IiA 2021 & Envisioning an Anti-Racist World: Team Features

Student teams from across the University of Michigan worked for several months to imagine a future world–and a future campus– that is anti-racist and developed solutions through C-SED’s Innovation in Action Program. From building entrepreneural skills with youth in Ghana to tackling affordable senior housing to designing accessible and inclusive events, this cohort is excited to share their work for the chance to win $28,000 in prizes in the Innovation in Action Final Showcase on Friday April 6. Read more about a few of the teams who participated in the “Envisioning an Anti-Racist World” challenge track this year.

Plucky Comics

Who is Plucky Comics?
Plucky Comics is Nathan Alston Ross School of Business, MBA ’22 and
Daniella Gennaro Ross School of Business, School of Education MBA/MA ’22.

What is Plucky Comics?
Plucky Comics is a webapp that tells the story of Black Queer historical figures through the medium ofcomics. This is a teaching tool, that teachers can use in the classroom to provide this essential information in an innovative and creative way. Alongside the comics, students can click into individual speeches, stories, and writings from each of these individuals to learn about how they lived and what contributions they made to our society. This webapp will be scaffolded to the needs of elementary, middle, and high school students. Whether in class or at home, students will be able to access this webapp from any wifi-enabled device. Our vision is that Black Queer children will finally see themselves represented and all children can understand the vast accomplishments of Black Queer historical figures. We came up with this idea based on Nathan’s work as a Black Queer artist and Daniella’s experience teaching 7th graders who had limited access to LGBTQ history.

What have you learned working on this?
It has been a complete joy to work on this piece. I think we have learned that the best way to reveal our individual gifts has been to pursue projects that inspire us. Plucky Comics and working together has been time-consuming, but when you love the project and your collaborators, it barely feels like work.


Who is Shift?
Shift is Amoolya Kumar, College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS) department at UM-Dearborn; Gabriela Chen, School of Public Health, Rackham Graduate Studies; Kelly Chan, School of Education; and Robin Kocher, School of Information

What is Shift?
Shift is a personalized platform dedicated to helping individuals become more anti-racist one day at a time. Our goal is to encourage and support them in their shift to a commitment to lifelong learning and a growth mindset. Through our humanized, user-centric design, we aim to improve trust, transparency, accountability, and culture in communities.


AunRika Tucker-Shabazz, LSA Sociology

What is the Challenge you are working on addressing?
For a long time, aging people and their families have had to reluctantly pay out of pocket to finance senior living. But it doesn’t have to be like this. Currently, public resources do exist to reduce the cost of living, but the design of most programs are inaccessible or unsustainable given where we are going as a population: The US Census reported that by 2030, 1 in 5 citizens will be over the age of 65. This means, for the first time in American history the number of adults will outweigh the number of children. 

What is Lifelink?
At Lifelink, we believe aging should be accessible and affordable for all. We make getting older easier, empowering you to live life: locked and loaded. Instead of slipping and falling into assisted living, our company helps low income families take their first steps to senior living. Our “LifeLink Library” features multi sector, human centered design that revolutionizes residential housing towards a more just future. 

What have you learned?
I learned so much during this design process. It was so important for me to learn how to push myself into a new zone of development, and try collaborative work that combines science, art in the creative process. I enjoyed so much being able to artistically engage senior housing, not just scientifically and not just as a policy problem or a public health concern either.  In a lot of ways I left with more questions than I did answers: What can art bring to the conversation of affordable housing and assisted living? In what ways can I use my research analytical skills to ask a more empowering question about senior housing? 

More than anything, as a critical sociologist I was able to engage my ability to challenge knowledge production about marginalized groups in society. as an anti racist innovator, I believe that critical sociology is the future of social problem solving. Socially-engaged design is exactly where sociologists belong: it’s not just a space for historians, urban planners, or poverty solution discussions. I felt so empowered and encouraged as an academic intellectual to really try new ways of storytelling.

Designing Access

Who is Designing Access?
Designing access is five students from the School of Social Work: Sofie Aaron, Amy Belfer, Flavio Di Stefano, Hannah Lefton, and Callie Torkelson.

What is the challenge you are working on?
Designing Access aims to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion by providing resources and information for folks who are planning events—creating events that are inclusive and welcoming to all improves outreach and impact. Many events and programs are not inclusive to all members of the community, they often unintentionally exclude people of certain identities or backgrounds. When groups are diverse and everyone is included, there are better outcomes and opportunities for all.

What have you learned in the process?
While discussing what accessibility can look like with over fifty stakeholders, we have learned that it is a broad and nuanced word. Accessibility encompasses getting people to the physical (or virtual) place where things are happening, making sure they are comfortable participating in those places, providing accommodations to encourage participation, and following up after the event. Accessibility can be hindered by physical spaces, monetary requirements, other responsibilities that participants have, language, norms about professionalism, cultural and religious practices, and more. While the barriers to accessibility can feel overwhelming, we have also learned that making events accessible is possible when people approach event planning intentionally, involve community members, and expand their knowledge about using accessible practices.


Who is on the Team?
Jeremy Atuobi, College of Engineering & Gloria Gyakari, School of Information

What is the challenge you set out to work on?
Our challenge is the United Nations sustainability goals of decent work and economic growth, from experience we have seen our families and friends back home deal with a lot of barriers, and we believe Visionary is a method to alleviate those issues with our business venture.

What is visionary?
Visionary aims to be a collaborative, co-working community space where young people in Accra, Ghana can develop their entrepreneurial ventures through access to practitioners, professionals, and business development toolkits to accelerate their visions. Visionary wishes to promote equity by eliminating the obstacles that hinder Ghanaians from envisioning themselves as entrepreneurs, let alone thriving in the space.

What have you learned in the process?
The power of storytelling, how to effectively collaborate digitally, and how to iterate ideas as a part of perfecting design thinking.

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