Guy-Serge Emmanuel has a plan to mitigate the housing crisis in Haiti. Efran Pagan is building a social network to reduce “brain drain” in Puerto Rico. Joni Yamashiro is developing a snack-pak to combat male heart disease. On Friday, August 15, they’ll be presenting their work completed in the SVA summer intensive Impact: Design for Social Change, a six-week hands-on primer for creative professionals on doing socially-minded work. “The road to social change is paved with good ideas and good intentions,” Impact co-founder Mark Randall explains. “But for an idea to sustain itself, it needs to be more than a good idea, it needs a sustainable business model.” SVA Close Up caught up with Emmanuel, a freelance designer and educator, for a preview of his presentation.
How did you come to the Impact program?
I’m doing an MFA in Communication Design with an emphasis on social change at New Jersey City University. I found the Impact program online, and signed up for the webinar. Then one of my professors recommended it!
How did you come to the idea of affordable housing for single mothers in Port-au-Prince, Haiti?
I had a class project last fall where I had to create a hypothetical collaborative project. I found out about Architecture for Humanity, and I took off with the idea of using a shipping container for housing.
I’m of Haitian descent, and my parents were born there, and I used to do humanitarian missions with my dad there. After the 2010 earthquake, the Cite Soleil area became a tent village. There are no latrines, no toilets, and people are dumping waste into the canals, so people can’t even fish there. My dad sort of gave up on the country. It became a point for me to prove that something could be done there. The first time I showed him the project, he said, “You may have something there.” I’ve been building on it ever since. I really want this to be a chance for the Haitian people to build their own housing and provide for themselves.
How has the project evolved over these past six weeks?
It’s still the same idea, but the scope is bigger because I’m creating a social art practice. I’m engaging the community to be part of the building process. I want to stay away from the diaspora principle, where you come from the outside and tell people what to do. There are already local ventures on the ground, and I want to connect them.
Separate from your Haiti project, you also worked with a community group here in New York for Impact?
We created a campaign for the Flatbush Avenue Business Improvement District, “The BID is in the street.” Since I moved to New York from Montreal, I’ve lived in the Flatbush area, so I knew the people in the BID. There was a real disconnect between the local merchants and the BID. We designed a tote bag and inflatable street furniture so people would interact more.
What are you focused on now?
I’m looking for strategic partners like the Port of Haiti and volunteer organizations, and funding sources.
Other Impact participants to present on August 15: Mariana Camardelli, Karla Despradel, Issac Farley, Carole Freehauf, Lais Glück, Anna Golda, Hu Jinwei, Adriana Luhovy, Pia Plankensteine, Luisa Velez and Laddawan Zannettis.
For the latest news from Impact!, connect on Twitter @impactdesign.