Challenging the white-savior industrial complex

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social-impact design challenges many of the assumptions that guide architectural practice such as: What should we design? What program should we design to? What site should we design on? Who should be involved in the design? And what else needs designing beyond what we have been commissioned to do? In raising these questions, social-impact design essentially inverts the expertise model that has guided both architectural education and practice and leads to a more open and responsive mode of practice that looks for the underlying reasons why a problem or need has occurred and the larger systemic issues that surround the project and that may require redesigning themselves. Through a series of social-impact design projects conducted by the Minnesota Design Center at the University of Minnesota, this essay explores what this means in specific ways, through actual projects with diverse communities of people.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)139-151
Number of pages13
JournalPlan Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016


  • Adult foster care
  • Community stakeholders
  • Self-empowerment
  • Social-impact design
  • System-design


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