After Architecture for Humanity had to stop operations, many unpaid volunteers and regional chapters of the organization still wished to work together to create social change through design. Eventually, OAF was established to support these people and chapters. Additionally, the focus shifted away from primarily disaster response and towards more generally finding new ways for architects to work with systemically marginalized communities.
OAC’s work begins with the belief that every community should have a voice in the design of their built environment through participatory engagement and building power within communities. A US-based non-profit, OAC provides professional development for designers and architects to learn skills, knowledge, and self-awareness for community engagement, while building relationships and civic engagement in traditionally under-resourced communities. They provide customized training for organizations seeking to disrupt the status quo within professional and workplace practices.
One program of the organization, Open Architecture Collaborative Chapters, consists of groups of individuals and volunteers committed to serving their local communities. These groups form with a core leadership who produces projects, events, and other programming to support local mission-driven organizations and community groups.
Another program is “Pathways to Equity,” which is committed to encourage people to center equity and racial justice in architecture and design practices. The goal is to create transformative learning experiences, shifting the field towards anti-racism and equitable outcomes. To make the program accessible to everyone, participants are offered the choice of a two-part introductory webinar, a ten-week online course, and overall consulting for larger organizations. Additionally, Pathways to Equity hosts a 6-month project-based fellowship and learning experience that pairs local Bay Area practitioners with community partners.
In 2020, Pathways to Equity was the recipient of the NOMA, NAACP, SEED Award for Justice, Equity, Diversity Currently, the fellowship is on hold in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.