Economic Development

Off The Grid

This course was concerned with the production of public space as social space through temporary food-centered interventions in the city

Taking on San Francisco’s food truck-based markets as a manifestation of temporary social space, this seminar explores the layers and scales of their physical definition, as well as the dynamic interactions of those programming and using the space with the goal to develop mobile social infrastructures that catalyze new urban conditions and events within the framework of these markets. The seminar was part of a one-year collaboration with Off the Grid, the second semester of which was a Building Technology Elective that built full-scale prototypes based on the design concepts generated in the Active Urbanism seminar.

Students developed propositions for mobile food market infrastructure such as seating, lighting, way-finding, and new concepts for stage set-ups through the lens of specific construction methods that lend themselves to temporary deployment and quick set-up. Some projects operated at the scale of product design, adding small components to the existing folding chairs. Other proposals generated a range of spaces using all sides of the food trucks as additional spatial definitions. Yet others proposed interventions where people wait in line for their order in front of the food trucks, turning them into a space for interaction and games. Two of the proposals were converted into full-scale prototypes during the second semester.

One of the prototypes was displayed during the Market Street Prototyping Festival in Spring 2015.


Weaving Nature

Team Weaving Nature envisioned a sustainable cycle of growing, using, composting, and regrowing natural dyes for local artisans, globally.

They speculated that their model could be replicated for textile artisans anywhere, and chose Guatativita, Colombia for this iteration.

"We had a very interdisciplinary team consisting of many different abilities and worked quite well together. We had builders, writers, and textile artists. Working together as a team was challenging at times when we all had different perspectives. We learned to come up to agreements in these situations and matured along the way."

The team developed dye recipes using easily accessible vegetables, spices, and food waste, compiling them into a bilingual Spanish/English book to distribute to the Guatativita artist community. They also designed and fabricated a compost bin for waste leftover from dye extraction. The compost would go on to fertilize the next generation of plant dyes.


Miti Miti

Team Miti Miti believed that education was the key to transforming Colombia’s society, and sought to address educational inequity through a social business model.


Because access to school supplies can be a huge barrier for staying in school, the team created a buy one, give one company that designs, manufactures, and sells high quality notebooks. For every notebook sold, one is donated to a student in need in Colombia.

“As a social business, all of the proceeds go directly to support our mission. In Miti Miti, we believe in the power of sharing: by creating a competitive, high quality solution to a market-driven problem, we can make a sustainable impact on access to education.”

All proceeds go towards supporting their mission of sustainable impact on access to education. They are currently developing a tutoring program and a design-thinking workshop to empower students to achieve beyond their socioeconomic boundaries.



Marcus Books

Team Marcus Books partnered with Marcus Books and the African American Arts & Culture Complex to recreate the prominent Marcus Bookstore within the AAACC’s physical complex.


The Marcus Bookstore was a major hub for the San Francisco African American community in the Fillmore since the 60’s. It was a critical site for intellectual and communal activity, but was evicted in 2014 against major public outcry. Team Marcus Books partnered with the Marcus Books and the African American Arts & Culture Complex Initiative (AAACC) to recreate the space within the AAACC’s physical complex.

“We will always face contrasting goals within teams, talking through these goals and prioritizing helps to get everyone on the same page.”

The team acted as design facilitators, creating and testing prototypes, devising business strategies, and providing architectural renderings and visualizations. They also supported a dynamic relationship between the community and the organization, actively incorporating community voices into the design process. The tools and resources they developed will be used by the AAACC to carry the project forward.



WAZO is a design institute in the Kayafungo location of rural Eastern Kenya. They provide design and business workshops to foster social entrepreneurship and product development in East Africa.

Project Overview:

WAZO is a design institute in the Kayafungo location of rural Eastern Kenya. They provide design and business workshops to foster social entrepreneurship and product development in East Africa. To offer their workshops, WAZO partnered with 12 members of the Kenyan NGO Muthaa Community Development Foundation, a youth-led organization that provides programs promoting positive community change through self-empowerment. WAZO’s first venture focused on footwear; specifically, a protective shoe made using the local “kiri-kiri” production practice of repurposing old car tires.  WAZO’s entrepreneurship courses and product development tools helped participants generate income and build the capacity to launch future projects.

WAZO also provided three months of paid training in the design thinking process, and hosted workshops on business development and financial literacy that were conducted by Equity Bank. WAZO participants sold over 20 pairs of shoes and made a significant profit to support their continued shoe production. WAZO also awarded materials, a stipend, and one-month internships to three young men and three young women so they could continue producing shoes to generate income.

“We are so excited and proud of the team, and can’t wait to hear about the future!” – WAZO, IMPACT Awardee 2011

Public Architecture

At Public Architecture, the SF non-profit design firm, CONNECTS externs actively contribute to their mission of community betterment through ar, design and architecture.

Organization Description:

Public Architecture undertakes public interest design and challenges other firms’ engagement in pro bono design, and mobilizes designers to transform communities. They ask designers and manufacturers to commit their resources to design for the public good and help nonprofits see design as a vehicle to advance their missions. Public Architecture shares best practices, lessons learned, and advocates for social impact design through resources, presentations, and other outreach efforts.

Being able to be a part of a group that has the goal of community betterment through art and design has been an important part of my education experience.—Leila Khosrovi, MArch, 13-14 CONNECTS Extern

Externship Description:

Externs at Public Architecture gain invaluable experience as assistants in the 1% pro bono design program. Within this role externs perform research, outreach, and support the writing and design of case studies highlighting partnerships between designers and nonprofit organizations. Additionally, externs update web content, craft presentation slides, compose outreach materials, and create graphics.

Our extern was instrumental in the writing, editing, design, and publication of two pro bono project case studies, which served to fulfill our partnership obligations with two of the largest design associations in the nation (ASID, IIDA)…. her energy and enthusiasm were infectious; we miss her already! – Jennifer Lau, Development Manager at Public Architecture.



Juabar is a CCA student designed – solar powered, mobile charging station for Tanzania’s rural community. The kiosks use solar energy to charge multiple cell phones at a time and provide a unique business opportunity for the “juapreneurs,” or local entrepreneurs, operating the stations.  

Project Overview:

Juabar is a mobile charging station that harnesses solar power for Tanzania’s off-grid community members and is both a solar energy and a retail platform for the community. Tanzanian operators use the charging stations as pop up energy businesses, simultaneously creating new jobs in rural areas and improving access to solar power. Juabar’s scalable system cultivates, trust and demand for solar products while highlighting the benefits for cleaner energy sources in off-grid communities.

Juabar works closely with local partner Appropriate Rural Technology Institute [ARTI] who supports Juabar with a work team, solar supplier, communication (translation), and the community credibility needed to work within Tanzania’s off-grid communities.

We have evolved our thinking around what is the biggest impact that we could make with Juabar and moving forward our mission is to develop profitable small business opportunities while meeting community energy needs by designing and building local, low-cost phone charging kiosks powered by solar. – Juabar, IMPACT Awardee 2012

Project Outcome:

Revenue sales grew faster than expected for the first Juabar kiosk and inspired the Juabar team to think bigger about the impact their mobile kiosks could have on off-grid communities. Team Juabar developed a reasonable payback structure for the local entrepreneurs, or “Juapreneurs,” that allowed them to “rent-to-own” each Juabar charging kiosk. Team members Olivia Nava and Sachi DeCou continue to run Juabar as a vibrant business with 30 new charging stations and have expanded to also distribute solar lighting from Juabar kiosks to over 4,000 customers.