Policy and Imagination: Placekeeping in Portland

"How artists and city managers can envision the future city!"

A panel discussion in relation to the recent exhibition at Open Signal titled "Annexation & Assimilation: Exploring the Archives East of 82nd Avenue," by Sabina Haque. The program features speakers Sabina Haque from Portland City Archives, Leslie Lum from the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, Candice Kita from the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, and CEO and founding partner of Design + Culture Joy Alise Davis.

Crains Business | The business of race and place in today's communities

Despite efforts in recent years to support its growing minority entrepreneurial class, Portland still is referred to as the Whitest City in America. But Portland is determined to shed that designation. Fostering wealth creation within communities of color and low-income neighborhoods is key to Portland’s goals of becoming known as the most competitive and equitable city in the world.

Joy Alise Davis, CEO and founding partner of Design+Culture Lab, is a rising star in this effort of creating enterprise with the aim of advancing positive social change. Davis’ community design firm unites culture, place and race in projects ranging from Portland’s first African American City Plan to connecting with immigrant communities on changes to the Powell-Division corridor.  Crain’s Portland spoke with Davis on the importance of community engagement, the evolution of design and in a nod to this week’s holiday, the inspiring work of Martin Luther King Jr.

Read More Here

A Founder Roundtable: The Challenges & Opportunities For Women Entrepreneurs of Color

By Megan Burns

In February, Making Oregon hosted a roundtable discussion with three Portland, Oregon founders, Joy Alise Davis of Design+Culture Lab, Paige Hendrix Buckner of ClientJoy, and Lynn Le of Society Nine. Lead by Joy Alise Davis, the founders shared their personal startup stories and how they stay motivated in tough times, and talk about the entrepreneurial challenges and opportunities for women of color.

Listen to the podcast here

Elevating Impact Summit 2016

Written by Megan Burns

Joy Alise Davis was one of the speakers for the SOLD OUT event Elevating Impact Summit on February 5, 2016. She joined a group of pragmatic, creative people who are designing new solutions to pressing social and environmental issues and creating value for their companies, communities, and society at large. These social entrepreneurs are finding new ways to make a difference while changing how business is done. Impact Entrepreneurs' Elevating Impact Summit celebrated and shared new approaches to generating social and environmental impact across business, social, public, and academic sectors.

The full day program included a social innovation PitchFest; candid keynotes with renowned social entrepreneurs; diverse perspectives on funding for social impact; how an intrapreneurial company is partnering with employers to lower national recidivism; a look at the power of zip codes vs. genetic codes in lifelong health, and an exploration of the often untold risks, failures, and first steps to creating social change.

Built Oregon Mag | Working in the intersection between identity and place: A Q&A with Design+Culture Lab


By Mitch Daugherty

Joy Alise Davis had recently graduated from Parsons The New School of Design when an observation led her to form Design+Culture Lab, a research-based social lab dedicated to the transformation of neighborhoods through collaborative design strategies, while addressing complex spatial issues of cultural, racial and ethnic inequality. Joy will be a speaker at the Portland State University Elevating Impact event this week, and Built Oregon sat down with her to learn a bit more about the roots of Design+Culture Lab.


Read More on at

WIATAT | Episode 6: What Is Equity Pt. 2

By Megan Burns

Recorded on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, What Is Equity Pt. 2 is a reflection of our countries understanding of Equity and Justice. Joy Alise Davis joins fellow WIATAT team members Dr. Adonia Lugo, and Alexis Gabriel to discuss how and where the word equity is used and where the word should be taking us as.

Listen to the episode here


Our February issue features an interview with Charlie Brown, CEO of Context Partners, a design agency that leverages community building to grow brands and organizations.

