Q&A with Desiré Bennett

Meet Desiré Bennett, the newest member of Design Impact. Desiré joined the team in January 2019 as a Senior Social Equity Specialist and has already hit the ground running. In eight short answers, learn what keeps Desiré up at night, what drives her, and which celebrity she recently met last year (hint: look under your chair).

Q: In your own words, what is your role at DI?

A: I’m a Senior Social Equity Specialist working to advance social change through human-centered design and by promoting leadership, creativity, and equity at co-created tables across the nation—and I imagine that will manifest in various ways, whether it’s co-designing and working on a project with one of my teammates or being an ambassador for DI while enriching relationships with current and potential partners in our local, national, and global community.

Q: What are you working on these days?
A: DI was recently awarded a grant from the Kresge Foundation to co-design a project with Madisonville residents, which is near and dear to my heart – I lived in Madisonville the first few years of my life and other family members lived there for a number of years. My grandfather actually lived there for 53 years! I’m also a part of co-designing a project with the Corporation for Supportive Housing in Connecticut to address racial disparities in the homeless population in their cities.

Q: What are some of your creative outlets?
A: Traveling – I believe that traveling expands your mind and makes you look at the world differently. Whether I’m traveling just beyond my region, across the United States, or traveling abroad—it helps me to think more creatively. I also like going for a brisk walk or run, being outside in general, or ice skating to get me outside of my head and thus make me better able to tap into creativity. Oh! And Instagram—ha! Seriously though, I sometimes get pretty creative on IG.

Q: What keeps you up at night?
A: Landlords that don’t care about their tenants. Sexism. Health disparities. Pay inequity. Housing discrimination. What might happen if my son ever finds himself at the wrong place at the wrong time in all of his otherness glory. My daughter. Unequal power structures. The haves that already have and don’t seem to need that much more but somehow just keep getting more while the have nots…don’t. Binge watching really good shows<laughs>. And ultimately my Facebook and Instagram feeds — they often keep me up at night.

Q: What are some causes you’re passionate about?
A: Gender equity, pay equity, women’s and girls’ empowerment, racial justice, racial equity—we need to have racial equity in order to have true racial justice. Only making sure that everyone has the exact same thing is equality. And of course equal rights are important and have played a critical role in a lot of good that has happened, and also not everyone needs the exact same thing. Creating a world where people have what they need is equity. I’m also really interested in promoting kindness as a movement—how can we start that?

Q: What drew you to DI? And how do your superpowers lend themselves to what you do now at DI?
A: First, I get to be a part of this incredible team of smart, driven, and social justice-minded people. I think the most valuable thing I can pull from is my lived experience as a woman of color, as someone who was a teen mother, a high school dropout, and a working single parent who also had to navigate the matrix of public assistance for years, while also working toward securing undergraduate & postgraduate college degrees. I definitely faced inequity and injustice during that journey which amplifies my ability to be empathetic to others. We’re all just trying to live, you know? I believe that my ability to be empathetic and put myself in others’ shoes is invaluable to DI and I do my best to apply the Platinum Rule (instead of the Golden Rule we typically hear): Treat people how they want to be treated, not how you want to be treated.

Q: When you’re not at DI, where can we find you?
A: Probably in a coffee shop, meeting with people in the community, usually working on a social justice initiative I’m involved in as either a United State of Women Ambassador, as a commissioner on the Hamilton County Commission on Women & Girls, as part of the MLK Coalition, or the City of Cincinnati’s Gender Equity Task Force. If I’m not working at DI or on one of the aforementioned initiatives, I’m likely with loved ones or volunteering for the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CABVI) by reading magazine article requests to CABVI subscribers, listening to a podcast like Code Switch, Intersectionality Matters!, or Pop Culture Happy Hour, or I’m binge watching some show (preferably while wearing something soft & comfy!).  

Q: What are some highlights from the past year?
A: In 2018, I was named a United State of Women Ambassador (USOW is a nonpartisan organization launched by Michelle Obama) alongside 21 other women across the United States who are collectively advancing gender equity in our communities, I wrote an article for Forbes, and I received an Alumnx Award from the  University of Cincinnati for my “dedicated professional and activist work on behalf of women and girls in the Cincinnati metropolitan region.” And, separately from the things I’ve just mentioned, I got to meet Oprah (in my shouting-Oprah voice)!!!