When faced with the challenge of how to improve a city, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Infrastructure? Talent-retention? Parking? Politics? Probably not design.

But design thinking is actually a driving force behind People’s Liberty, a philanthropic lab that brings together civic-minded talent to address challenges and uncover opportunities to accelerate the positive transformation of Greater Cincinnati.

IMG_9632Unlike other grant-making foundations, People’s Liberty distributes funds directly to individuals rather than organizations — similar to McArthur Genius Grants — from whopping $100,000 yearlong Haile Fellowships to $10,000 Project Grants. The organization also offers Globe Grants of up to $15,000 for individuals to create provocative street-level installations and pop-up experiences inside the Globe Furniture building People’s Liberty is renovating in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. Once deemed one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the U.S., the area is gaining national attention for its remarkable revitalization — and it’s no accident that the civic-minded lab is getting down to work in the thick of it.

In addition to the Haile Fellowships, Project Grants and Globe Grants, People’s Liberty is rolling out a paid, three-month residency program that gives motivated, early-career talent the opportunity to gain hands-on experience, make valuable connections and create a strong portfolio of real-world work. These on-staff residents are master storytellers — graphic designers, writers, bloggers, Twitter gurus, photographers, animators and videographers who know how to harness their skills to produce inspiring narratives and amazing visuals.

People’s Liberty is making big bets oncreative innovators who have identified major local challenges and found ways to address them, all while increasing civic engagement and driving community development