News
Broadening Voices and Enhancing Conversations

Repost of MIT Media Lab's May 6th, 2021 MIT News story.

Ceasar McDowell, MIT professor of the practice of civic design and associate head of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP), has been named associate director for civic design at MIT’s new Center for Constructive Communication (CCC).

McDowell will maintain his leadership roles at both DUSP and CCC moving forward.

“Since 2019, Ceasar has been a trusted advisor to my Media Lab research team’s work in promoting deeper learning and understanding in human networks, and has helped guide our formation as a new center at MIT,” says CCC director and professor of media arts and sciences Deb Roy. “His new role reflects that evolution, as we move toward prototyping civic systems where equity is embedded in their aspiration and their design. We’re thrilled to share in his deep experience in civic design and public participation.”

The MIT Center for Constructive Communication was launched in January 2021 with the mission of designing human-machine systems that improve communication across divides and increase opportunity for under-heard communities. Current CCC projects include collaborations with local grassroots organizations aimed at both hearing and amplifying community voices in public health communication and municipal leadership selection.

“The center’s mission goes to the heart of what my work is about — voice,” McDowell says. “My passion is figuring out how people who are systematically marginalized by society can voice their lived experiences to the world, and as a result participate as full members of society. I’m looking forward to helping CCC design research and civic solutions that will work for a broader set of people down the road.”

McDowell is an expert in designing public conversations and leads We Who Engage MIT, a group focusing on the increasing complexity of the American public and the implications for cities and democracy. The group recently issued a report, “The Civic Design Framework: Principles for public conversations during a time of crisis,” detailing recommended methods for organizations seeking effective public dialogue.

“Ceasar is known to be a bridge builder,” says Hashim Sarkis, dean of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning. “And with this new role, he will have the chance to build more bridges across the school and MIT, and throughout the new networks created by this important center.”