Big Urban Games

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We design social interventions that engage populations in imagining and designing new solutions to social problems. For us, social interventions are actions taken to reconfigure social habits, unspoken agreements or arrangements that, prior to the intervention, add to the durability and normalcy of a social problem. We focus on social interventions because we believe they can affect both formal hierarchical systems like school systems and complex nonlinear systems like cultures.

For example, an unspoken agreement that commonly leads to escalation of violence among youth in Boston is the “grill” or glare. If someone “grills you,” you have to grill them back, and tensions and escalation go from there. The grill caught our attention because in our methodology for designing social interventions, we look for an entry point, a less explored angle with potential to interrupt social problems. The grill was symbolic of the larger dynamic of violence, but also a literal act that we could point to, play with and make strange. Click here to see our Grill Project.


We share our methodology to support others in designing social interventions. For example, our current pop-up Action Labs are a mobile means of bringing both linear and nonlinear design processes to conferences and cities that are looking to hone their skills in designing social interventions and creative actions.


We also highlight other powerful interventions around the world. Here are some of our favorites, along with links to some youtube content about them:

  • Antanas Mockus, then the mayor of Bogota, fired the entire force of traffic cops and hired mimes to change the way citizens felt about following traffic laws--and then about role of citizenship and law at large.
  • In Canada, 2 high seniors challenged the social structure of their school (and the bullies who ran it) by standing up for a freshman picked on for wearing pink, and getting over half their school to wear pink in the first ever "Sea of Pink."
  • President Nelson Mandela used the symbol of the Springbok--the nation's notoriously racist rugby team--to bring the country together while hosting the World Cup of Rugby.
  • A handful of AIDS activists shifted the public perception of people with HIV and AIDS through the largest quilt in the world.