Design Thinking to Help Edmonton Community Organizations End Poverty

Barnraise is coming to Edmonton! BarnRaise is a two-day “maker” conference pioneered by the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute of Design in Chicago. It brings together community organizations, design firms, and participants to tackle social issues embedded in the local community: this year’s design challenge is improving early childhood development for a poverty-free future in Edmonton, which very much aligns with End Poverty Edmonton’s goals. Local non-profit organization Media Architecture Design Edmonton (MADE) is hosting BarnRaise at the Robbins Health Learning Centre at MacEwan University on March 17-19, 2017. 

Barnraise is a new kind of think-and-do event, where participants will hear from leading experts in the field of design and social innovation and work in interdisciplinary teams to build a human-centered understanding of the challenges in early childhood development and poverty, and in turn, prototype viable solutions for Edmonton-based community organizations. These organizations include the Bissell Centre, E4C, The Family Centre, Norwood Child and Family Resource Centre, and ABC Head Start.  In total, 10 teams will be working together, using a human-centered design approach to social innovation.

Gary St. Amand, the CEO of the Bissell Centre says Barnraise represents a new opportunity for social innovation in Edmonton: “If we are going to see real change in the social issues facing our communities, we need to find new ways to address old problems. BarnRaise creates the opportunity for just that to happen. This is an innovative approach to arriving at innovative solutions.”

Other organizations and speakers include the Winnipeg Boldness Project, who’s project director Dianne Roussin will start the conference off with an exploration of the indigenous context of urban childhood development, Anijo Mathew from IIT Institute of Design exploring design for social impact, Aleeya Velji from ABSI Connect; Tricia Lirette, the Chair of Human Services and Childhood Development at MacEwan University highlighting the importance of early childhood development for future success; Janice Wong, the Senior Design & Insights Lead at Doblin; and Kelly Costello, the Founder of design firm Panorama.

BarnRaise is predicated on an innovative cross-cultural team approach     to solving problems.  This will be the first BarnRaise event in Canada and the fourth in total after Chicago (twice) and San Francisco.The IIT Institute of Design (ID) is a world-renowned design school in Chicago, Illinois, who’s long-time dean Patrick Whitney, is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s design program.  

For more information and to register, please visit the BarnRaise Edmonton website at or MADE,