Today, the Oakland, Calif.–based public interest design nonprofit Open Architecture Collaborative (OAC) announced the launch of the seven-month-long Pathways to Equity fellowship dedicated to addressing issues of homelessness services, neighborhood identity, and environmental justice in the Bay Area. Created in collaboration with the nonprofit Association for Community Design, the program will coordinate 23 fellows to work with certain local community organizations to perform needs assessments, project definitions, and project execution from September 2018 until April 2019, according to a press release.

"Pathways to Equity fills the education and experience gap for those who want to contribute to the equitable development of their cities but lack in-depth skills or on-the-ground experience necessary to effectively work with society's most marginalized communities," the OAC explains in the release.

The fellows are professionals in various industries including architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, economic development, and affordable housing real estate development, and will work directly with organizations including the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, the Compass Family Services in San Francisco, St. Anthony’s Foundation in San Francisco, and a coalition of Oakland Chinatown organizations including the Chinatown Improvement Initiative, the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, and the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.

Under the co-direction of OAC executive director Garrett Jacobs and OAC adviser Shalini Agrawal, the fellows have already participated in four days of training from local experts with workshops on identity, institutionalized white supremacy, community engagement, and systemic oppression.

OAC has also partnered with design and architecture firms whose staff is interested in the program.

“Noll & Tam Architects is so pleased to be a firm partner in the groundbreaking Pathways to Equity program furthering social equity through community design engagement and hands on mentoring," Janet Tam, AIA, principal of Berkeley, Calif.–based Noll & Tam, said in the release. "It is so exciting to be part of a prototype model that brings together committed professionals at all stages of development, around a collective vision to create more inclusive, revitalized communities.”

While the Pathways to Equity fellowship is only in its pilot phase, OAC hopes to expand the program to other chapters and partners in the future.

This article has been updated since its original publication.