October 9-11, 2017

Co-designing Sustainable Food Systems



BarnRaise is an impact-driven conference that connects designers, community-based organizations, topic experts, and participants to promote greater impact in the Chicago community. Multi-disciplinary teams will work together to discover common ground, unlock values, systemically approach the challenge, prototype ideas, and envision sustainable solutions.

"You couldn’t place folks in the middle of a blighted neighborhood — without a strong family unit and without easy access to healthy food — and expect them to thrive. If you could create an environment in which people felt secure and healthy, though, you could provide the possibility of a better life."

Will Allen, urban farmer and author of The Good Food Revolution


How might we accelerate the transition towards a sustainable food system in Chicago?

This year’s BarnRaise challenge is co-designing sustainable food systems.
By understanding food waste as a critical path to reduce environmental impact and inefficient financial investments, as well as a means for promoting social innovation, BarnRaise will become a platform for imagining a sustainable future for Chicago food systems.


Over the course of two and a half days, participants work with community organizations and design firms to solve real social problems. Please view our daily itineraries for more information.


Keynote speakers present the challenge in the Chicago context. We work in groups to connect current local challenges to global impact to inform local actions, and close the evening with a key speaker and a panel discussion that inspire us to create sustainable solutions for food systems.


We start the day with a key speaker presenting the role of systems design in fostering sustainable solutions. Participants hear build a shared understanding about design, sustainable solutions, and food systems; and split into workshop teams to better tackle the system’s challenge and create sustainable solutions.


Teams refine their ideas, frame solutions, and make a plant to action. The conference ends with a public share-out and community fair, where teams showcase their proposals and invite others for the next steps.


Erika Allen
Chicago + National Director for Growing Power

Mats Lederhosen
Founder of BE-CAUSE


Kristel Van Ael
Partner, Namahn

Elizabeth Lyon
Market Manager, Plant Chicago

Francesca Zampollo, PhD
Founder, Online School of Food Design©


Elizabeth Grasso-Kelley, PhD
Research Scientist at IFSH, Illinois Tech

Erlene Howard
Owner of Collective Resource, Inc

Carter O’Brien
Sustainability Manager, Field Museum

Jennifer Jarland
Recycling Program Coordinator for Kane County, Illinois and & Illinois Food Scrap Coalition Board Member




Chicago Detours + BarnRaise

On Wednesday, October 11, tour company Chicago Detours will lead BarnRaise participants on a one-hour-long custom tour of Chicago Food History en route from the Merchandise Mart downtown to The Plant, where participants will explore the building and prepare for the final share-out.

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Gensler + BarnRaise

Gensler is a global architecture, design and planning firm that aims to redefine what’s possible through the power of design. One of their goals is to promote broader awareness about the environmental impact that buildings have on the world, and contribute to conversations about the leadership role that the architecture, engineering and construction industries can play in global efforts to answer the challenges posed by climate change.

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JustIce + BarnRaise

JustIce is the only company of its kind in Chicago, producing block ice and craft ice for use by Chicago-area restaurants and bars in the presentation of their finest cocktails. JustIce also crafts custom solutions for large and small events, offering large, crystal clear ice blocks, globes, and decorated options.

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Chicago Public Schools + BarnRaise

The BarnRaise team is super excited to share that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) joining us! CPS is committed to providing high quality public education for every child, in every neighborhood. They strive to prepare our students for success in college, career and civic life.

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Plant Chicago + BarnRaise

Chicago’s history as the nation’s epicenter for meat production has taken on new meaning in Back of the Yards, where a unique partnership between a sustainable urban developer, a nonprofit, and small food and farming businesses has transformed a former meatpacking facility into a collaborative community of food and beverage producers grounded in the principle of waste reduction.

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INSITUM + BarnRaise

Another exciting partnership at BarnRaise this year includes the international strategic innovation firm INSITUM. In 2015, INSITUM was named one of the world’s top 10 most innovative companies by Fast Company magazine, and we are proud to say that INSITUM has deep ties with IIT’s Institute of Design—several INSITUM partners are ID graduates, including Ric Edinberg, INSITUM’s Executive Director, who will be joining us at BarnRaise.

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Zero Waste Chicago + BarnRaise

Our daily choices have a major impact on how much waste we create. Barnraise partner, Zero Waste Chicago is a nonprofit environmental organization working to reduce waste in Chicago through education and resource distribution. Jointly founded by Moira Kelley, Celia Ristow, and Bailey Warren, Zero Waste collaborates with individuals, communities, and businesses to support their efforts to reduce waste.

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Farmer’s Fridge + BarnRaise

Farmer’s Fridge is a food company of the future, producing wholesome salads, breakfast items and snacks, and distributing them through a network of refrigerated vending machines, or “fridges”, as CEO Luke Saunders calls them. They offer convenient access to fresh and delicious food 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in more than 75 locations in Chicagoland.

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Andre Nogueira
PhD, IIT Institute of Design


Raina Russ
MDM, IIT Institute of Design