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As a nonprofit, our mission is to create an opportunity-driven environment for design to thrive in Rhode Island. At DESIGNxRI we are committed to prioritizing and investing in principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion to ensure opportunities are accessible for everyone. As creatives and designers, we can no longer be complicit in excluding people who are underrepresented and under-resourced. This committee is working to understand and dismantle systems of unbalanced power and imbue an equity lens on DESIGNxRI. Our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) committee includes staff and board members who meet bi-monthly to create and implement new initiatives. This is an open dialogue that extends to community members to reflect and take action with us. If you’re interested in joining us in this work, please email info@designxri.com.

Ellie Brown and Sophie Weston Chien

Current Initiatives

  • Creating economic opportunities for people who are historically under resourced
  • Expand the definition of design and who is included
  • Running and supporting the EQUITYxDESIGN RI cohort


Sophie Weston Chien, DEI Committee Chair, DxRI Board
I am humbled and excited to start as DEI Chair for DxRI this year. I come to this work with a background organizing with Design As Protest, an anti-racist collective of designers and planners, and several years of DEI institutional advocacy at RISD. My lived experience as a first-generation Chinese/Brazilian/American woman shapes my work as a designer-organizer and I am constantly resituating myself based on how I relate to those around me. As a second-generation designer, I am driven to expand professional networks of design to include makers and creators with expansive forms of knowledge and craft. I am originally from North Carolina but have been rooted to Rhode Island since 2015. I am excited to shape DxRI to be more reflective of Rhode Island, picking up where the DEI committee left off with incoming staff and board members. I see my role as a strategizer, working with the DEI committee and our partners to imbue DEI principles and procedures in every operation, program, and project of DxRI.

Ellie Brown, DxRI Executive Director
I am entering the DEI committee of DxRI as a new Executive Director at a point where the group has already done a lot of thoughtful work to commit the organization to equitable growth and change. This committee in itself was one of the reasons I found DxRI so appealing- that they are creating real life actions to guide the organization into its next phase of growth. My background as an artist, educator and nonprofit professional has always been centered around issues of equity, in particular equity for my BIPOC sisters. My goal is to use my privilege to break down systemic barriers in any way possible and to create economic and social opportunities for all creatives and designers in Rhode Island. It is an honor to do this work alongside this dedicated group of humans.

Nick Scappaticci, DxRI Board President
Our state, our country and world is grappling with the challenges of creating an equitable and sustainable future. As a life-long Rhode Islander, designer, business leader and board member of DxRI, I am fully committed to creating a future where we can embrace the differences we have as a way to make difference for everyone. The circumstances that brought us here today are not the practices and systems that can take us all forward. I hope my experiences can add to conversation and that the space we create helps me to be better for the community. I join a group of colleagues on this committee that I respect and share a belief that together our community can be better for our future and each other.

Devin Samuels, DxRI Staff
I come to the DEI committee of DxRI with a need to drive the world toward equity. As a mixed black queer person raised jewish in RI, I have always sat at the intersections. I grew up learning that any space that cannot hold nuisance and difference with love, could not hold me with love. Mobilizing this lived experience toward fulfilling the need to build safer spaces, I have spent the last ten years working toward equity through radical arts pedagogies, community based grass roots justice organizations, and nonprofits. Now at DxRI, I am equally excited and nervous about the prospect of aiding such a rooted and important sector through transformation. DxRI, as a structural pillar of the Rhode Island creative sector is positioned to lead. If we transform ourselves, we not only make our space better, but can show others how to do the same.

Jo Lee, DxRI Board
As a DxRI board member, I’m grateful to the Black Lives Movement’s long-time mobilization that turned the twin tragedies of the police killings of George Floyd and Brianna Taylor and a public health crisis into a teachable moment for me about the systemic nature of racism. As a board member, it impressed upon me the importance of adopting DEI as a guiding principle and priority for the organization. Design is a method for problem solving. But, in this case, the problem is the design industry itself, specifically the regenerative exclusivity built into the professionalization of design. While flawed, design – a methodology that seeks to solve problems by weaving new perspectives into the conversation – is also the key to tearing down these walls, and identifying more powerful applications of design. Here’s to a brighter and more inclusive future for design!

Philip Hawthorne, DxRI Board
I grew up in South Africa with inherent privilege and came to this country during a time of tremendous political upheaval. The design community in Rhode Island welcomed me, giving me a professional home away from home. The brutalities of apartheid in my home country made me a lifetime advocate for equity and inclusion. The open and supportive environment that nurtured my career here must be accessible to anyone hoping to make the world better by design – however it is practiced.

I have been a supporter of DESIGNxRI since its inception, currently serving a second term on the board. I believe deeply in our mission. Like an enduring design solution, an organization stays strong and relevant when it can adapt to changes in the environment over time. Our organization was formed to amplify the voices of the local design community. Now, acknowledging that not all in the community are being recognized or even heard, we must refocus to serve as a platform that speaks for all who design.


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