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Goings-on in our organization and in our community


2023 Year of Stories

We come into the new year with deliberate joy and hope. It can take focus to find abundance and lightness in this moment. And yet, that is the work we do together: imagine different ways of being and doing in the midst of norms that do not serve, nurture healing where there is trauma, seek growth where there is oppression.  With gratitude, we look to the people we’ve partnered with for purpose and wisdom in this work. We are honored to share lessons from a dozen folks that we’re carrying with us for 2024.

Read them here! ︎︎︎


2022 Year of Stories

Another year, another year of stories post! 2022 was a time of transformation and growth, rooted in a deepening understanding of self. We grounded ourselves in the ways of working that we commit to embodying: as individuals, in teams, and as a firm. We had many teachers this year who modeled how they act on their values, both in daily acts and in culminating moments. Here, we share just a few of the lessons that have stuck in our heads and hearts. We look forward to the next 12 months of making change – to self and systems – together.

Read them here! ︎︎︎


Biotech Pathways Webinar

On Thursday, December 8, we held a public webinar to share the results of our youth-led summer research team’s work on pathways into biotech careers. With insights drawn from over 85 student interviews and surveys, the team’s findings touched upon youth awareness of the industry and offered tangible opportunities for industry, nonprofits, and schools to shape their work around student values and aspirations.

Over 40 people attended the event, including folks from industry, high schools, colleges and non-profits. At the end of the presentation, participants shared reactions, takeaways, and implications. Conversation was buzzing! We decided that it warranted creating a second space for further digestion and cross-pollination—stay tuned for Part 2 of the conversation!

Explore our team’s findings →


Systems-Focused Strategic Planning

Resolved: The Boston Debate League (BDL) is poised for transformational impact as it enters its next 15 years.

Claim: The BDL asked Agncy to support in co-designing its next strategic plan, believing that our design approach is an opportunity to push itself.

Evidence: In our initial work together, the BDL team has been stretched to think about conditions across the debate ecosystem, broadening possibilities for its sphere of influence.

Reasoning: Our systems approach to strategic planning will help the BDL team to expand how it considers its potential work and impact.

Learn more about the Boston Debate League →


Student Design Consultancy

We spend most of our days thinking about our partners, so it was a privilege to have a design approach applied to our own organization. Student teams from Dearborn STEM Academy used the District C model – which has students solve real problems for real businesses – to help us understand: how do we structure our organization to uphold our values of anti-racism and shared power?

The Dearborn design teams offered us organizational models focused on shared expertise, personal accountability and clarity of information across our team. Their insight that leadership is not the same as hierarchy helped unstick us as we design ourselves to suit how we’ve grown.

Learn more about the District C model →


Design Museum Everywhere Feature

Design Museum Everywhere magazine’s latest issue on Design in Government features an article written by our very own Candace Brooks! In it, she reflects on her experience of collaborating with students, caregivers, teachers and leaders from Boston Public Schools to co-design the district’s new Vision of a Graduate - a refresh of the district’s College, Career & Life Readiness Definition that Agncy helped create in 2017. In her piece, Candace elevates why co-design is so central to our equity approach… and how it gets messy!

Read Candace’s article online at Design Museum Everywhere →


Increasing Access to Careers in Biotechnology

This summer we hosted a youth-led team of researchers to identify opportunities to strengthen pathways into biotech careers. Boston is a biotech hub, with over 1,000 biotech companies in the Greater Boston area. Access to biotech careers, however, is not equitable for the region’s population; for example, just 6% of life science college graduates were Black or African American in Massachusetts in 2020, according to a recent MassBioEd report.

The team, led by Jeralmi Canela (Dearborn STEM Academy ‘20; Penn State ‘25), managing Jared Costlychong (Dearborn STEM Academy ‘23) and Marlise Teixeira (Dearborn STEM Academy ‘23), learned from teens across Boston through one-on-one interviews and surveys. The insights from their research identify opportunities for industry, nonprofits, and schools to shape their work around student values and aspirations.

Learn more by registering for the team's webinar on December 8 →


Redesigning Juvenile Justice

Agncy was awarded a Community Empowerment and Reinvestment Grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development. We’re working with young people and families who have been affected by the criminal legal system to reimagine ways that the system can serve our communities. We’ll be sharing updates later this year, so keep an eye out!

Read more information about the grant here ︎︎︎


Restorative Justice Training

Candace, Savanna and Augusta completed (other team members are in the process) Circle Keeper Restorative Justice training, a 12-week process with the Transformational Prison Project during which participants learn how to facilitate restorative justice circles. The learning was profound and has impacted our own design facilitation as we gained skills in supporting groups in addressing harm and making space for healing and accountability. Checking out feeling humble and empowered.

