How Can Design and Tech Increase Economic Mobility?

with Brittany Bellinger of the Youth Design Center

Research shows that 50% of job opportunities cite creativity as a critical skill. Brittany Bellinger, Program Director of the Youth Design Center, joins host Tetiana Anderson to discuss efforts to provide young people the technical and leadership tools they need to compete in the innovation economy and be leaders in the community.

Posted on:

Jan 30, 2022

Hosted by: Tetiana Anderson
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Anderson: What does this mural have to do with the future of work? Well, it's part of a program designed to help young people learn to channel their creativity, which has a surprising link to entrepreneurship and success in business. Hello and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. Research shows that 50% of job opportunities cite creativity as a critical skill. And the Brooklyn-based Youth Design Center believes that tapping young people's creativity will help them go far. And here to talk about all of that is the organization's program director, Brittany Bellinger. Brittany, thanks for being here.

Bellinger: Thanks for having me, Tetiana.

Anderson: Brittany, tell us just a little bit about your Brooklyn neighborhood and why the work of the Youth Design Center is so needed in that community.

Bellinger: Absolutely. I'm actually a native New Yorker and born and raised here in East Brooklyn, in Brownsville. I think everyone who is from the city and beyond understands that neighborhood as being underrepresented and definitely underserved throughout the years. It has the highest concentration of public housing. It has so much negative media around it, usually related to crime or violence. But it's actually a very lovely, thriving community. I think that Youth Design Center being a part of East Brooklyn has really helped to transform that narrative, that there are certain things that come out of Brownsville, out of East Brooklyn, and a lot of that is beautiful, beautiful things, beautiful young people and really wonderful community ideas.

Anderson: What are some of the things that the students are learning when they join the center and how are they using that knowledge once they actually finish the program?

Bellinger: When young people come through our doors, they are learning a plethora of different disciplines within art, design, and technology, everything from digital media to Web development to 3-D design and architecture. They are learning how to use these hard skills to create really meaningful, community-based projects that can shift the world around them.

Anderson: And what about some of your favorites? Can you tell us a little bit about those projects?

Bellinger: Yes. I have a ton of favorite projects. We're known mostly for our spatial-design projects, but we literally do all kinds of things. One of our projects through our creative agency most recently has been with the Pitkin BID. One of our young people created, art-directed, shot, and edited a whole entire look book for the small businesses along the BID and along the avenue, which is beautiful and gorgeous. We also actually designed a few murals, one of them being a mural in Osborn Plaza, formerly a dead-end street and now a whole hub of community life. And a few years after we designed that mural, we actually worked with City College students and our young people to create friendship benches, which created different interactivity among the residents.

Anderson: Your organization talks about this idea that creativity actually does lead to opportunity. So explain that for people who aren't familiar with that connection.

Bellinger: Yes. Of course. I think that creativity usually has been linked to things that are just for fun or hobbies, but actually, at Youth Design Center, we think of creativity as a gateway to all kinds of opportunity -- to lucrative businesses, to entrepreneurship, to sometimes secondary education and all kinds of worlds of things. It is actually a tool for problem solving. It's a tool for innovation. A lot of companies are looking for people with creativity as a skill to help them move their businesses and outcomes forward.

Anderson: So that said, how much of a sort of model is what you're doing in Brooklyn for other communities across the country?

Bellinger: Absolutely. I think that the model that we have of being both a nonprofit and a youth-led creative agency as well as an innovation hub is an important model to create in different neighborhoods that kind of mirror what is happening in East Brooklyn and in Brownsville. Both using the agency as a funnel for young people to create opportunities through local businesses and creating local partnerships is important. But I also think that really taking our curriculum, taking our hands-on approach, taking our community-based project work and really transforming other communities that look like ours, whether that be Detroit or Oakland, I think could work in different ways, especially when it comes to addressing economic mobility or some of the socioeconomic issues communities like ours are facing.

Anderson: I know people are going to want to know more about what you do, so what's your website? Where can they go?

Bellinger: If anyone wants to know anything further about our program offerings or any of our projects that you were interested in hearing about, you can go to our website, which is youthdesigncenter.org.

Anderson: Brittany Bellinger of the Youth Design Center. Thank you so much for being here.

Bellinger: Thank you so much for having me.

Anderson: And thanks to our viewers as well for watching. As always, for more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, log on to comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.

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