The Social Impact Lab is coming to Portland for the second time this spring for a two-month design marathon focused on making a difference in a local Portland community through social impact design.

Portland-area professionals will be working in teams to design around a specific challenge inspired by our exciting partnership with Portland Fire and Rescue. Teams will work closely together to research, ideate, design, build and test solutions in response to a specific design challenge.

Formal lab events will help lab participants get familiarized with foundational impact design principles, self-guided and team-based activities will give participants a chance to put what they are learning into practice, and key milestones will keep teams on track in order to contribute a thoughtful response by the end of the lab.

In addition, the Social Impact Lab has worked closely with Portland Fire & Rescue to co-host several pre-lab events focused on co-creating specific design challenge(s) for lab participants:


Formal lab participation by application only. Design experience not required.

Interested in joining the lab? The spring cohort of Social Impact Lab PDX is closed for applications. Sign-up to receive announcements for the next cohort.


Portland, meet your match


Social Impact Lab PDX is excited to announce a partnership with Portland Fire & Rescue for the PDX:SP19 cohort.

PFR 01.jpg

Designing blueprints for thriving cities

Sponsored by Portland Fire & Rescue

A city’s fire department is integral to public safety and health. Not only are fire fighters uniquely equipped to respond and serve when fire breaks out, but they are first-hand witnesses to a range of incidences that negatively affect the health and welfare of residents such as crime, poverty, drug addiction, mental health, and homelessness.

In 2017, Portland Fire & Rescue launched the Blueprint for Success project, setting an ambitious goal to positively impact a broad range of societal issues through micro-planning efforts aligned with each neighborhood fire house. PF&R has several “blueprints” that provide in-depth analysis of specific Fire Management Areas (FMAs).

During the spring of 2019, Social Impact Lab PDX participants are invited to join this co-creative process by researching and responding to design challenges inspired by blueprint data.


What is the format?


After being placed on a team, team leads will reach out to schedule a team orientation + kickoff meeting (virtual or in-person). During the orientation, your team lead will provide you with relevant background on the design challenge so you are prepared for the first lab event.

Throughout the two months, all the teams will gather together for three lab workshops to hear from special guest speakers about an important step in the impact design process. In between the formal lab events, teams will be expected to apply what they are learning to their specific projects. Collaboration will vary with each team but could look like attending virtual or in-person team meetings.

Initial research, ideation, and design will culminate in a two-day Impactathon, where teams will prototype and test assumptions based on their prior work and receive live feedback to iterate on their designs. The lab concludes with a special Community Celebration where lab teams present their work to project sponsors and the local community. The most viable ideas will be eligible to receive financial support to help bring the ideas to life.

The Social Impact Lab Portland will run for six weeks starting the week of May 20th. A virtual lab orientation and workshop will be held the week of May 13th.

As a lab participant, you will be expected to attend the formal lab events outlined below as well as work closely with your fellow team members throughout the lab to respond to your project's design challenge.

Here are the six formal Social Impact Lab Portland events and dates:

  • Week of May 13th at TBD - Virtual Lab Orientation

  • Tuesday, May 21st at 6 pm - Workshop #1: Research

  • Tuesday, June 4th at 6 pm - Workshop #2: Define + Ideate

  • Tuesday, June 11th at 6 pm - Workshop #3: Prototype + Test

  • Friday, June 14th and Saturday, June 15th - Lab Impactathon*

  • Tuesday, June 25th at 6 pm - Community Celebration

All events will take place in Portland and be accessible by public transportation. Exact location details to be provided upon registration.

Portions of lab events will be open to the general public; however, participation on a lab project team is by application only.

*Approximate Impactathon times are Friday from 6-9 pm and Saturday from 9 am - 5 pm.

What are the dates?

What is expected of me?

Each lab participant will be assigned to a specific team and will be expected to work through the design process as a positive, active and contributing team member. You will be expected to attend all official lab events and team check-ins (which will vary based on team), complete assigned activities to help with your team's progress, and contribute positively to your team's responses to the project design challenge. You should plan on committing approximately 2-5 hours per week on the project for the duration of the challenge, not including attending team meetings and lab events.

All lab participants must agree to uphold the Social Impact Lab PDX Community Standards, both during official lab events and when performing any lab-related activities.


Interested in developing as a leader? Volunteer as a Team Lead! As a team lead, you will be working directly with the lead lab organizer to help keep your team on track and make sure they are moving towards specific lab milestones. You will be expected to schedule and lead a team orientation + kickoff meeting as well as hold regular check-ins to ensure your team is making progress. You should plan on committing an additional 1-3 hours per week for the duration of the challenge. 

Why should I join a team?

