AMPLIFY is a multifaceted design and public research project of the Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability (DESIS) Lab at Parsons The New School for Design. Parsons DESIS Lab, led by Lara Penin, assistant professor of Transdisciplinary Design, and Eduardo Staszowski, assistant Professor of Design Strategies, disseminates information through multiple platforms, including open exhibitions and workshops aimed at developing creative, sustainable lifestyles by strengthening existing grassroots activities and relations within New York City neighborhoods.
As an exhibition, AMPLIFY showcases the process of investigating and designing new scenarios for social innovation demonstrated in what Penin describes as “creative communities,” composed of creative and entrepreneurial citizens, who are engaged residents in their local space.
“Local active residents are the gatekeepers of social innovation,” asserts Penin, “and they serve as key actors in their own communities engaged in socially innovative initiatives and practices.”
In recognizing residents as individuals interested in creatively transforming their communities, AMPLIFY has become a platform for ‘amplifying’ the local and proposing new ways to facilitate change and solve community problems with input from all stakeholders.
AMPLIFY’s first exhibition in 2010, situated in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, focused on community gardens as public sites for assessing social and environmental sustainability in the neighborhood. In November 2011, Parsons DESIS Lab concluded its second AMPLIFY exhibition and workshop series, Amplifying Creative Communities: North Brooklyn, which explored urban activism in the neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Greenpoint.
The work and approach to these localized actions has evolved over time. “We first went in as designers seeking a problem that would require our attention and skills.” However, after completing preliminary work for AMPLIFY in North Brooklyn, the team’s focus “has moved toward joining a conversation,” Penin notes as Parsons DESIS Lab’s level of engagement is increasingly measured by its active dialogue with and among residents.
Currently, the Parsons DESIS Lab team is beginning preliminary research to go into the neighborhoods of the North Bronx and expand its work and engagement with neighborhood residents, nonprofits, and businesses focused on social innovation. Going forward, Lara hopes to use this project experience to “increase the interface of teaching and research in class.” One way Parsons DESIS Lab is distilling the information and research is by creating an AMPLIFY toolkit to be used by academics and practitioners.
Penin’s research and the Parsons DESIS Lab projects at The New School have received support from various sponsors, including a grant from the 2009 Rockefeller Foundation's NYC Cultural Innovation Fund.
For more information about AMPLIFY, visit www.amplifyingcreativecommunities.net