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Community – BLOCK: How Communities Become Gender Equitable Villages of Care

Last week we submitted a grant to the $40 million Equality Can’t Wait Challenge. This is a collaboration with three other organizations: HKS (a global architecture firm), CADRE (its nonprofit research arm), and Storefront Richmond (a local nonprofit in Richmond, VA).

Inspired by the African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child”, our coalition endeavors to understand and demonstrate how communities should be designed to better support the needs of women and families to increase women’s power and influence. 

There is a lack of awareness about how women hold the majority of the burden of unpaid care work (70%). Gender equality at work or home cannot be achieved without picking apart and fundamentally re-constructing expectations of care in relationships, families, work, and communities. 

During COVID, it has become evident that as a country we are not able to mobilize collectively, and certainly not as a collective that protects our over-stressed or vulnerable populations. Moms with young kinds in the COIVD era are CEOs, teachers, cooks, janitors, housekeepers, care providers for their kids and often parents, and mental health professionals, all in the same day. In a recent report, McKinsey makes the argument there’s a risk that progress could go into reverse which would hold back not just gender equality but also the global economy.

With an innovative research coalition with partners already engaging community members in designing spaces, we are re-imagining the process of building resilience and inclusivity into the foundation of a community’s design.

Our goal is to demonstrate what equitable design of space and systems can do for gender equality, instilling support systems and design strategies that will begin to dismantle the barriers that hold women back. 

Our hypothesis is a simple one – a community that puts gender equality as a foundational purpose, and leverages its spaces and systems to achieve it – can directly impact the unpaid care burden on the women, improve their public perception, and create a healthy, resilient community.

Currently a team of four organizations, we are a growing coalition centered around community engagement and co-design. We are uniquely positioned to research the factors impacting women’s unpaid care burden in space and communities, facilitate new ways of engaging communities to understand the networks of care already in place, build capacity and formulate responsive neighborhood design solutions, and measure impact in short and long term.

This coalition is coming together for the first time, to take on the issue of gender equity as a community building bloc, and unpaid care as the very first brick that must be laid to create a foundation of human health and resilience. Together we recognize that there is a need to do things differently. Dismantling generations of gendered expectations for everyday care work requires an entirely reimagined design process that integrates social and spatial, community-led considerations for how care is central to our lives and our neighborhoods. 

Learn more here.


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