Diversity and Inclusion

This organization—as a place to work, as a partner to others, and as a creator of public experiences—should represent New York City at its best. To us, that means creating a place where people from all walks of life can gather together and be better for it. Inclusion is at the core of Street Lab, on the street and behind the scenes, and we aim to keep getting better at it.

Leslie and Sam Davol, Founders of Street Lab

Street Lab is about making a place to gather around learning in public. Exclusion simply doesn’t work in this environment, and it goes against what we’re trying to achieve. Below are our diversity goals and an update on how we’re working towards them. 

Serve New Yorkers from all walks of life.

This goal drives all the others. Our commitment to serve all kinds of people creates a cascading set of demands on our organization to be more inclusive in staffing, program development, design, and more. Here’s an example: try creating a successful pop-up reading room in Corona, Queens. You’ll quickly find that you need bilingual signage, great Spanish-language books, and plenty of welcoming, bilingual staff. To date we’ve worked in hundreds of different NYC locations, 76% of which are in low to moderate income neighborhoods inhabited primarily by people of color. Who we serve shapes who we are as an organization.

Hire and nurture staff who foster inclusion.

To work in so many different settings across the five boroughs of New York City, we need staff who are absolutely comfortable with diversity. We hire people who are motivated to make everyone feel welcome, wherever we land, whoever we meet. As a starting point, we recruit New Yorkers who have a connection to the communities where we work. As a result, the growing diversity of our locations drives the diversity of our staff. To date, 87% of the people who have worked or volunteered with us have been people of color and 56% have been women. Our Board of Directors is 37% people of color and 50% women.

Create installations that are open to all.

In designing experiences for the public, we aim to remove barriers to participation, whether they be physical, psychological, or social. You should feel comfortable walking or wheeling up to one of our reading rooms and joining other people. You should find something on our shelves that you can connect with, no matter what your age or background. You should find staff who can accommodate you by explaining things, moving items to a lower shelf, or reading signage out loud. Inclusion should be built into what we share and how we share it with New Yorkers. Each year, we work with designers and fabricators to think of new ways to do this.

About our “new” name… Street Lab.

Street Lab began in Boston in 2006. In 2011, we moved the organization to NYC and launched the Uni Project—a portable reading room for public space. In 2020, we are re-introducing our original name Street Lab to tie all of our work together going forward, with much more to come.