Can architects, community leaders, students, and health care professionals all come together to design a better world for people in developing nations? That's exactly what the non-profit Architecture for Humanity is trying to do.
The group is comprised of over 4,500 volunteer design professionals and has chapters in 25 countries around the world. Volunteers design schools, community centers, soccer fields, homes and emergency shelters. About 10,000 people benefit directly from Architecture for Humanity projects each year.
In 2006 the organization created a community website that brings architects and other skilled professionals to collaborate on projects and share ideas for designing a better world, called the Open Architecture Network. The site boasts 15,000 registered users and 50,000 unique visits a month and is the first of its kind.
Open Architecture Network may best be known for their frequent competitions, which are open to anyone. This year's challenge is classroom design and is in response the World Bank's call for the construction of 10 million new classrooms to help meet the millennium development goal of achieving universal education by the year 2015.
Past competitions have taken on other socially responsible causes like constructing mobile health clinics designed to fight HIV/AIDS in remote areas and addressing the digital divide through designing sustainable, low-cost technology facilities for those who need them most. The winning team for the digital divide challenge in Africa designed a community center and technology hub for youth in Kenya's largest slum. The center houses a community radio station, a library, internet cafe and space for community events.