The State of Community Design

January 2015

Based on data published in our Community Design Directory, these charts and maps describe what we know about the current state of this growing field. Visit the directory to learn more about individual organizations, and use this form if you'd like to add your organization's information.

The directory includes information on over 200 organizations using their design expertise to advance the public good. These organizations are based in 45 different U.S. states, territories, and Canadian provinces. They serve communities in 35 countries around the world and 36 U.S. states.

You can zoom in on each map, and hover over any shaded dot or area to see organization names.




Most of the community design organizations in this directory are based in architecture. (For academic organizations, this means the program or center is housed in a school of architecture; and for nonprofits and private sector organizations, this means that the organization describes themselves as being affiliated with architecture.) 

These are mostly small organizations. Nearly 70% reported having 1 to 5 part time staff. Among academic organizations, the vast majority--nearly 80%--have 6 to 10 faculty members. A small minority of organizations have more than 10 staff members, although larger boards are more common.

The most frequent communities served were described by organizations as underserved, urban, rural, and minority. These organizations are diverse, however, and others focus on serving veterans, the ill, disabled, elderly, youth, and communities in crisis.

While nonprofits and non-governmental organizations are the most common type of collaborator that organizations mentioned, many others work with different levels of government, individuals, and informal groups.

Note that for this and many other data points, organizations may indicate multiple responses--for example, a program hosted by both architecture and landscape architecture departments could indicate both; and most organizations indicated working with more than one community or organization type.



Organizations in our directory most commonly describe their projects as civic/public, but planning, landscape, buildings, and housing are also quite common. Among academic organizations, shown in pink, landscape projects are most common, followed by civic/public, housing, and infrastructure projects.

In terms of services and expertise offered by academic organizations, design, research, and environmental sustainability are the most common. Workshops and community organizing are most common among nonprofits.

Organizations based in architecture are much more likely to offer design-build services than organizations based in other disciplines. Organizations based in urban planning/design offer research more often than other forms of expertise.



More organizations in this directory were founded in the 2000s than in any other decade. Note that, since this chart is organized by decade, the '2010 - present' segment is based only on four years rather than 10.



Not surprisingly, 'Design,' 'Community,' 'architecture, 'urban,' and 'environment' are among the most frequently used words in the mission statements throughout the directory. To read individual mission statements, download the directory PDF or view the online directory and hover over the colored icon for each organization.




The most common forms of participation for students, recent graduates, and fellows in academic community design centers and programs are elective courses and positions paid through a stipend or wage. Nonprofits are most likely to offer volunteer or extracurricular opportunities.

Very few community design organizations offer services at market rate, with the majority operating on a negotiated fee or pro bono basis.

Academic organizations that offer services on a negotiated fee basis are most likely to pay participants a stipend or wage, while those offering pro bono services are more likely to offer participation through elective courses for credit. In the nonprofit sector, volunteer participation is the most common regardless of client fee structures.

Not shown here, we also found that organizations funded by a home academic institution or nonprofit organization are more likely to offer pro-bono services, while those funded by public or private grants are more likely to charge fees.
For information on individual organizations, please visit the Community Design Directory. Comments, questions, suggestions? Contact Lian Chikako Chang, ACSA's Director of Research + Information.


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