational workshops co-created with and for the community.

“Knowledge around common design vocabulary and the standard process of designing with an architect empowers community members to attend more public design meetings and speak to their needs and ideas. Drawings, renders, and other design documentation clearly communicates a partner’s goals and opens them up to more funding dollars and project support. Overall, this allows our program to address the large gap in who has access to design services and brings equity to the design process.”

Jordan Swartz, Social Impact Designer

Further, we maintain equity on both sides of a design project by elevating the voices of marginalized leaders in architecture and development, especially in our Black and Brown communities. We pipeline viable project opportunities to our Equity-Centered Designer Network where priority is given to MWDBE designers to support a talent pipeline of emerging Black entrepreneurs and licensed architects in Pittsburgh.

“We find opportunities to position our Equity Centered Designers as leaders in the architectural, engineering, and community development fields that we work in and prioritize empowering the voices of Black and Brown residents in our focus communities.”

Tamara Emswiler, Senior Program Manager for Social Impact Design

About the Institute for Equitable Design and Justice

To continue building on a passion to rethink traditional design practices and create a more equitable process for design and community development in Pittsburgh, Neighborhood Allies has recently become a founding member of Creative Reaction Lab’s Institute for Equitable Design and Justice.

“Systems of oppression are by design and therefore they can, and must, be redesigned. We’re mobilizing a movement of Young Leaders as Equity Designers, with the support of Design Allies of all ages, to design healthy and racially equitable communities.”

Creative Reaction Lab

As a founding member, our Senior Program Manager for Social Impact Design has access to a variety of tools, resources, courses, and community events such as the following:

  • Exclusive Micro-courses around equity-centered practices, power analysis, etc.
  • Equity-Centered Community Design: A Masterclass Course Launching Spring 2023
  • Identity and Culture Caucusing Community Sessions
  • Coach-Led Equity Strategy Sessions
  • Equity Impact Challenge
  • Specialized trainings such as “Design Thinking and White Supremacy: How Traditional Design Thinking Protects White Supremacy” and “Centering Power and Healing: People of Color as Leaders in an Equity Movement”
  • And more!

Get Involved

As a community member, you can request design services through our program.

If you are a designer and have similar interests and would like to make a commitment to equitable development, please fill out this form to join our network and learn more about ways to tap into future design projects!

We pipeline viable project opportunities to our Equity-Centered Designer Network where priority is given to MWDBE designers to support a talent pipeline of new Black entrepreneurs and licensed architects in Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh based architecture firms are making a commitment to volunteer 52 hours of consultancy and design services to support our program and its mission in 2023! To join in this commitment please email Senior Program Manager,

“The Social Impact Design program developed by Neighborhood Allies aligns with GBBN’s own mission of equity and community centered design. We are thrilled to commit our time to support the continued growth of the program, its impact in our communities, and the city’s minority designers.”

-GBBN Architecture Firm

Top Header Image Photo Credit: Prototyping Larimer Stories by artist John Peña, photo by OPA