Archive for the ‘Social Innovation’ Category

Designing for Everyone | UX Magazine   Leave a comment

“Technology is constantly evolving and improving. In the future, mobile devices may include assistive technologies such as sensors that detect a user’s gestures for no-touch interactions, laser keyboards and eye-tracking or device-to-retina interfaces. Designers and engineers must work together to develop intuitive and flexible UX models, appropriate visual treatments and layout decisions in order to not only change behavior and interactions, but also to improve the lives of millions of people. Apple’s Guided Access takes a step in this direction, offering a way to customize existing interaction parameters to cater to individual needs.

Focusing on creating long-lasting services that people will fall in love with and designing for all platforms and channels are the ultimate goals. While there are indeed some services and products designed to target very specific demographics, good design is universal design.

Good design is inclusive of every user.”

via Designing for Everyone | UX Magazine.

http://goo.gl/QN6oW

 

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Posted July 26, 2012 by arnoneumann in design, Social Innovation

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A plan to turn a former jail into rental housing -Vancouver , BC   Leave a comment

Gregory Henriquez believes that transforming a former city jail into affordable rental housing is poetry.

He is the architect behind the transformation of the former remand centre at 211 Gore into 95 units of rental housing in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

The poetic metaphor of transforming a jail into housing is really a healthy message for any society,” says Mr. Henriquez, seated inside his upstairs office in the old B.C. Securities heritage building at Homer and Pender. The office is grand with plaster cornices, tall windows and marble floors.

“Incarcerating people isn’t the answer,” says Mr. Henriquez. “Housing them is.”

He has become known as the Vancouver architect with the vision towards equitable housing. He is the designer behind the Woodward’s Building, lauded as a successful merger of low-income housing and market housing, as well as the affordable Downtown Eastside condo project at 60 W. Cordova.

Mr. Henriquez is often confused with his famous architect father Richard, well known for Eugenia Place in English Bay, with the tree rising from the rooftop, a tribute to the forest that stood there before it.

The remand centre is a passing of the baton from father to son because Richard designed the original building, and Gregory has re-designed and will soon re-purpose it for social and affordable housing. While Richard is the true poet of the family, son Gregory has carved out his own niche as the social issues-minded architect.

“He is the architect with the ethical pen,” says condo marketer Bob Rennie, who worked with Mr. Henriquez on Woodward’s as well as numerous other projects.

Mr. Henriquez’s decision to focus on the remand centre was driven as much by personal necessity as it was to supply essential rental stock.

It was 2008, when the market had bottomed out, and Mr. Henriquez thought that he could either take a long break, or put his architects to work on a housing project he’d considered for awhile. His father’s 1973 remand centre had been sitting unused since it closed in 2002, and was an ideal and obvious source of rental housing for low-income tenants in the area.

It was, in fact, an empty shell awaiting a new purpose. It had already been gutted before the basement became home to a community courtroom.

“I thought, we can either give up or look for projects that are really meaningful and put some people to work drawing up things that would be very exciting around issues of social justice and affordability and housing and inclusivity, and things we hold near and dear to our hearts,” he says.

A remand centre is a detention centre for people who have not yet been found guilty and are awaiting their appearance in court. The Vancouver remand centre at 211 Gore is striking because of the rows of concrete bays that jut out the side of the building. Inside, the bays are used as alcoves for beds. The feature is a Richard Henriquez metaphor.

“They are obviously in prison but still in society, and they are not yet guilty, so the metaphor of them sleeping on the outside of the building was an interesting thing,” says Mr. Henriquez.

He made a pitch to the province’s housing ministry, and after three years of back and forth, the idea became a reality last spring. The remand centre is set for a makeover to be completed by mid 2013.

The 95 rental units built, to be managed by the St. James Community Service Society, will include 34 rental units for low-income tenants. Tenants who qualify for a studio apartment can earn around $32,500, while one-bedroom units will be rented to tenants who make $36,300, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. housing income levels. The maximum rents would be about $800 to $900 a month. Studios will be up to 485 square feet in size, and one bedrooms up to 590 square feet.

