Baumer Conversations: Kounkuey Design Initiative with Justin Parscher

As part of the Spring 2021 Baumer Lecture Series, members of Kounkuey Design Initiative will give a short talk followed by a conversation with Knowlton faculty Justin Parscher.


Feb 3, 2021



This talk will explore KDI's practice as a justice-driven, non-profit design firm. Through an examination of our projects and our organization, we will discuss how activism must be considered core to the work that we do in design - that this is the essential mission of our profession. Designing for inclusion, particularly in low-income communities of color, is a commitment to process and a valuation of community voice. Representing three different voices at KDI, Chelina, Jerome, and Lauren will talk through how we embrace design as a tool to serve people and communities.

Kounkuey Design Initiative
Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI) is a non-profit design and community development organization. We partner with under-resourced communities to advance equity and activate the unrealized potential in their neighborhoods and cities. We realize this mission through advocacy, research, planning, and built works. KDI works with community members to improve social, economic, and physical conditions in diverse settings: from urban informal settlements in Kenya to rural farmworker communities in the Coachella Valley to urban streets of Los Angeles.

Chelina Odbert
Chelina is co-founder and Executive Director of KDI and believes in the potential of low-cost, high-impact design interventions to improve the physical, economic, and social quality of life in low-income communities. Her expertise covers a range of topics and geographies, and she leads the office's gender equity work.

Jerome Chou
Jerome is the Planning Director at KDI's Los Angeles office and is passionate about collaborating with community members to realize their potential as designers and planners of their neighborhoods and cities. He oversees KDI's regional and statewide programming, policy, and advocacy.

Lauren Elachi
Lauren is the Senior Design Coordinator at KDI's Los Angeles office and is interested in how landscape architects can collaborate with communities to correct environmental injustices. She manages a number of design projects at KDI, ranging from multi-acre parks to advocacy campaigns.