There are communities throughout the world disconnected from society’s daily rights: clean water, sanitation, affordable living, quality education, personal rights. Often, they simply need the opportunity to thrive in today’s world.
The JustDesign team believes in equality and capacity building; but that means more than simply helping those in need. It goes beyond that service to create partnerships that lead to sustainable and anti-oppressive impact.
We believe in civic pride and public service. And to do that, we must emerge out of our spaces of isolation, recognizing that our decisions affect others. Let’s build and enhance pathways that allow people to connect with each other, on both personal and institutional levels – to develop inclusive spaces: green, empowering, programmatic, and social spaces. To share our stories (including failures), to be self-aware on what hasn’t worked, in creating a sense of community that will result in collaborative solutions.
This does not limit us to solutions in the technical field, because our vision of solutions will also include activism, policy, education, and public health (physical and mental). Humanity is what drives us; our mission is to connect, to help develop a better quality of life for all.
The use of power to disempower, marginalize, silence or otherwise subordinate one social group or category, often in order to further empower and/or privilege the oppressor. Social oppression may not require formally established organizational support to achieve its desired effect; it may be applied on a more informal, yet more focused, individual basis.
JustDesign Cooperative, LLC recognizes that existing systems and practices naturally offer a power imbalance towards the people with the most privilege. Recognizing that this privilege can permeate through channels of interaction and decision making, we believe in practicing anti-oppression through all levels of our work. The ways in which power imbalances occur are analyzed and prioritized within our projects, partnerships, and the way we treat each other.
Our ongoing process of practicing anti-oppression is rooted in the following commitments:
- Knowledge and introspection - We are committed to learning about systems and institutions of oppression, and challenging when oppressive systems and behaviors arise within the organization. We are committed to learning the histories of marginalized communities by learning from their voices and experiences.
- Examining privilege - Recognizing the role that privilege plays within anti-oppression, we aim to dismantle privilege in the context of oppression and (to the extent appropriate) leverage our own privilege to benefit our partners without overshadowing their experiences and voices.
- Access and Integrity - Recognizing the importance of our work being transparent and equitable, we are committed to sharing our documents and projects openly, in a spirit of reducing barriers to entry in our work. When our actions don’t live up to our values, we rely on our partners call us in to integrity. We recognize that in an effort to be transparent, we are also documenting the majority of our work in English. We recognize that this creates a language barrier for access. We are working on translating these documents to be more accessible.
- Shifting power - We are committed to analyzing the role of power within potential and existing projects. We strive to shift decision-making power towards partners, community members, and those less privileged to amplify their voices for local sovereignty, self-determination, and autonomy.
- Being unapologetically political - People who have the privilege to be impartial are often those who are the least affected by existing systems of oppression. We engage in solidarity by centering the voices and experiences of those most affected by injustice. We strive to be accountable as advocates and accomplices, not just allies.
- Rights-Based - Regardless of where people are located, what they have been through, and who they are, everyone deserves their human rights to be met. When universal rights are not met, accountability lies within systemic failure of institutions, not shortcomings of individuals. Co-creating equitable solutions requires understanding the systemic failures of institutions relative to human rights. Not forcing a solution and fostering paternalism.
- Love and Respect - In the ways we treat our partners and each other, we strive to create spaces that amplify voices, create broad equity, and embody participatory democracy. Our humanity is bound in each other. Our liberation is mutual.
We regard these expectations as among our core commitments to our partners, members, and colleagues. This is a living document, subject to periodic updates and revisions. As with any of our work, free to adopt and adapt.
Thanks to GlobeMed and Rainforest Action Network whose Anti-Oppression Statements have influenced our own.
Frank Bergh, P.E. has spent his career engineering renewable energy without borders, by any means necessary. He’s an experienced electrical engineer with a background of diverse multicultural and interdisciplinary leadership in renewable energy projects in North/South America and Africa.
Frank holds an Electrical Engineering degree with a minor in Spanish from Washington University in St. LouisU in 2008. His professional experience spans utility consulting (Transmission Planning Consultant, Burns & McDonnell), wind energy (Electrical Engineer – Grid Interconnection, Nordex USA), solar energy (Director of Engineering, SoCore Energy), and energy storage (Principal Technical Advisor, Edison Energy). He currently serves as the VP of Grid Engineering for Sigora International, building micro-utility businesses from scratch in Haiti and Zambia with local staff and management. For the past 12+ years, he has worked in developing communities as a volunteer, regional president, and former board member at Engineers Without Borders USA. He’s a Contributing Editor to the blog at Engineering For Change and an instructor of Technology & Community Based Development at Colorado State University with Village Earth. In 2015, Frank was named one of Midwest Energy News’ Top 40 Under 40 energy professionals.
Dhara Shah is currently a human factors engineer at a design consultant firm and a researcher at an organization that connects universities around racism and violence. She has +5 years of professional experience in new product development, specifically in the healthcare industry. Her passion for human centered design led her pursue her Masters in Design which will start in Fall 2017. Dhara is also currently on the Board of Directors of Haiti Outreach, a non-profit organization using a community based model to address clean drinking water in Haiti.
Dhara also has 8+ years of experience working in international development through Engineers Without Borders, Haiti Outreach, and a project with the Ministry of Education in Haiti. Through many lessons learned has found that a true anti-oppressive, rights-based organization is lacking in the engineering and design industry.
Maria Bergh is a multidisciplinary designer and storyteller. She has over ten years experience advocating for public interest and participatory design. Maria is a confident writer, project manager, design researcher, facilitator, and graphic designer. She is licensed to practice architecture in Illinois and Ohio, and does so through We Build Agency. She earned a Master of Community Planning and Master of Architecture degrees from the DAAP program of the University of Cincinnati in 2012, was a Fellow with buildingcommunityWORKSHOP in 2013, completed her Archeworks Postgraduate Certificate in Public Interest Design in 2017 and holds LEED AP BD+C and SEED certified credentials.
Maria was a founding member of Architecture for Humanity Cincinnati, and participated in the creation of the Open Architecture Collaborative. She is a part of the Catholic Worker Movement, sheltering homeless families, farming, and working for social change. She is also a passionate about bike culture, making art, food, and other elements of (urban) homesteading.
Dan’s formal education is in Mechanical Engineering, in which he received a Master of Science from the University of Michigan in 2007. Since then he has been developing software in the fields of environmental and systems engineering, most recently as Senior Controls Engineer at a medical robotics company in Chicago.
Louis is a renewable energy professional from Tucson, Arizona, where he’s lived and worked since 2003. He has wide experience in various aspects of renewable energy, including design, installation, and project management of residential and small commercial solar electric, energy storage, and solar thermal systems.
He’s also been fortunate to be able to collaborate with several communities around the world to build small-scale renewable energy projects, including communities in Ghana, Costa Rica, Cameroon, and Uganda.
Louis is most inspired by learning, listening, teaching, and hands-on construction. At JustDesign, he’s excited to bring together his love for people and technology to collaboratively serve communities with appropriate technologies and engineering, while also contributing to his own livelihood. He truly believes engineering should be transformative for clients and practitioners alike, not simply transactional.
When he’s not working on renewable energy projects, you might find him hiking, taking photographs, advocating for clean energy policies, or mentoring engineering students.