As an official Social Impact Lab Portland participant, you will receive the following:

  • Curated and premium learning experiences related to social impact design. As a lab participant, you will be investing in your own professional development. You will receive registration to the following lab learning experiences:

    • Three Lab Workshops - You will get the chance to hear from expert guest speakers about an important step in the design process and apply this to your specific team project.

    • Two-day Lab Impactathon - You will receive feedback from subject matter experts and local community members that can be used to iterate on design(s) as you build and test design prototypes

  • The chance to see your ideas come to life. During the Community Celebration, you will be a featured guest at an evening soiree where your team will present your final prototypes to our partners and project sponsors. The most viable ideas will be eligible to receive financial support to help bring the ideas to life.

  • Team-based learning that makes a difference, locally - Teams will be working directly with community members at various times throughout the project, and the ideas and designs promoted by teams will have direct influence and effect on the local Portland community.

  • Access to best practices - As a lab participant, you will get access to resources that you can apply directly to your team's project during the lab but will also help you grow your own personal practice of social impact design.

  • Evidence of your investment in your professional development - Lab participants who complete the lab process will receive an official certificate of participation that can be referenced as part of their professional development journey.

In addition, participating on a team will have these added benefits:

  • Hands-on learning of social impact design - You will be exposed to principles and methodologies that will help create a solid foundation for making your own impact in your area of passion.

  • Joining a network of like-minded social impact designers - As the Social Impact Lab rolls out to other projects and cities, you will be part of a growing network of lab alumni who are seeking to make a difference through social impact design.

  • Access to more social impact design training - All lab alumni will be eligible to apply for more advance social impact design opportunities, including opportunities to work on your own social impact project.

How much does the lab cost?

Due to generous donations from sponsors, the majority of cost of the Social Impact Lab PDX is subsidized.

There are three ways to participate in the lab:


The following lab fees are required of lab participants interested in standard enrollment:

  • $279 - Early Registration Lab Fee if payment is received before 11:59 pm PST on May 5th

  • $329 - Standard Lab Fee if payment is received after 12:00 am PST on May 5th

Group enrollment rates are available when registering as a team of three or more. Contact us for details about team enrollment.

NOTE: Lab fees are nonrefundable. All fees excluding the registration deposit may be transferred, donated, or applied to a future Social Impact Lab run. 


We strive to make the Social Impact Lab accessible to all changemakers. To honor this commitment, we offer a number of sliding scale scholarships out of the Social Impact Lab organizational budget. These scholarships are awarded on a rolling, case-by-base basis to lab participants who demonstrate the greatest need.

The request for financial assistance will not be considered with your Lab Application. To be considered for a need-based scholarship, you will need to submit a separate Lab Scholarship Application.


In order to support and encourage inclusion of those most effected by the Portland Fire & Rescue blueprint project, the Social Impact Lab is providing subsidized enrollments for those living in affected Fire Management Areas (FMAs) or serving in Portland Fire & Rescue as a firefighter. These fellowships will be awarded on a rolling basis to lab participants who indicate their interest on their lab application.

For those considering a lab fellowship, you will need to provide documentation that supports your residency in a FMA (e.g. PDF scan of mail or bill that shows your name or address) or your Portland Fire & Rescue employment (e.g. number on or picture of badge). We recommend sending us a photo via Google drive or Dropbox. If you have questions or alternative evidence, please contact us directly.



  • Submit your Lab Application.

  • If in need of financial assistance, complete the additional Lab Scholarship Application.

  • NOTE: No payment is due at the time of application.



  • Once your application is accepted, you will have 72 hours (3 days) to secure your registration with a $99 nonrefundable, nontransferable deposit. NOTE: This deposit goes towards your total lab fee. 

  • Pay the remainder of your lab fee before the lab launches on Monday, May 13th. Early Registration Lab Fee applies if you pay in full before midnight on Sunday, May 5th.



  • Once your deposit is received, you will receive a welcome email that contains onboarding information to the lab.

  • Team leads will be checking in with all team members about one week prior to the lab launch date to schedule the orientation + kickoff meeting and set up expectations for regular check-ins.


The Portland lab launcheD THE WEEK OF MAy 12th.


The Social Impact Lab PDX events are supported by the b:ask collective, a community for people who have a heart for social change. We are making it easier for people to find, follow and fuel their passion. Learn more at


Social Impact Lab PDX: Spring 19 Organizers and Project Leads

Organizing Team

Erin Stevanus, Lead Organizer
Emily Vislocky, Volunteer
Peter Russo, Volunteer

Portland Fire & Rescue

Robyn Burek, Project Sponsor
Justin Houk, Project Team