Learn more about Transformational Prison Project here︎︎︎

Boston Society of Architects Exhibition

The Agncy team is featured in the exhibition “Now What?! Advocacy, Activism & Alliances in American Architecture Since 1968” at the Boston Society of Architects. We’re in the Changemakers section, alongside other local folks and friends who are using design to address racism and injustice. Thanks for the nod, BSA!

Learn more about the BSA exhibition here︎︎︎

It’s Our Birthday!

Today is Agncy’s 6th birthday! We’ve been too busy to stop and celebrate, but feeling joyful and and grateful for another trip around the sun using design to reduce structural inequity.

2021: A Year of Stories

A great privilege of our work is that we are required to be ever learning and unlearning. 2021 was a year of emergence, perspective shifts and questioning things we had understood to be stable.

We did this unlearning at the side of wise and wonderful folks. As the new year begins, we celebrate and reflect on these stories of our work together.

Read the stories here ︎︎︎ 

MassArt Departmental Redesign

Massachusetts College of Art and Design started its fall term back in person, with the Communications Design department beginning to integrate the work that we did with their community last winter and spring. Our work together focused on how to make the department’s experiences center belonging for students of color. The department is now working to put these changes into action: they’ve made two new hires, sourced curricula focused on Black and Latinx designers, and set up internal structures to act upon other recommendations such as a scope and sequence of critique and practices to help guide conversations about race.

“I have been teaching at MassArt for [many] years. I love this place, feel grateful every day for my colleagues, and I treasure our hard-working students. But I have some growing to do if I'm going to serve all of our students equally well.”   
— MassArt Faculty Member


Design Museum Podcast: Design Firms Focused on Social Good

Our director, Augusta,  joined a live Design Museum Everywhere podcast on July 23 to talk with host Sam Aquillano and Michael Brennan, Co-Founder/CEO at Civilla about how design agencies are marrying design and social impact. The  episode is now available online — give it a listen and let us know what you think!

Listen to the podcast ︎︎︎

Agncy at Gdynia Design Days

Our work with Boston Public Schools’ Office of Recruitment was included in a European design exhibit this summer. The Teacher Purpose Engine is a framework to support educators in reflecting on their purpose(s) in their work and using these values to spur community, development, and reflection. The exhibition, “When Education Lasts a Lifetime,” was part of Gdynia Design Days and included a range of educational innovations from around the world.

Visit the exhibition website ︎︎︎

Community-Centered Design Research with University of Michigan

It was fun to spend a week with a team of graduate students from University of Michigan’s Integrative Design Program this summer. The team came to Boston to do fieldwork with firms engaged in community-centered design work, spending a week with Agncy and then a week with the Design Studio for Social Intervention. They helped us reflect on our practices and see how aligned our own team is around values like honoring different types of expertise, meeting people where they’re at, and investing in the time it takes to build meaningful relationships.

Learn more about their program ︎︎︎

Taking Time to Rest

We closed for two weeks at the end of August. The team took time to do things like: learn lantern building, swim in lakes, visit museums and drink fancy cocktails in New York, camp out, move, and other more or less restful things.

Thriving Students, Thriving Community: OUSD's Strategic Plan

The Oakland Board of Education voted on June 30th to approve Oakland Unified’s 3-year strategic plan. The planning process modeled the district’s community schools approach, with district and community stakeholders working collaboratively to build a plan that is truly with, by and for the community. The plan centers Black and Brown excellence to nurture thriving students and thriving communities.

Learn more about OUSD’s strategic plan ︎︎︎


Boston Medical Center Whole Family Care Core77 Award

Boston Medical Center is New England's largest safety net hospital, serving the region's vulnerable communities and patients. The Center for the Urban Child and Healthy Family is focused on revolutionizing the model of care for pediatric patients and their families. Our work together to take a family-centered approach to designing a new pediatric practice recently won a service design award from Core77.

View the awards website ︎︎︎


Cambridge Families of Color Coalition

We recently celebrated in-person with our friends from the Cambridge Families of Color Coalition and Cambridge Public Schools. This team has been working together to design a new platform for district programming and content for caregivers. We supported them by shaping a process that centers caregivers of color as the designers of this new model. We laughed a lot, cried a bit and built a community together.


It’s Agncy’s 5th birthday!

