Launched by Slack, Next Chapter aims to help formerly incarcerated people in the United States find jobs—and help fill tech companies’ talent pipelines with engaged employees they might never have interacted with otherwise. The messaging platform giant works with The Last Mile to bring on graduates of the nonprofit’s software engineering training program and then offers financial support, mentorship and re-entry services. The three participants from the first year of the pilot became full-time Slack employees. And in mid-2020, the company expanded the project by onboarding more Silicon Valley mega-names, which ultimately translated to putting 21 participants to work at 11 companies, including Affirm, Zoom, Dropbox and Square.
The Diversity in Design project was born out of a painful recognition: There aren’t enough Black creators in the world of design. Founded in June, the industry collaborative is spearheaded by renowned U.S. furniture maker Herman Miller—creating a force of 20 companies, including Adobe, Levi Strauss and Wolff Olins. As part of the initiative, members pledge to forge career opportunities for Black designers, both within their own companies and through partnerships, education and grants. One of the first milestones: an industry event in September on creating an inclusive design ecosystem.
Winnipeg Art Gallery, one of Canada’s oldest civic art institutions, added a new Inuit art center in March. Qaumajuq simultaneously expanded the facility’s collection while also acknowledging and attempting to dismantle the colonial history of the artwork within its walls. Project owners say the gallery is “not only a building, it is a cultural venue for Inuit in Canada and a beacon of Inuit agency.” And they worked with local artists, Indigenous advisers and community stakeholders to ensure that ethos is reflected in the new structure. The glass lobby of Qaumajuq—which means “it is bright, it is lit” in Inuktitut—connects to the existing museum on all four floors. Inside are 14,000 pieces of Inuit art, including the largest collection of contemporary Inuit art in the world.
The beauty industry has a complicated and problematic history of perpetuating unrealistic and exclusionary standards. U.K. consumer products giant Unilever is out to change that with its Positive Beauty project. Launched in March, the initiative aims to establish a new normal—which includes, among other things, banning the word “normal” from its advertising and product labels. The company also pledges not to digitally alter models’ body or skin in ads and to increase portrayals of people from underrepresented groups. One of the first products, Degree Inclusive, is an antiperspirant designed for people with vision impairments and upper limb disabilities that can make turning a stick or pushing down on a spray a challenge.
Diversity isn’t just the right thing for companies to do—it’s the smart thing. And the Canadian government wants to encourage that thinking, launching the 50-30 Challenge. The goal? Encourage organizations to diversify their boards and senior management positions to include at least 50 percent women and 30 percent people from marginalized groups, including Black and Indigenous people, those who identify as LGBTQ2 and people with disabilities. The government debuted the CA$33 million initiative to develop diversity-building tools, programs and resources in December 2020 with four dozen corporate and nonprofit partners. Within nine months of launch, more than 1,300 organizations had signed up for the challenge.
The white cane has been the gold standard of mobility tools for the visually impaired for nearly 100 years. Now Strap Technologies is on the verge of delivering a revolutionary tech-forward alternative: a lightweight, chest-worn device that guides users by calculating the proximity of physical environments. From a lab in Guadalajara, Mexico and an office in Austin, Texas, USA, the company has been working on the project for three years—borrowing some of the same sensing technologies behind autonomous driving, combined with an intuitive haptic language that guides users via vibrations. Slated to be delivered to the first customers by the end of the year, the hands-free device (also called Strap) could offer “wearable autonomy,” as the creators like to call it.
The three-year project to build the first museum dedicated to U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes serves as a powerful case study in inclusive design. Visitors to the museum in Colorado Springs, Colorado take an elevator to the top floor and descend through the galleries via a wide spiraling ramp that easily accommodates passing wheelchairs. Conceptualized by U.S. architecture studios Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Anderson Mason Dale, the structure also incorporates glass guardrails that allow for visibility from a low height and benches designed to hold a user’s cane. The exhibits themselves also offer an inclusive experience: Guests can choose the features they need —like audio-described video and high-contrast fonts—at registration, and RFID technology does the rest.
It wasn’t the hot hue or the celeb sightings sparking the big buzz at this year’s Australian Fashion Week. It was the organizer’s decision to lean into diversity and inclusion, starting with an opening ceremony held by First Nations elders, along with multiple panel discussions and two catwalk shows starring Indigenous designers. The event marked the debut of First Nations Fashion + Design, a collective of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designers, with a show featuring Indigenous models and managed by an all-Indigenous production crew. And then the following day the Indigenous Fashion Projects took to the runway.
Dark Matter University isn’t a traditional brick-and-mortar school. It’s a network of architecture experts and educators looking to create “an anti-racist model of design education and practice.” Launched in 2020, the project is led by Black, Indigenous and people of color professionals spanning the Americas—connected by a need to drive change not just in how built spaces are designed, but how and to whom architecture is taught. To turn that high-level strategy into reality, educators lead virtual classes aligned to their vision of design justice as part of their college courses.
NASA is set to send the first woman and first person of color to walk on the Moon by 2024—but that’s not the only major statement of inclusion the U.S. space agency is making. In September, it released First Woman: NASA’s Promise for Humanity. Produced in collaboration with the National Institute of Aerospace, the graphic novel series will tell the fictional story of Callie Rodriguez, the first woman to explore the moon—along with her robot sidekick RT. Along the way, readers will learn about the technology used to travel to, land on and explore the moon. But these aren’t your standard graphic novels. Readers can engage with virtual and augmented reality experiences created by U.S. creative agency Bully Entertainment or download an audio version. NASA also plans to release a Spanish-language version of the of the inaugural 40-page comic.