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In 2007, Chang—then pursuing her master's in urban planning at Columbia University—was offered a fellowship in a township in Johannesburg, South Africa, to help develop more efficient ways for the community to share information. New systems were sorely needed: Before Chang arrived, a young girl had wandered from home and been lost for three days. Though she was ultimately returned safe and sound to her family, the township's lack of neighborhood-wide communication—like a local radio station—had hindered the search. Chang's team devised a simple but brilliant solution: They installed blackboards in high-traffic areas, allowing residents to spread news, publicize events and post jobs.
The experience convinced Chang that better use of our public spaces could revolutionize how we interact in our communities—and give us a greater say in what happens to them. 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.