What are you enjoying working on / thinking about / reading about these days?
  • “Mechanical cards and interactive mail
  • Making my way around every part of Boston on bike
  • Cat x cardboard”
— Savanna Li, designer

“I've been drawing a lot from memory in my free time while listening to many great Leftist podcasts. This has led me to educate myself on radical movements in the United States to help me better articulate my ideas to the people surrounding me. Right now, I am reading Revolution in the Air by Max Elbaum. I'm only 60 pages in, but I'm still recommending it to everyone.”
— Aedan Clark, designer

What’s a moment that encapsulates for you what it feels like to work with Agncy?
“When I think of Agncy, I think of how every day felt exciting and new. I really miss the conversations I had with all of you and the unique perspective everyone had.”
— Aedan Clark, designer

“I don't know if I can name just one but it for sure involved a whiteboard.”
— Julianna Stockton, math educational expert

What changed for you because of your work with Agncy?
“A greater belief in the real possibility to ‘be the change you want to see in the world’. It's so exciting to find a group of people & organization willing to rethink the regular ‘ways we do business’ in order to a) be excellent to each other and b) do meaningful work they really care about.”
— Julianna Stockton, math educational expert

“My workflow changed and working there really helped me discover that the first try isn't supposed to be great.”
— Jeralmi Canela, 2019 high school intern

"Those teachers from our project together are very present in my work with teachers today."
— Lisa Jones, math instructional expert

What’s changed because of your work in the past 5 years?
“I am really proud of the fact that the signage I designed for my school's dining halls to encourage composting and discourage food waste are still in use today, and the landfill diversion rate is above 90% as a result!!“
— Micah Epstein, designer 

What are your hopes for the next 5 years?
“Another Agncy project!!  I have a pipe dream of connecting a teacher preparation with a gap year (post-high school) program where kids get some inquiry-based STEM experiences to better prepare for persisting in STEM majors in college and the recently-high-school students serve as co-designers of the teacher prep program. In general just want to get involved with more youth-led, adult-supported organizations & design processes.”
— Julianna Stockton, math educational expert


Designing the Dearborn Senior Capstone Project 

The Dearborn STEM Academy has shaped its programming and curriculum to offer students career pathways, integrating core academic subjects with technical education. The culmination of students’ journey is a capstone project, with the topic, learning plan and outcomes determined and designed by students. We worked with the pathways team at the Dearborn to design this capstone learning experience. 

“Working with Agncy to build our senior Capstone Project was transformative. As a teacher, I find myself stuck between trying to create space for all students to express themselves, and putting up enough safeguards and scaffolds to ensure all students can access the experience and the content. My default is structure and control. Agncy pushed me back to the heart of learning I had lost in my own sea of rigidity: exploration and curiosity.

With their thoughtfully posed questions and powerful prototypes, we were able to co-construct a senior capstone experience that truly centers students learning in their own self-defined areas of curiosity and passion, while also supporting students in developing those need-to-have life skills of planning, drafting, receiving feedback, and revising. By the end of our working sessions, I was a better teacher and as a result, my students had the opportunity for significantly more joyful and self-directed learning. ” 
—Chelsea Volke, Dearborn Pathways Curriculum Director & AmeriCorps Program Director

Here’s a song that came out of one student’s capstone work...

Check it out! ︎︎︎


Mapping of Boston’s Systems of Justice and Violence

We’ve been working with Janelle Ridley and the City of Boston to map the many processes, stakeholders, and dynamics of the justice system, with the goal of providing opportunities for greater transparency within these complex systems. Over the past two years, we’ve used system mapping as a tool for change and empowerment.

Design Museum Everywhere’s Spring 2021 issue, the Policing Issue, features an online exclusive article from the Agncy team about this work...  

Read it here ︎︎︎


Nubian Neighborhood Network Awarded Boston Children’s Hospital Phase 2 Grant  

Our buddies in the Dudley Street neighborhood have recently been awarded a next phase of the Children’s Health Equity grant from Children’s Hospital.

We’ve joined this collaboration to support the work of Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, Project Hope and Boston Plan for Excellence. As BPE Executive Director, Jesse Solomon says, “First I thought, what is this design firm, why do I need that? But they help me take the 10 things in my head and make them crystalize into a vision.”

Learn more about the CHEq grant ︎︎︎


2020 Year of Stories    

This time of challenge has affirmed our gratitude for the work that we do — and, most of all, for the people we get to learn from and think with in this work. Each project brings us into orbit with new folks in our community and connects us with new communities.

As we start a new year, we want to hold up some of the people we've worked with over the past 12 months and what we have learned from each of them.

We hope that you take a moment to reflect with us — and also to be inspired and affirmed by the power and wisdom that live in our communities.  

Read them here! ︎︎︎

Our mission is to use design to reduce structural inequity in America. Agncy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.  © 2020 Agncy Design Inc. 
Boston, Massachusetts