The remainder of the units will be for at-risk youth who work in the BladeRunners construction-training program, as well as those who are on a shelter allowance. The 34 rental units will generate enough revenue so that the project won’t require subsidies. Rents will cover the $1.6-million mortgage.

Housing Minister Rich Coleman has said that the $13-million project is also possible because of the already existing building, which drastically offsets construction costs.

As for the concrete bays, Mr. Henriquez will replace them with larger glass bays, allowing light into the units.

The project provides much-needed affordable rental housing in an area where rental and condo prices have skyrocketed in the last couple of years. Some of his own architects, says Mr. Henriquez, cannot afford to live in Vancouver.

“Which is sad and wrong.”

While an effort has been made to provide affordable condo housing, such as Mr. Henriquez’s project at 60 W. Cordova, many people still can’t afford the down payment. About 50 per cent of Vancouverites rent, and in the Downtown Eastside in particular, rental stock is essential.

Mr. Henriquez doesn’t expect the new housing to transform the gritty block, but he figures it will, for what it’s worth, help fill the massive gap that is rental housing. He can’t think of another new rental building in the neighbourhood, which isn’t surprising considering land values.

“Vancouver hasn’t produced rental because most land trades at market housing rates,” he says.

“But straight market housing by itself in the neighbourhood isn’t going to work. Every project has to bring some level of affordability and some statement about caring about the neighbourhood … You don’t want people to feel you are bulldozing their neighbourhood.”

Mr. Henriquez says speculative condo buyers push prices up, and creative methods must be used to keep them from purchasing units that are intended to be affordable. Those methods include making the project a no-rent building, not including parking, and banning the practice of flipping.

Condo owners usually don’t provide affordable rentals, either. Condo marketer Bob Rennie says those speculative condo investors who need to rent their units to cover their mortgages are currently providing much of the rental stock.

“These passive condo buyers that everybody hates are the rental supplier,” he says.

They price their rents on average around $1,600 a month, which is too high for many people. And because the number of condo units being developed in the last few years downtown has drastically dropped, there will be less of those rental condos available.

“To find rental under $1,250 or under $1,000 is a rare commodity, given our land costs and construction costs,” says Mr. Rennie. “So building small suites and providing affordable rental fills a need.”

The city has recognized the need for rental stock with its STIR program, which stands for Short Term Incentives for Rental Housing, and includes breaks on property taxes, development cost levies, and parking, and allowances for greater density, in exchange for development of rental housing.

Vancouver property prices, however, are expensive, and condominiums remain more lucrative to the average developer.

“You just have to look at really creative models, and looking at smaller sizes,” says Mr. Rennie. “So whether it’s condos or affordable rental, you have to try different models. We can’t keep hanging onto yesterday’s model, because land has become so expensive.”

via A plan to turn a former jail into rental housing – The Globe and Mail.

Big Society Capital names board, CEO and first £1m investment | Social Enterprise   Leave a comment

Transformative….social thinking …social capital .

“Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude said: ‘There are few moments like this when something happens that can really change the world. We’ve all heard about a small charity or social enterprise sweeping away entrenched local social problems. But we have not seen a significant commitment to help social innovations grow and be implemented on the national stage until now.

‘Big Society Capital will undoubtedly change this and unlock the money that charities and social enterprises need to grow when a big opportunity comes along. This government is proud to support this achievement. I want to thank Sir Ronald Cohen and Nick O’Donohoe and everyone else, including the banks, who have made this a reality so quickly.’

Sir Ronald Cohen commented: ‘Today’s launch of Big Society Capital Group marks the culmination of ten years of thought and effort by many individuals and organisations. It is the first of a new kind of organisation devoted to providing finance in the interest of society. The depth and breadth of The Big Society Trust and Big Society Capital boards, combined with an anticipated £600m in initial funding will enable BSC to attract additional capital to the social sector from charitable foundations, institutional investors, companies and private individuals.

