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It’s relax time, so please feel free to stop what you are doing for five minutes to absorb the wonderful working world of our new social innovator for this week: Candy Chang. It’s all about clearing your mind, forgetting all of your troubles and enjoying this exploration of Candy’s projects

Candy is a US based artist who specialises in making city spaces more contemplative; smashing the worlds of public space and personal well-being together to create some heart-warming results.

She attended Columbia University and achieved a BS in Architecture, a BFA in Graphic Design and a Masters in Urban Planning before moving on to design for the New York Times and help community groups in New York, Nairobi, New Orleans, Vancouver and Johannesburg (you can find a full biography of her life right here).

Last week I featured Alok Appadurai, a man with a wide array of passions and titles attached to his name (how could we forget the Urban Farmer!). Candy has a similar number of titles attached to her name, but all of hers have been awarded! I dare you try and not be impressed by these: TED Senior Fellow, “Live Your Best Life” Local Hero by Oprah Magazine, World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and the Tulane Urban Innovation Fellow

“Through a series of large-scale projects that combine installation art with social activism, Chang has encouraged people to engage with public spaces to let their voices be heard.” – O, the Oprah Magazine

Even Oprah Winfrey has given her an award! You know when you’ve made an impact on the local community as soon as Oprah knocks on your door. 

Examples of Candy’s work

Here are some of Candy’s street projects, they will help you realise why she is being honoured with our very own social innovator title this week:

New York Street Vendor Guide

Street vendors in New York City are sometimes fined up to $1000 for small violations of vending law, so Candy decided to help them all out with a simple guide to proper conduct on the streets (which included text and imagery in English, Bengali, Chinese, Arabic and Spanish).

The guide included everything from the distance a stall should be located away from the curb edge, to how products should be stacked on or around the stall. She even illustrated a section on ‘know your rights’ when selling on the street.

Before I Die….

Candy lost somebody close to her and had trouble coming to terms with death, so she decided to find out what was important about life to the community around her in New Orleans. She found a house that was boarded up (post-Katrina) and turned it into a peaceful place for people to express exactly what they wanted to do before they died.

Half the house was covered in a black chalkboard and the words ‘Before I Die….’ acted as a signpost for people to contribute their thoughts.

Here is Candy talking about the project at the TED conference this year. If you take time out to have a listen, you’ll understand the context of the pirate image below, but I think it’s just as funny on its own.


The project didn’t just end in New Orleans, Candy decided to design a Before I Die Tool Kit to be sent all over the world after she had requests from lots of nations to take part. The idea eventually spread to Kazakhstan, South Africa, Holland, Mexico, Australia, Portugal, Italy and Argentina (to name but a few).  

I Wish This Was

I can guarantee you’ve seen some disused retail space in your home town recently. Empty store fronts have been the natural by-product of recession and e-commerce all over the world, but how can a community of people make a difference?

Candy recognised that a simple sticker campaign in New Orleans would help town planners think twice about offering retail space to organisations without listening to the community. 

People were asked to write what they thought the empty space should be turned into on some bespoke ‘I Wish This Was’ stickers. Let’s just say there were lots of different comments!

There were some serious ones…..

and some not so serious ones….


What a fantastic way to get the message over to the authorities and empower a township of people. I have something to confess, I could sit here and write about all of Candy Chang’s work for the next day or two. I simply decided to touch on three of her projects for you today, so make sure you head here to look at all of her ideas, I promise it will be a great way to spend 10 minutes of your day.

You can find Candy and Nokia Connects on Twitter. Please do let us know your thoughts about this post. I would love to hear your perspective on her work, after all, you all know mine!

Also feel free to drop me a link to a social innovator you admire in the comments section below, I will do my very best to write about them for the rest of the community in the coming weeks.

[Image credits: Candy ChangRandal Ford for Fast Company]