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Community Engagement in Times of COVID-19: A Peer-to-Peer Conversation

11:30am-1:00pm EDT | 10:30am-12:00pm CDT | 9:30-11:00am MDT | 8:30-10:00am PDT

Session Description:

This conversation session will focus on ways that community design practitioners are expanding their community engagement tools and practices alongside neighborhood partners to respond to the constraints of COVID and ensure ongoing and meaningful participation and ownership. Hester Street Collaborative and Detroit Collaborative Design Center will share recent work and examples, followed by a peer-to-peer discussion with webinar attendees to hear from each other about new ideas, lessons we’ve learned, and challenges we’ve faced over the last several months.

The Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC) is a multi-disciplinary, nonprofit architecture and urban design firm at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture dedicated to creating sustainable spaces and communities through quality design and the collaborative process.

Hester Street is an urban planning, design and development nonprofit that works to ensure neighborhoods are shaped by the people who live in them. We offer planning, design and community development technical assistance to community-based organizations, government and other agencies. Our goal is equitable, sustainable and resilient neighborhoods and cities.

#findyourpeople #learntogether #designwithcommunities #communitydesign


Speaker Bios:

Ceara O’Leary, AIA, is a Co-Executive Director at the Detroit Collaborative Design Center (DCDC), where she leads collaborative community design and planning projects citywide alongside neighborhood partners with a focus on community engagement. She is also a Professor of Practice at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture, teaching public interest design and community development courses. Ceara’s professional work, teaching, research and speaking focus on inclusive design of community spaces, ranging from building renovations and open space design to neighborhood plans and citywide infrastructure strategy. Ceara joined the DCDC in 2012 as an Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow and is the Immediate Past Chair of the AIA Housing and Community Development Knowledge Community Advisory Group. In 2015 Ceara was named a “Top Urban Innovator” by Next City Vanguard and completed a fellowship with the ULI Larsen Center for Leadership. Previously, Ceara worked with bcWORKSHOP in the Lower Rio Grade Valley and the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio in Biloxi, Mississippi. Ceara graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with Masters degrees in Architecture and City & Regional Planning and she earned her undergraduate degree from Brown University.


As an enthusiastic import to the City of Detroit, Toni Henry is enthralled with the unleashed potential the city possesses. Drawing on an academic arsenal of architecture, environmental studies, and entrepreneurial studies from Iowa State University compounded with a Master of Community Development from the University of Detroit Mercy, is an instigator invested in the cities solutions to early education and environmental impacts mainly renewable energy and low impact design strategies.


Cinthia is a Project Manager supporting Hester Street’s public health, resiliency and community engagement projects across New York City and Puerto Rico. Prior to this role, Cinthia served as the Special Assistant to the Commissioner of a Health and a Project Manager at NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene where she managed the East Harlem Healthy Neighborhoods Fund Initiative – a project aimed to increase access to fresh and affordable foods, enhance the built environment, link residents to services and bolster economic opportunities.

Cinthia has over 10 years of public health and community engagement experience and is committed to working alongside communities of color and low-income communities to address health inequities and create opportunities where people can thrive. Cinthia holds a bachelor’s in Human Biology and an MPH in Social Behaviors and Community Health from the University at Albany. She is currently pursuing a Master’s of Urban Planning at New York University.


Ryan joins Hester Street as a Project Associate supporting our community design and engagement work. By designing interactive toolkits, facilitating community workshops, and synthesizing stories and data, he hopes to build community power towards more just futures. Recently he has developed tools and strategies to gather community health priorities with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and he’s supported community outreach with the Brooklyn Public Library as they renovate their Central Branch.

Ryan holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin, and an MFA in Transdisciplinary Design from Parsons where he facilitated workshops to envision the radical futures of urban commons, designed games for the National Gallery of Denmark and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and researched the role of design in collective worldbuilding. Before joining Hester Street, he has worked as a digital fabricator, a product designer, a UI/UX researcher, and a union representative.

December 1st, 2020 from 11:30 AM to  1:00 PM
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