Towards Equity: Raising the Bar for Public Interest Design

Event promotional poster illustration

Barbara Brown Wilson's research and teaching focus on community led sustainable development and urban environmental history. Her research is often change oriented, meaning she collaborates with community partners to identify opportunities for engaged and integrated sustainable development that further shares goals in both the realms of research and practice. She also conducts research on methods of engagement and evaluation in community design practice, with a particular focus on equity impacts. Wilson is a recognized leader in the Public Interest Design, and helped found several educational and practical organizations that influence this movement, including the Design Futures Student Leadership Forum, the University of Texas Public Interest Design Program, and the Austin Community Design and Development Center.


As extreme climate events continue to plague our cities, 'public interest' design is becoming increasingly en vogue as a method of practice that joins design thinking with participatory planning techniques to better solve complex problems. There is a general sense that community engagement is important to designing resilient places, but what impacts it produces are not yet understood. It is time to elevate the standard of practice for how community engaged design and planning is evaluated and who speaks for the subfield claiming to practice public interest design. This talk will discuss how public- and community-oriented design practitioners and researchers across the globe are reframing their work with an eye toward equity impacts in the communities with which they engage. Drawing from her work as a part of the Equity Collective and as a cofounder of the Design Futures Student Leadership Forum, Wilson will reflect on what tools are needed to design for equity in the face of climate change.

Cosponsored by Cornell Engaged Learning and Research and the Russell Van Nest Black Lecture Fund
Close overlay