March 23, 2020

In the wake of Ferguson, this nonprofit helps young leaders find their voice and speak out

Meet Creative Reaction Lab, one of 15 finalists for the 2020 Renewal Awards. Five winners each will receive $40,000 from The Atlantic and Allstate.

Creative Reaction Lab holds design workshops and leadership trainings with Black and Latinx youth. The nonprofit is finalist for a 2020 Renewal Award.


Meet the finalists for the 2020 Renewal Awards. The annual program from The Atlantic and Allstate honors nonprofits that are creatively solving problems in their communities. This year, five winners each will receive a $40,000 prize from The Atlantic and Allstate. Subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to find out who the winners are and follow the hashtag #RenewalAwards.

Creative Reaction Lab is building the next generation of civic leaders. Based out of St. Louis, this nonprofit works with Black and Latinx youth and encourages them to develop new ideas and design new ways to bring equity to their community.

Born in the wake of Ferguson in 2014, Antoinette Carroll saw firsthand the need for a movement that would address the effects of the racial divide within the community. She started Creative Reaction Lab, or CRL, to promote cultural healing, safety, and collective mobilization. Since those beginnings, the nonprofit has reached more than 7,000 people—both young and old.

[Read more: Meet the finalists for the 2020 Renewal Awards.]

Carroll, whose background is in graphic design, pioneered a model of community engagement and problem solving called Equity-Centered Community Design, or ECCD.

“ECCD centers the people with lived experience as Living Experts with whom we should co-create to design interventions that are equitable, sustainable, and meet people’s needs,” Carroll wrote in her nomination essay.

Using this approach, CRL wants to ensure that more youth are at the table and given positions of power. To do that, they host workshops, conduct leadership training, and forge strategic partnerships to show that these young people are changemakers in their own right.

“You cannot say that you are effectively addressing these issues if you are not including the people affected by them into your efforts and giving them access to power,” Carroll said in an interview with FastCompany.

CRL continues to reach communities outside of Missouri through its Equity-Centered Community Design Civic Kit, which has been downloaded more than 6,000 times. The kit includes tools to help people come up with new ideas to better the community. The nonprofit also offers programs and workshops in other cities including Baltimore, Atlanta, and Chicago.

Follow Creative Reaction Lab on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. You can donate to the nonprofit here.

Danielle Moskowitz

Danielle Moskowitz

Dani Moskowitz is a contributor to The Renewal Project.