Community design as a business model appears to be flourishing. One of the newest entrants on the scene is Design+Culture Lab, a Portland startup that zeroes in on the intersection between race, culture and place. The lab’s projects are eclectic. Led by energetic, 26-year-old owner Joy Alise Davis, the three-person team is helping craft Portland’s first African-American city plan, convene immigrant communities around the soon-to-be revamped Powell-Division corridor and draft neighborhood design guidelines aimed at preserving light in the Division street district.

“The way we are designing cities is changing,” Davis says. “We are no longer going to be architects planning in silos behind closed doors. We are going to have to engage the public. Sometimes communities are doing more designing than the trained experts.”

Read More Here

Streetroots | Breaking down the fourth wall

On a cold Saturday morning in a dance studio under the Hawthorne Bridge, a group of a dozen or so amateur actors gathered for the first of a two-day Theater of the Oppressed workshop hosted by Living Stages Theatre, a nonprofit, social action-focused theater. Participants gathered with a common mission: To create a piece of theater addressing their own experiences with homelessness and “root shock” for Living Stages’ upcoming Forum Theater Convergence, a festival featuring pieces of theater in which audiences are invited to intervene in the actions presented on stage.


Read More Here

WIATAT | Episode 2: Planning’s Racism Problem

By Megan Burns

Joy Alise Davis hosts a conversation with Dr. Marisa Zapata and Dr. Lisa Bates about racism, equity, and the role—past, present, and possible—of urban planning.

Dr. Lisa Bates is a planner and is an associate professor at the Toulan School of Urban Studies & Planning of Portland State University. She does research related to housing policy and planning, particularly focusing on social justice issues, including understanding how inequitable outcomes may arise from institutionalized racism in policy design and implementation.

Dr. Marisa Zapata is an Assistant Professor of Land-use Planning at the Toulan School of Urban Studies & Planning of Portland State University. As an educator, scholar, and planner, Dr. Zapata is committed to achieving spatially-based social justice by preparing planners to act in the face of the uncertain and inequitable futures we face. She believes how we use land reflects our social and cultural values, and is especially concerned about equitable planning for uncertain futures in highly diverse communities.

Listen to the podcast here

Why Isn't Anyone Talking About This - Introduction

By Megan Burns

Why Isn’t Anyone Talking About This? is a new podcast founded in Portland, Oregon that takes an inquisitive, authentic look into the relationship between justice and the built environment. Hosting a cast of leaders, fighters, and everyday people hoping and working for change, this intelligent podcast challenges, unapologetically, social norms, customs, and ideologies surrounding the built environment.

Design+Culture Labs co-Founder and CEO, Joy Alise Davis, is one of the ten founding team members of the podcast. She hosted one and was invited as a guest in episodes regarding equity and racism in planning.


Saturday we did something crazy!

While speaking at the PDX Summit : Social innovation , our founder/owner announced our new initiative, Plus+.  After a year of practice, we wanted to establish a formal research initiative investigating the intersectionality between the built environment and identity (race, ethnicity and culture) .

More details to come in 2016!

Farewell to Renae

One year ago, our founding partner Joy Alise Davis asked Renae Reynolds to join the management team at Design+Culture Lab. Two friends embarked on a journey and through a shared vision they were able to explore their dreams and materialize them in reality. Design+Culture Lab is the true embodiment of their passion and mission. However, this year marks the departure of Partner and New York Principal Renae Reynolds. With love in her heart she bids Design+Culture Lab farewell and embarks on a new leg of her journey in research with the USDA, US Forest Service on and innovative project entitled the Landscapes of Resilience.

“I will alway value the time spent learning and growing as a part of D+C Lab”- Renae Reynolds    

Good Luck Renae! Thank you for a great year! 

Complete Neighborhoods: Designing for Inclusion

The 2015 World Information Architecture Day (WIAD) was held in Portland in February. This year’s theme was centered around happiness and delved into "How to create more happiness through design." Not everyone can follow the lead of Bhutan and measure their Gross National Happiness, yet on a city and neighborhood scale we might as well try to design for happiness. We as a society, a group of neighbors and stakeholders can come together to shape and design our neighborhoods so that the environment that surrounds us contributes positively to our wellbeing. Joy Alise and Catherine Nikolovski started off the event with their presentation titled - Complete Neighborhoods: Designing for Inclusion.

