It is Blog Action Day 2008 today - and the focus issue is poverty. I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to introduce The Global Studio.
Global Studio is an action research program where international interdisciplinary students, academics, and professionals in the city building professions come together to collaborate on community-based projects. Informed by the UN Millennium Development Goals, the program promotes forms of education and practice that will benefit under-served communities and facilitate bottom-up, collaborative partnerships.
I was lucky enough to be a part of Global Studio Johannesburg in 2007 and together with other students from Brazil, New Zealand, Italy, Chile and America – we developed a project called Small Changes, Big Improvements. Click here to see what we did.
Another group of inspired and talented students returned to Johannesburg this year to work with the residents of Diepsloot in Johannesburg and did a fantastic job developing the work from last year. Continuing to focus on projects ranging in scope from housing to the environment to communication technologies and the arts – all projects were driven by local people’s interests and developed with high levels of community participation. Sustainability was number one priority and projects were developed with strong communcation with local authorities and NGOs.
You can see the continuing work of the Community Chalkboards project on Candy Chang’s fabulous website. These chalkboards in the township of Diepsloot improve information sharing between residents.
Candy explains that being public and paperless, the community chalkboard gives residents an accessible platform and allows them to share info on a daily basis, self-organize, and empower each other through local knowledge. And it's cheap to boot!
Make sure you take some time to explore her site – she is pure talent. Candy’s ‘I’ve Lived’ public art project will interest many in these times of number crunching. I know I have been dying to know how much rent my neighbours are paying. What a great idea to start community dialogue.
Back to The Global Studio, GS founder Anna Rubbo from The University of Sydney will present the work of Global Studio together with Diepsloot residents in Nanjing, China at the UN World Urban Forum.
It is critical that design education and practice should focus on collaboration with the urban poor to improve the environment and living conditions of society's poorest 20% in cities worldwide. Let’s hope that Anna and the Global Studio programme can get some well-deserved recognition and funding!