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CivicMakers Community

2021 Year in Review

A time capsule for what the heck happened in 2021!

A screenshot of the team smiling on Zoom

The CivicMakers team is committed to continuously reflecting and learning from our work. For the past few years, we’ve tried to take a moment to look back to see what transpired and what inspired us, so we can look forward with more clarity.

civic makers process graphic

Consistent with that process (albeit, a bit later in the new year than we had hoped!), we asked our team to weigh in on what stood out to them about 2021, both for client projects and our own internal projects. Here’s what they had to say.

Projects that made us proud

  • San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA): Our first regional strategic plan!  The stakeholders we’ve engaged so far are really passionate about water transportation as a key part of the transformation of the Bay Area from a car-centric region to a sustainable transit-oriented community. I think the first phase of this project has started to get people excited about working with WETA and hopeful about the regional changes they can achieve together. – Mike King
  • San Francisco Homeless Workforce Systems Alignment (WAF 8.0):  I loved this project because it was fantastically challenging and rewarding. It aimed at identifying strategies to better connect people experiencing homelessness in San Francisco with training and employment services. I was regularly inspired by our knowledgeable and dedicated partners, both the San Francisco agencies and many nonprofits who serve this population across four systems (housing, workforce, social services and public health). Thanks to the on-the-ground knowledge and collaboration of our partners, we were able to co-create a practical Job Interest and Referral Toolkit that is positioned to put many unhoused San Franciscans on a path to housing and workforce stability. We are lucky to have the opportunity to work with the SF Office of Economic and Workforce Development and SF Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing again this year to implement our participatory research findings! Read more about this project here. – Cristelle Blackford
  • Our new brand and website! This has been a long time coming, and we wrote about the process here. It feels really good to have a fresh perspective to share with our community and clients, both visually and in our messaging. We can’t thank Rachel, Xio and the good folks at Mangrove Web Development enough! – Lawrence Grodeska
  • Our Resource Library: As part of our new website, we now have a Resource Library with design tools we regularly use in our projects. This gives us an opportunity to test how we can further share our resources and learnings. We are excited to continue developing this with our community of practice. Check it out, and give us your feedback! – Leah Tremblay-Adams
  • Project SPARC: The California Community Colleges CalWORKs Association chose us as their partners in teaching Human-Centered Design (HCD) to studenting parents who are part of both the community college and public benefits systems throughout the state. With this project, we are developing our practice of coaching people with lived experience as designers. Student-Parents will use the HCD process to inform policy changes from their own perspectives and experiences, while receiving trainings in research and design skills. We’ll be sharing more about this project shortly, but in the meantime, you can learn more about how Student-Parents Are Reimagining CalWORKs here. – Leah Tremblay-Adams & Judi Brown
  • Growing our team! We couldn’t do all these great projects without a team of generative optimists! In 2021, we were so happy to welcome Brittany Henry, Jess Newfield and Mike King. It is a real joy to be able to share and grow this work, and we’re so grateful that others see our vision and want to be part of it. – Judi Brown

CivicMakers Team of eight stands in front of a mural.


What we hope to do more of

This section of our reflection is where we get to dream big about what we want to bring into 2022:

  • More facilitation, listening sessions, thoughtful gatherings where people feel comfortable being vulnerable, sharing their experience and insights. – Mike King
  • I’m excited about stewarding more participatory research and service design projects that meaningfully integrate human-centered design and community engagement. I’m also hopeful that we’ll find opportunities to help organize more initiatives that empower community members to be decision-makers and designers. – Cristelle Blackford
  • I hope to have more opportunities to use deliberative processes like “citizen assemblies” to gather public input to improve the development of public policy and delivery of public services. – Lawrence Grodeska
  • I would love to see our Learning Lab offering scale to a regional Learning Lab that brings together teams from different municipalities to practice human-centered design and learn from each other. – Leah Tremblay-Adams
  • I’m excited to do more projects where we are working with Lived Experience Consultants who are being paid for their time and insights. Putting design tools and methods into the hands of those who will be most impacted by decisions made at the policy level truly represents the future of the field of civic design. – Judi Brown


A zoom screenshot of 20 different smiling faces. This picture was taken during a session with the Project SPARC team and participants.

Looking forward

We are so grateful for the partners and projects we were able to engage with in 2021, and so excited to what we will co-create in 2022. We have a lot planned beyond the hopes and dreams above, including a deep dive on how we might feasibly and meaningfully design our offerings for greater accessibility, as well as further refining our internal organizations systems and processes.

civic makers process graphic

We are looking forward to reconnecting with our community (hopefully in-person) to continue dreaming up ways we can collectively move towards a world where every person has the tools, skills, and confidence to advance collaborative decision-making. Onward!