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Columbus College of Art & Design is proud to stand in partnership alongside Zora's House and The Women's Fund of Central Ohio for the announcement of a collaborative effort to launch a design institute for women of color. Funded by a $1.5 million systems-change investment from JPMorgan Chase, the institute is an initiative to embed designing for equity into the core of the Columbus community’s economic development efforts.

The organization will be headquartered at Zora’s House, a local coworking space and leadership incubator for women of color, and will leverage design thinking to shift power dynamics so that the expertise, perspective, and lived experiences of women of color lead the development and implementation of innovative solutions to some of the community’s most challenging disparities.

Within the institute’s first 24 months, two cohorts of women will come together to learn equity-centered design thinking techniques, which they will use to generate solutions to such pressing community issues such as childcare as a wealth decelerator for women of color. These cohorts will be taught by CCAD Adjunct Faculty Lara Alsoudani Weeks (Advertising & Graphic Design, 2015), partner and art director, FRINGE22 Studio. Alongside this work, a stand-alone certificate in equity-centered design thinking will be created and offered through CCAD to both organizational participants and members of the public. 

“Iterative thinking and equitable design education are critical for removing barriers to economic success and ensuring women of color are at the table to shape solutions for the future,” says CCAD’s Associate Provost & Dean of Academics Jennifer Schlueter, PhD. “Our equity-centered design thinking certificate will provide much-needed formal resources to the community at large to solve problems in a creative and inclusive way, serving as a lever for social change at organizations across central Ohio.”

The investment is a collaborative effort led by Zora’s House, The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio, and CCAD, in partnership with four additional organizations led by and serving women of color in the region: Affordable Housing Trust, Columbus Urban League, Women’s Center for Economic Opportunity, and YWCA Columbus.