It’s a design emergency. Road trauma is the number one cause of death and injury for children in every country of the world. And crashes disproportionately affect the poor with 9 out of 10 deaths occurring in low- and middle-income countries.
While the engineers huddle over traffic and urban planning, there’s one monster big enough for the educational front.
Your lovable pal Grover has taken on the role of Global Road Safety Ambassador in support of the United Nations’s Decade of Action for Road Safety.
Ambassador Grover stars in a series of PSA’s developed by Sesame Workshop and the Global Road Safety Partnership to accompany a Road Safety Education Framework for educators, parents, and communities.
Inspired by the success of the red ribbon for HIV/AIDS and the white band against global poverty, the Decade of Action group is also promoting a yellow Road Safety Tag to increase awareness of the issue. Sports figures, celebrities, and politicians have been spotted wearing the tag.
Get ready! The United Nations General Assembly just declared 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives. A cooperative is an organization owned and governed by its workers or members. The Assembly noted that cooperatives impact poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration. The brief press release includes some amazing statistics: agricultural cooperatives account for 80 to 99 per cent of milk production in Norway, New Zealand and the United States; 71 per cent of fishery production in the Republic of Korea; and 40 per cent of agriculture in Brazil.
In case you missed it, check out my article on design cooperatives that ran in the September 2005 Communication Arts.
As of January 5, 2005. Source: The United Nations.
Testing out a Flash piece (with apologies to all the RSS readers). Click on a country to zoom. Click and drag to zoom into an region. Click on the ocean to zoom out.
More about the Flash bit and how to incorporate your own data.
The United Nations Office for Project Services currently seeks a graphic designer and cartoonist to facillitate elections in Kabul, Afghanistan.
“The Afghan Government has announced the holding of elections for Parliament in July 2005. The Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) consists of Afghan Electoral Commissioners, UN appointees, and the Secretariat of the JEMB supported by UNOPS who are responsible for the electoral process.ï¿½
“Under the supervision of the Chief of Public Outreach and the Senior Designer the incumbent will be expected to work with the team to conceptualize, design and produce nation wide print campaigns for civic education, voter registration, training and elections. These materials will be produced in English, Dari and Pashto. The materials will include posters, brochures, flip charts, manuals and other printed materials. Specific tasks include: ï¿½
“In close consultation with the Chief of Public Outreach, Civic educators and the Senior Designer from the Graphic Design Unit and the National Illustrators the incumbent will be expected to undertake the following tasks:
Funny, I wonder why the UN can’t find local a designer willing to support the election.
“In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military ‘advisors’ in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, ‘Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.’
Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken — the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: ‘This is not just.’ It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: ‘This is not just.’ The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’ This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
This kind of positive revolution of values is our best defense against communism. War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are days which demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must not call everyone a Communist or an appeaser who advocates the seating of Red China in the United Nations and who recognizes that hate and hysteria are not the final answers to the problem of these turbulent days. We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice. We must with positive action seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.”
— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1967.
Search and replace “napalm” with “depleted uranium”, “Communism” with “terrorism”, “the seating of Red China in the United Nations” with “withdrawing from Iraq.”
From the Boston Review:
“During the nineties the PT built on earlier electoral successes by developing a strong record of administrative competence at the local level. Porto Alegre, the capital of Rio Grande do Sul, was the PT’s first great administrative acheivement. In 1990 the PT municipal government introduced ‘participatory budgeting,’ a form of public deliberation on budget priorities with more than 20,000 people participating annually, which quickly emerged as an effective approach to distributing basic public goods — roads, sewers, clean water — at the local level. Participatory budgeting was extended to 103 cities in 1997, and it has been adopted as policy by other political parties in Brazil. In 1994 Cristovam Buarque, the newly elected PT governor of the Federal District, introduced a program called Bolsa Escola, a sort of minimum-revenue policy for poor families with children who attend school. In 1996 participatory budgeting won the United Nations Habitat Award, and Bolsa Escola has also won several international awards.”
“Resource allocation through PB [participatory budgeting] is decided by community representatives, generally from low-income districts. Each city adopts different formats to define investment criteria, to select community representatives and deal with the city government, its bureaucracy and the city councilors. In general, community representatives get together to decide on priorities. There are distributive criteria to assure a progressive distribution of the resources so that poorer areas receive more funding than the well off ones, regardless of what the representatives want. PB affects mostly decisions on infrastructure investment, not the entire budget. Moreover, authorization of expenditure on priorities is a function of the executive; PB allocates budget to agreed priorities.”
