Teaches Design as Pathway Out of Poverty American Resilience

Bay Area Non-Profit Teaches Design as Pathway Out of Poverty

Follow your art.

The Inneract Project became a sparkle in Maurice Woods’ eye when he was given an assignment in his graduate class at the University of Seattle to use design to ‘change the world’. A vision came immediately to Woods – free design programs for underserved kids.

That vision became The Inneract Project, a San Francisco non-profit getting kids from marginalized communities excited about creating. Design is not only a channel for creativity but can also become a lucrative career.

The program has three main offerings – the Youth Design Academy, an 8-week course for middle schoolers; Learning Labs, which offers workshops, lectures, and studio tours for middle and high school students; and Designed, a docu-series about designers.


Photo: The Inneract Project


Facebook and Autodesk have partnered with Inneract to make their programs even more robust, which Woods says is just what the program needs. He wants the model to eventually go nationwide.

“We just haven’t had the resources to be able to dig as deep as we want to dig. It takes time and outreach,” Woods told TechCrunch. “Kids, parents, and administrators don’t really understand what design is entirely and how it fits in terms of not just an educational standpoint, but career standpoint,” Woods told TechCrunch.

Woods believes using cultural context is important for the program. For instance, inner-city kids often have an affinity for sports, so Woods once asked the students to design basketball tees and merchandise as a way to introduce design in a way that felt familiar.

“We want to always have this focus on underserved youth and communities and always have this focus on advocacy where we’re not only just teaching them but we’re actually going to where these communities are and learning about them, and asking them questions, and developing a program that’s important to them, and evolving this ecosystem of people all over the nation who are interested in giving back and who have these skills, and want to see kids succeed and get into design and tech fields,” Woods told TechCrunch.

It’s a win-win for the tech world, Facebook Head of Design, Luke Woods, told TechCrunch. “We all get better results when designers come together with unique perspectives.”


Photo: The Center for Innovative Justice and Technology.

Coco pixar animation American Resilience

Pixar’s Coco Performs Rare Feat For Hollywood, Intelligently Portrays Non-White Culture in Film

This calls for a celebration!

Pixar’s latest film Coco follows the misadventures of a musically-inclined boy who gets stuck in the land of the dead during Mexico’s celebration of Dia de los Muertos. There, he meets his great-great-grandfather, a talented musician himself, and embarks on a journey of self-discovery amid colorful, Mexican holiday-themed imagery.

The film is a hit among critics and fans, and for good reason: it’s not just cleverly written and thoughtfully told, but culturally appropriate to boot. Coco portrays a culture that is authentic and nuanced, a collaboration by people of many backgrounds and talents.

One of the film’s directors, Lee Unkrich – a filmmaker from Cleveland, Ohio responsible for Toy Story 2 – knew he needed to acknowledge his own inescapable biases and cultural blind spots if Coco was to be a true success. He was worried Mexicans would find his ‘outsider’ portrayal of their culture unacceptable and realized this was a film that had to literally transcend borders.

“I’m not Latino myself, so I knew this was going to be a huge responsibility on my shoulders to tell this story authentically and respectfully. From the very beginning that was paramount,” Unkrich told NPR’s Latino Voices. “There was a lot of adjustment along the way when people would talk about their abuelas (…) And that slowly shaped the story and slowly brought it to this more truthful place.”


Anderson (producer), Lee Unkrich (co-director) Adrian Molina (co-director
Left to right: Darla K. Anderson (producer), Lee Unkrich (co-director) Adrian Molina (co-director).


Unkrich asked for immense amounts of input from both cultural experts and friends, like Adrian Molina. Molina, a Mexican-American, wrote, unprompted, a scene for Unkrich to use in Coco. Unkrich was so impressed by the script that he brought Molina on as co-director.

“I couldn’t let this film not exist. I wanted so badly for it to happen,” Molina told Latino Voices.

The team left the confines of Pixar and traveled to rural areas outside of Oaxaca, spending days with families that became the inspiration for the film’s own family. They visited cobblers, mezcal distillers, mole chefs, and Papel Picado makers to understand their connections to family and Dia de los Muertos.

The film – like many who went to see it – is bilingual, dancing effortlessly between English and Spanish. And there are elements of Coco that anyone can identify with – family, life passions, and the care-free spirit of just being a kid.

“We’re just honored and grateful that we can bring something positive and hopeful into the world that can maybe do its own small part to dissolve and erode some of the barriers that there are between us,” Unkrich told the New York Times.

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