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Published April 15, 2023

A More Humane Future

Featuring: Grace Farms


By Jen Levisen


Grace Farms held its second annual Design for Freedom Summit this past March, which brought together more than 500 leaders of the built environment to New Canaan, CT, for a day of action and awareness. 


“Today, hundreds of leaders of the built environment are standing together to issue a clarion call to action,” said Sharon Prince, CEO and Founder of Grace Farms Foundation. “We are not just in agreement that forced labor in the building materials supply chain is unethical and immoral. We are also in agreement that now is the time for action and true market transformation to design and build more humanely.”


United by the shared goal to accelerate the movement to eliminate forced labor from the building materials supply chain, attendees joined panel discussions and breakout sessions focused on creating change in the building industry.


At the Summit, Prince announced a new slate of Design for Freedom Pilot Projects: The Grain Market in Jodhpur, India; Unshattered’s Project Possibilities in Wappingers Falls, N.Y.; and a new building project designed by Page.


The Grain Market in Jodhpur, India, currently in design, is a special collaboration with Design for Freedom. Diana Kellogg, a Design for Freedom Working Group Member and founder of her eponymous award-winning firm, is working with JDH Urban Regeneration Project, which is restoring the historic walled city of Jodhpur. Together, they will restore a historic grain market, transforming it into a world-class farmer’s market with dining.


Unshattered’s Project Possibilities in Wappingers Falls, NY, will provide new spaces to support Unshattered’s community. Unshattered is a non-profit social enterprise that paves the road between recovery and long-term sobriety by creating opportunities for women overcoming addiction and trauma to develop economic independence. One of the most unique and innovative organizations in this sector, Unshattered’s new welcoming space to foster community and provide expanded programming to the women they serve is designed by MASS Design Group, a Design for Freedom Working Group Member.


And finally, a new building project designed by Page which will incorporate the Design for Freedom process and is the recipient of the firm’s 2022 Blue Oceans Grant, an internal competition. The three projects being considered are a federal building, a mixed-use development project, and a hospital. The selected Design for Freedom Pilot Project will be announced shortly.


The Summit featured three panels discussing Design for Freedom pilot projects; the business case for Design for Freedom moderated by Richard Lui of MSNBC; and steps we can take to eliminate forced labor from the building materials supply chain. Breakout roundtables included: Building Materials and the Climate Report by Yale CEA & UNEP; Converting Textile Transparency to Interiors; Global Policy as a Driver; Material Circularity + Tech Innovation; Timber Studies; and Tools for Material Transparency. The afternoon closed with a presentation about empathy and the human experience by Platon, founder of The People’s Portfolio and a Peabody Award-winning photographer, storyteller, and human rights activist.


The 2024 Design for Freedom Summit is planned for March 26 at Grace Farms in New Canaan, Conn. You can learn more at

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Summit Extras

The hummingbirds: Featuring Grace Farms’ Music Director Marcus G. Miller along with musicians and architects Florian Idenburg of SO-IL on drums and Nick Roseboro from Architensions on trumpet, the Hummingbirds entertained Summit participants throughout the day.


Grace Farms: Throughout the day, Summit participants also had the opportunity to explore Grace Farms, taking nature walks and architectural tours, with Architectural Advisor Toshihiro Oki, formerly of SANAA, savoring tea in the Pavilion, and enjoying two exhibitions — Common Good Through Crisis, designed by 2022 AIA Firm of the Year MASS Design Group, and Peace Forest, by Peter Miller of Palette Architecture and Shohei Yoshida of sy + a, both project architects on Grace Farms’ River building.


Grace Farms Foods: Adam Thatcher, CEO and Founder of Grace Farms Foods, a certified B Corporation and public benefit subsidiary of Grace Farms Foundation, spoke to the impact model and goals of the company, and its innovative efforts to drive awareness about Design for Freedom in a way that is tangible and accessible for consumers and in the workplace. Thatcher announced a new program that provides companies the opportunity to bring ethically sourced coffees and teas into their offices and events to educate their workforces about Design for Freedom.


More on Design for Freedom

Since its launch in 2020, Design for Freedom has participated in projects around the world to reduce the risk of forced labor in material supply chains. Most recently completed are architect and artist Nina Cooke John’s Harriet Tubman monument located in Harriet Tubman Square in Newark, New Jersey, which was unveiled to the public on March 9, 2023. Additional information about Design for Freedom pilot projects can be found here.


Forced labor and human trafficking is an estimated $150 billion industry. The illegal use of forced labor across industrial sectors subsidizes corporate profits and has contributed to the expansion of this global industry. This criminal activity affects approximately 28 million people, mostly from impoverished communities or from areas of conflict and disasters. Design for Freedom seeks to address this pressing humanitarian crisis by creating a radical paradigm shift to design and build a more humane future.


Design For Freedom Toolkit

The Design for Freedom Toolkit is designed to provide resources and point to strategies for implementing Design for Freedom Principles into your practice and projects. The Toolkit is organized into three areas of focus: Education, Commitment, and Implementation.

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