A black future grounded in justice

The Black in Design Conference, organized by the Harvard University Graduate School of Design African American Student Union (GSD AASU) recognizes the contributions of the African diaspora to the design fields and promotes discourse around the agency of the design profession to address and dismantle the institutional barriers faced by our communities.

The 2019 Black in Design conference, "Black Futurism: Creating a More Equitable Future" explores pathways to liberation through a design lens, considering the historical past and present structural oppression of black and brown communities locally and internationally. The Just City Cypher Room asks participants to create a manifesto that envisions the just future. On Saturday, participants will formulate personal definitions of black futurism, select the values that we need to create the just Black future and discuss their ideas with others. Sunday is the culmination of the weekend’s activities as attendees will share personal stories, rap or poetry about their manifestos, the values of the just Black future and the Just City in which they hope to live.

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A cross-sector convening of design justice champions

The pursuit of justice is inherently a collective act. In this spirit, the inaugural Just City Assembly @ HarvardGSD in April 2019 brought together believers in and champions of “just outcomes arrived at justly” — people and organizations who are in a unique position to create more just cities. The 41 attendees were asked to bring nothing but a knowledge of their work, a willingness to be unafraid to speak truth, and a desire to push a more visible agenda for disrupting injustice through design, planning and development. Reflecting on their own experiences — from successes to failures — pursuing the goals of a more just city, they developed manifestos, dreamt up utopian visions, and workshopped paths to action. They emerged from the experience with a renewed commitment to the goals of a more just city.

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An index for value-driven design

The Just City Index has been developed over the last five years as a result of research and crowdsourced input on the values communities desire in their cities and neighborhoods to combat conditions of injustice. Many wellbeing frameworks prescribe a limited set of values or principles to define a community as resilient, sustainable, livable or happy. But each city and neighborhood has a unique set of qualities, conditions and inhabitants — which means they require different measures of wellbeing.

The Just City Index is a framework of 50 values, to be used as a tool for communities to establish their own definition and principles for what make each city or neighborhood more just. To define your Just City, explore the Index and our set of engagement tools.



Engagement tools to use in your community

In our workshops and masterclasses, we use a range of tools to guide participants through the Design for the Just City process. Download our tools and tutorials below to start doing it yourself. Your group will reflect on conditions of justice and injustice in their cities, align on the Just City values most important to their sites, and generate value-driven design responses to conditions of injustice.


How does justice or injustice show up in the place where you live or grew up?


How can your values align with others' to create a shared community vision? 


What innovative ideas can we develop to realize our values and combat injustice?



A charette to envision your Just City

We've engaged with collaborators around the world to develop 2-3 hour workshops for a range of contexts, durations, and group sizes. Throughout the process and in small table groups, participants are asked to reflect on their own experience of values in the cities they call home, to negotiate values critical to addressing injustices with their value clustering posters, and to generate design possibilities to take forward.


amsterdam • JUN 2018

Workshop at the 2018 We Make the City conference, drawing over 80 attendees



Workshop at Wits Institute, focused on the Corridors of Freedom project


cambridge • nov 2017

Day-long workshop at Harvard GSD's second Black in Design conference



A transdisciplinary curriculum for designing justice

A Just City Lab masterclass is a custom-designed and immersive multi-day training experience with hands-on discussion, workshops and lectures.

In our first masterclass — a collaboration with Rotterdam's Veldacademie — we worked with over 20 students from four universities and a variety of disciplines in Europe's largest port city. Focused on four sites at critical junctures in this diverse, rapidly changing city, we guided each group through an intensive, five-day, studio-driven curriculum with lectures interspersed throughout. Each group presented their final results to local officials and community members on the final day of the program. A brief overview of the curriculum can be found below: 

  • Day 1: Orient to Program and Case Study Sites
  • Day 2: Engage with Design for the Just City Methodology
  • Day 3: Deepen Intervention Ideas
  • Day 4: Make Connections Across Interventions
  • Day 5: Present Final Results