Sir Ronald said that innovations such as social impact bonds and a burgeoning array of organisations operating across the social sector ‘suggest that we are on the cusp of a revolution’.

He added: ‘The social sector now has the prospect of attracting funding in the UK to support social entrepreneurs, much as venture capital and private equity did to support business some three decades ago. We very much welcome the equity investment by the Merlin banks and a strategic relationship with them in developing the market for social investment in Britain.’

More announcements on social impact bonds (SIBs) are expected within the next few weeks – with up to four new ‘bonds’ bringing private investors, public and civil society organisations together in a payment-by-results model designed to change the way some of the most challenging social issues are financed. The first SIB is already in operation at Peterborough prison.

To support the early development of Big Society Capital, the Big Lottery Fund has set up an Investment Committee to make some initial investments. Applications for investment should be initially made to the Investment Committee. Details of the fund and application process can be found on the Big Fund website.”

via Big Society Capital names board, CEO and first £1m investment | Social Enterprise.

A More Inclusice Work Force – NYTimes.com   Leave a comment

What a blessing that there are novel models in society that take the ” weak ” and empower them with their inherent strengths …not their imputed deficiencies.

 

“From the corporate perspective, hiring and managing people with disabilities has historically been seen as a burden, not an opportunity. But there is one industry in which many people with what would (elsewhere) be considered disabilities have thrived: information technology. “There are a lot of people who have been very important in the history of IT who would probably rate high on the autism scales,” explains Robert Austin, dean of the faculty of business administration at the University of New Brunswick, who is author of a Harvard Business Review case study on Specialisterne. “Some of the most brilliant people in the industry have been effective because companies have been willing to work with them.”

Austin says that businesses in general, as well as business schools, haven’t paid sufficient attention to the competitive value of employees with differences. “When you find somebody who is different there might be something remarkable and important in that,” he says.”

via A More Inclusice Work Force – NYTimes.com.

Posted July 6, 2011 by arnoneumann in Social Innovation

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For Some With Autism, Jobs to Match Their Talents – NYTimes.com   Leave a comment

What a thrilling story of real import and impact. “Sonne calls it the “dandelion philosophy.” Depending on your point of view, a dandelion is either a valuable herb — a source of iron and vitamin A, with many medicinal qualities — or a weed that invades your garden. “A weed is a beautiful plant in an unwanted place,” he says. “An herb is the same plant where it is wanted. Who decides if something is a weed or an herb? Society does.” “

“Specialisterne was founded by Thorkil Sonne. Eleven years ago, Sonne was a successful executive at TDC when his youngest child, Lars, then 3, was diagnosed with autism. “I had the perfect career and the perfect family,” he recalled. “It was so shocking to realize that one of our family members had a lifelong disability. As parents we wanted to make the best possible future for all of our children, not just the two who were non-disabled. So we had to come up with a new plan for our family’s future.”

“Sonne and his wife thought about what would be best for their son. “What will make Lars a happy man when we are not there anymore?” they asked themselves. “We thought,” Sonne said, “If others could appreciate his skills and respect his special personality in a meaningful and productive job, then we could go to the grave with a good conscience.”

With Specialisterne, Sonne has created something that has gone beyond giving a helping hand to his son. To date, the company has hired 35 people with autism to work as consultants for other companies, and is now training 46 others. Perhaps more important, its model is gaining momentum. Sonne has been contacted by people from 60 countries who want to adapt the work locally. He has expanded to Iceland and Scotland and is planning to spread to a half dozen additional countries within the next few years, including Poland, Germany, Ireland and the United States. Specialisterne has also inspired a similar Chicago-based non-profit called Aspiritech.” ”

 

via For Some With Autism, Jobs to Match Their Talents – NYTimes.com.

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