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Meet the Community Design Collaborative
The Community Design Collaborative provides pro bono preliminary design services to non-profit organizations in Greater Philadelphia, creates engaging volunteer opportunities for design professionals, and raises awareness about the importance of design in revitalizing communities.
The Collaborative’s Design Grant Program provides preliminary design services to help nonprofits succeed in the challenging arena of community and economic development. Every design grant offers a unique scope of services and a team of volunteer design professionals tasked with addressing the needs of the nonprofit and its community.
We match nonprofits with skilled design volunteers including architects, landscape architects, preservationists, interior designers, urban planners, engineers, cost estimators, and other experts. Our volunteers work alongside the nonprofit to engage the community and other stakeholders through the design process, identify program and space needs, evaluate options, estimate project costs, and illustrate the community’s vision with renderings and plans. In addition, we offer limited scope design services (technical assistance) to help nonprofits with key steps related to different stages of the design process.
Founded in 1991 as a program of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in Philadelphia, and now an independent 501(c)(3), the Community Design Collaborative is dedicated to the idea that design is a tool that can be used to build a smarter, more effective, and more efficient environment that strengthens its communities, bolstering their sense of identity and agency. Our roots are in the community design movement of the 1960s and 1970s, which championed community involvement as a key component to the design process, addressing the distrust and displacement caused by urban renewal efforts characterized by top-down planning.
The displacement and systemic divestment in predominantly poor, often Black and Brown communities leave neighborhoods underdeveloped and neglected. The Collaborative’s community engaged process, supported by the pro bono services of a robust volunteer workforce, is our direct response to the divestment and displacement of gentrification. The Collaborative understands that, globally, not all communities have access to critical resources—capacity building, design knowledge, and funding—necessary for driving the development of their own built environments. The goal of the Collaborative’s work is to ensure that all communities, but especially underserved and divested communities, have access to these resources so that they may drive their own development.