From The New York Times, August 28, 2003:
“Designing for the Dispossessed
by Alastair Gordon
At age 29, Cameron Sinclair was among the youngest speakers at the International Design Conference in Aspen, Colo., last week. He nonetheless brought a full auditorium to its feet Thursday morning with a review of his work with Architecture for Humanity, a nonprofit organization he started from his Manhattan studio apartment with a scattering of volunteers and a shoestring budget.
Over the last four years, Mr. Sinclair’s group has helped generate programs and designs for disaster relief in 20 countries, including Afghanistan, Kosovo and South Africa.
Mr. Sinclair’s talk, peppered with well-rehearsed lines (‘All I ask is that they design like they give a damn’) was tailor-made for a design conference that took global concerns with safety as its theme.
‘He has been a mainstay and hero of the conference,’ said Paola Antonelli, a curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and a chairwoman of the conference. ‘He’s asking architects to take a risk and forget about immediate profits.’
Mr. Sinclair’s appearance alongside more established design figures is evidence of a shift, particularly among students and younger designers, toward social responsibility.
‘Would someone like me have been invited to speak here five years ago?’ Mr. Sinclair said. ‘Probably not. But a lot of younger architects don’t want to design doorknobs in boutique hotels anymore. They want to be engaged, they want to help find solutions to critical problems.’
Of course, Mr. Sinclair is not the only one generating designs for relief. The Rural Studio, based in Auburn, Ala., has helped provide housing for the rural poor since 1993, and Shelter for Life, a volunteer group based in Oshkosh, Wis., has built houses in Afghanistan. But through persistence, personal charm and a marriage to a journalist who writes press releases and grant proposals, Mr. Sinclair has managed to make himself the center of a global network of designers, engineers and relief groups.
Mr. Sinclair and his wife, Kate Stohr, 29, have gone a long way with limited means. He was laid off from his job as a project architect at Gensler a year ago, and has devoted himself to Architecture for Humanity full time ever since. ‘Here we are doing health programs around the world,’ he said. ‘And we can’t afford health insurance for ourselves.’
Four days after 9/11, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees called Mr. Sinclair, he said, to tell him he was on a list of people that could be asked to help with the coming relief effort in Afghanistan. ‘I told them I hope it’s a long list,’ he said, ‘because I’m a 28-year-old alone in my apartment.’ (He put them in contact with architects and engineers in Pakistan and other neighboring countries.)
During the 1960’s and early 70’s, young architects as a rule felt almost obliged to address issues like affordable housing and community planning. But by the time Mr. Cameron arrived at the Bartlett School of Architecture in London in the late 1990’s, these concerns had given way to a preoccupation with signature design and theory.
‘I was the black sheep of my class,’ said Mr. Sinclair, who designed housing for the homeless as his thesis project. ‘My fellow students were more interested in getting into Wallpaper magazine.’
He does not feel like a black sheep anymore. In the past two months, more than 120 people have applied to work for him as unpaid interns, most of whom had to be turned away.
‘A lot of my generation is disillusioned,’ Mr. Sinclair said.
‘You finish school, start with a big firm, and become a CAD monkey working in a little cubicle,’ he added, referring to computer-animated design. ‘You’re told that only one out of a hundred will make it as a name architect. That’s depressing.’
Mr. Sinclair, who was raised in London, showed his organizational knack two years ago when he founded the ‘Uncoordinated Soccer League’ in New York for unathletic designers, a dozen of whom ended up volunteering for his group.
In 1999, with a budget of just $700, Mr. Cameron held a competition to design transitional housing for refugees returning to Kosovo. He received nearly 300 entries from 30 countries, including a modern yurt built around a central column by the Oakland-based firm Basak Altan Design. ‘Refugee shelter is usually a last-minute, ad hoc affair with little in the way of advance planning,’ Mr. Sinclair said. His goal was to provide shelters where refugees could live for years while rebuilding homes.
The jury, which included the architects Tod Williams, Billie Tsien and Steven Holl, picked 10 winners. Five prototypes were built, including a structure made of paper by Shigeru Ban of Tokyo and a shipping container lined with plywood by the Australian architect Sean Godsell.
Gans & Jelacic, a firm in New York, built a prototype of their entry, a triangular structure that pops up from a container with the help of a standard car jack.