As advocates and practitioners of creative community engagement, Design+Culture Lab was excited to share some industry insights with the WIAD attendees. Catherine represents Hack Oregon, a group of visionaries and data enthusiasts who deeply care about shaping and sharing information to expand public knowledge. The partnership between Design+Culture Lab and Hack Oregon grew naturally as both create design solutions around urban issues such as public disenfranchisement, root shock, food deserts and gentrification to name a few key topics from the presentation.

So how can data and information influence public well being? In this day and age, anyone can find data. How it is processed and used, on the other hand, is a different story. In the work that D+C Lab does, we often gather and process qualitative data, which can be comparable to quantifying nuances. The information that we create from engagement does not only go into a report and read by interested parties, but the process that was used to gather it contributes to the larger social aspects of change. It opens up dialogues between the diverse stakeholders, so that the changes in neighborhoods in the long run are inclusive.

Advocating for inclusive development means to be open to suggestions and inputs from community members. One sided development cannot lead to a complete and happy neighborhood. Each and every individual has a valuable and unique input into urban design. Therefore, giving voice to those who are traditionally not heard is a huge task not only for us, but everyone who cares about the holistic nature of our existence.

*We apologize for our negligence of our blog, but #startuplife is tough and amazing. It keeps us on our toes. We are looking forward to sharing more of our activities with you going forward.

**You can watch the full video here.  

Talking Public Space with Public Allies

By, Renae Reynolds

The POC Survival Guide began with an growing urgency to enrich  the ways in which we have come to understand the pairing of race and space. Growing this understanding in lived experience and storytelling we have conducted interviews and workshops with individuals and small groups. On December 15, 2014 Design+Culture Lab conducted a workshop with participants of Americorps, Public Allies New York (PANY) Program. Public Allies advances new leadership to strengthen communities, nonprofits and civic participants. Each year Allies complete a 10 month apprenticeship in local nonprofit placement sights. Upon graduation some allies choose to apply for reentry into a second year on a specialized training track. Members of the 2014 second year cohort, contributed their insights to the development of the POC Survival Guide to Public Space. The POC workshop was an amazing opportunity to collaborate with the organization that helped to strengthen the social awareness of CO CEO’s Joy Davis and Renae Reynolds, both former Allies.

Participants in the POC Workshop completed the POC survey and a mapping exercise to gauge their public space experiences within their individual neighborhoods. After an illuminating discussion on issues such as safety and self preservation tactics, the allies compiled their stories on a larger Citywide map. The map made it possible to root their experiences geospatially and compare stories. As participants were able to connect their tales with tangible points on the map they broadened their concerns to include urban transformation, recognizing the ways space change overtime and how that affected feelings of welcomeness, inclusion or exclusion, through demographic and aesthetic shifts.

Design+Culture Lab continues to seek more opportunities for POC to connect and contribute to the development of the POC Survival Guide. You can keep up to date with our progress here. Be on the look out for the audio clips which will soon be available on the website. Keep sending us your stories via the 

POC Survey online or contact us if you would like to plan a POC workshop or an individual interview.      



This past Friday was the PDX City Club featuring our very own Joy Alise Davis, founder and Co-CEO of Design+Culture Lab, Tyrone Poole, co-founder of, and Paige Hendrix, co-founder of Tique Box.

Our awesome design research intern Nomin Lyons was able to capture these two videos of some of Joy's responses. The video to the left is Joy's response to "Why Portland?" The video on the right is Joy's response to "Crystal Ball... Where do you see Design+Culture Lab in five years?" 


