How are office buildings, skyscrapers, and high end residential homes helping others? Kelsey Bradley, designer and founder of Design Cause Inc., too, was not able to connect these dots. As an architecture student, she discovered the desire to use her skills to benefit underprivileged communities, not just for another high-rise building.
With that, she founded a secondary school in a small village in Northern Cameroon. The poorly designed government classrooms contributed to feeble academic performance, while being a burden on the community due to their high price tag. The inhospitable classrooms led many students to leave school all together. The community suffered – a growing percentage of poorly educated individuals led to increasing levels of poverty and crime.
After intensive research, Kelsey developed a new classroom addressing four key challenges: interior thermal comfort, use of local and sustainable materials, reduced cost, and easy replication. The project became her final university thesis; with the diploma in hand, she felt a deep responsibility to follow through and complete the project.
Thereon, Kelsey quit her 9-5 life to follow her dream: realizing her own design. In January 2016, she received official 501(c)(3) nonprofit status for Design Cause Inc., an architecture firm working directly with communities in need, solving their most pressing problems through design. Kelsey continued building a community of supporters to complete a block of two newly designed classrooms in Cameroon.
Nothing about fundraising was easy, learning how to manage a nonprofit organization was less than smooth, and the construction process came with many more challenges than anticipated.
In the end however, the project surpassed expectations. The local community loved it and wants to replicate the design in other educational buildings. The project showed students, faculty, the community, and entire region that problems can be solved through the power of design. After their first success, Design Cause Inc. hopes to continue bringing their work to other communities in need around the world.