I-Beam Design, another New York firm, designed a shelter made from wooden shipping pallets. ‘We were looking for a simple solution and realized that supplies sent to disaster areas are often shipped on these pallets,’ said Azin Valy of I-Beam. ‘We wanted a universal system that a child could put together.’
Ms. Valy and her partner, Suzan Wines, built a prototype in an abandoned lot in the South Bronx. Within weeks, a homeless man had moved in; and a week after that, the city had torn it down.
For all his persuasive ways, Mr. Sinclair has so far failed to actually build anything in Kosovo. He is among the first to acknowledge the failure. ‘We architects enjoy a pat on the back, but unless you build it, it’s just an idea,’ he said.
However thoughtful they may be, designs intended for developing countries often fail to consider local conditions. Muslim countries, for example, typically require separate facilities for men and women. Steel shipping containers, used in several submissions, may, in fact, be unsuitable in tropical climates. And structures that are hard to assemble are of limited use when recipients are largely women, children and older men.
‘It’s important that architects consult with the beneficiaries, which seems obvious, but this doesn’t always occur,’ said Erin Mooney, deputy director of a project on displaced people for the Brookings Institution and Johns Hopkins University.
Gans & Jelacic were one of the few who went into the field. Deborah Gans attended the Refugee Studies Center at Oxford University while her partner, Matthew Jelacic, visited refugee camps in Bosnia. There, tents outside Sarajevo had collapsed under snowfall.
Mr. Sinclair and Ms. Stohr married while organizing the Kosovo competition, and they left shortly afterward for a monthlong honeymoon in South Africa. ‘The honeymoon lasted two days,’ Mr. Sinclair said. While his wife began reporting an article on a rape epidemic in South Africa, later published in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Mr. Sinclair met with urban planners and visited shantytowns.
Two and a half years later, in May of 2002, Mr. Sinclair staged a competition for mobile medical clinics that could be used to treat AIDS in Africa. He received more than 530 submissions from 51 countries. (An exhibition of entries is touring five countries, ending with South Africa.)
The proposal that won first place, by jury, is a self-sufficient clinic with a satellite dish, solar power and a water collection system. The clinic, designed by Khras Architects of Denmark, would be made from a lightweight metal skeleton with natural materials added for local texture.
‘Instead of one solution we wanted to come up with a system,’ said Mads Hansen, a member of the Khras team. ‘In Africa, especially in remote areas, you don’t just get a spare part from down the road.’
Mr. Sinclair is trying to raise $20,000 to send four finalists to meet with doctors and relief workers in South Africa before building prototypes.
‘Architects pride themselves on having a vision of the future, but in this case they’re not rising to the crisis,’ said Rodney Harber, an architect in Durban, South Africa, who has worked on AIDS-related projects for 10 years. ‘Cameron has made a real contribution. His competitions and Web site have helped to stimulate a global dialog.’
Mr. Sinclair and Ms. Stohr see their role over the next few years as advocates, shepherding their various projects to completion. ‘I’m hoping to one day watch the sun set in Africa while we sit on the porch of our mobile health clinic,’ Ms. Stohr said.”
Some interesting ideas in the mix. In 2002, I visited the church / community center built of cardboard tubes that Shigeru Ban constructed in Kobe after the horrible earthquake of 1995. It was still standing and very much in use.
The winning clinic is designed so it can be locally built, run, and maintained. The design criteria for the mobile clinic are as follows:
It’s great to see the power a couple of individuals can have to promote the design in the public interest.
Still, it’s unfortunate that it is so apolitical. Better treatment and a few more rural health clinics is a good thing, but clinic design does not address public health policy, or the economic, social, and cultural factors propelling the AIDS epidemic. There are plenty of clinics in the West, and yet the epidemic continues. I wonder if the Africa clinics will be used for to test those Western AIDS vaccines, too.
I also wonder if participation in the competitions will radicalize the architects in their own countries. With members in 75 countries around the world, such a network could, for instance, join the movement to keep international pressure on the WTO to change drug patent rules that keep cheap drugs out of the hands those who need them. Those architects around the world could push their countries to forgive foreign debt in Africa. With debt relief, governments in Africa could fund their own health programs rather than spending their budgets on interest payments, and relying on still more loans and donations to support such public health initiatives.... loans from international lending agencies that in many cases require the dismantlement of public health programs.