If you missed the event in person and weren't able to catch it on OPB, you can watch the full segment here

PDX CITY CLUB: A Winning Formula: Inclusion + Innovation = Community Impact

Hey guys, if you’re interested in hearing what Design+Culture Lab is all about and how we play a key role in a larger movement for social inclusion and legal accountability for the disenfranchised, check out our Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Design+Culture Lab, Joy Alise Davis, on December 12th at Portland City Club’s event A Winning Formula: Inclusion + Innovation = Community Impact. She will be a panelist speaking about Portland’s new push for POC and other minority groups engagement in the redesign of our built environment. She will be speaking alongside Tyrone Poole, cofounder of, an online platform that was designed to connect homeless families with rental housing; and Paige Hendrix, the cofounder of Tique Box, an online subscription gift box that works as a marketing platform for Portland’s artisan small businesses and manufacturers. The event will be moderated by Stephen Green, the Vice President of Albina Community Bank and cofounder of Oregon Public House. Co-Presenters include Oregon Entrepreneurs Network, Social Venture Partners, and the Portland Development Commission.

You can either purchase a ticket for the event from the PDX City Club’s website

Or, to hear the discussion for free, tune into the OPB website at 7pm on December 12th.

Meet Megan!

I am a junior at Portland State University and was initially interested in international development justice, specifically in Sub-Saharan East Africa. I spent a great deal of time volunteering with A Thousand Sisters, Run for Congo, Sister Somalia, and other activist organizations that worked to build a public understanding of Conflict Minerals, supply chain transparency, and other issues echoing throughout East Africa. But after spending a semester studying political ecology in Tanzania, I decided to refocus my attention on my home city of Portland, Oregon. I figured that my strengths and passion would be best applied to working in my own community, supporting and encouraging positive change at home, rather than asserting my beliefs and ideas on a society and culture that I should not have any direct cultural influence in. If I really want to see change internationally, I have to help rebuild a city that I believe is worth being modeled after.

I am currently studying community development and sustainable urban development as an honors student. In addition to coursework, I actively attend community based forums and discussions surrounding social justice, urban race conflicts, environmental sustainability, and am an active volunteer with Friends of Trees and the Portland Fruit Tree Project. I hike a lot in the gorge, on the coast, and in the mountains, and can be found around town at Bluegrass events.

From this community engagement and communications internship I hope to gain better insight into what it takes to create a more liveable urban environment from an intracultural perspective. Along with this ever-changing and expanding insight, I will develop the skills necessary to ask questions and try again. There are no formulas for answering the questions we need to ask when rebuilding the built environment. I believe this internship will help me more readily understand that my ideas won’t always work, they need to be reassessed, taken back to the drawing board, and sometimes scratched completely. It takes being able to live and grow from that, learning from those setbacks, to be successful in a field that is so new and innovative. Once my internship ends, I am looking forward to applying to graduate schools in Denmark for urban planning.

Meet Nomin!

Hello! I am the Design Research Intern at Design+Culture Lab in Portland, OR. I grew up in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, but made Portland my second home. I majored in Environmental Studies and International Economics at Franklin University Switzerland. The location of the school created an opportunity for me to explore few European cities, their economies and culture. Looking back, it was a great experience, but a truly life changing moment occurred during my study abroad period in Madagascar. It was a humbling and colorful moment in my life.

I wish to be involved in community and socio-economic development projects around the world, and I am always in search for good methods to use in the field. In Madagascar, I understood that the fundamental items needed for a successful development project is to have understanding of the culture and logic that guides the members of the community. That includes language, history, customs and social dynamics to name a few. However, a true change should come from within the communities, which means they should identify the issues and others can aid to address the issues. What I wish to accomplish at D+C Lab is to learn the skills needed to create socially equitable urban neighborhoods that are able to maintain their unique characteristics in lieu of change.

I have not abandoned my wish to work on an international level, but for the moment my primary goal is to understand Portland and it's urban life.


PS: My one true hobby is dancing. Have you ever heard of popping or house dance?