Lisa Danovich ASID MFA MSW

Professional Portfolio

an Invitation...




to take a moment to explore

my portfolio of work, my goals... my mission

~ with gratitude






"HeARTful: Lisa is an alchemical artist with heart who lives life inspired as art" ~hf



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"Empowering: Lisa is a leader who walks the path of empowering others to self-actualize and make a difference in the world."HF 



To associate with willful fellow collaborators and progress toward envisioned excellence.

Within our urban landscapes, social and physical change can be challenging and requires many collaborators playing multiple roles. As an interior designer and social worker, my vision for excellence combines the beauty of designed environments that mesh beautifully with nature and preserve it, while serving society by fostering personal and community wellbeing, and increasing social cohesion and social capital for all. My singular power multiplies its impact when it is used to empower others – and so then, we are the power of more. 



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Professional Roles for which my skills and experience have prepared me:  



* Leader - Visioner - Conceptualizer - Synthesizer

* Interior Designer

* Supervisor - Mentor

* Project Manager - Developer - Evaluator - Researcher

* Community Assesser - Advocate

* Group & Dialogue Facilitator

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We shape our buildings and thereafter, they shape us ~ Winston Churchill  



Differing social systems and policies that will support personal and community wellbeing and social cohesion interest me. I sense the importance of using an interdisciplinary approach toward developing solutions for new housing and urban policies, as we must respond to booming population growth, changing demographics and environmental degradation. 


The designed environment is a reflection of who we are and who we want to be, as individuals, and as a society. Thus, it is an important component of the cultural and economic wellbeing of a community and can act as a catalyst for change.


When the design of a public infrastructure directs private action, architecture/interior/landscape design and planning become political.


As a social worker/interior designer my mission is to assert the primacy of deep reflective community involvement when considering and advocating a design intervention in the built environment meant to to resolve social, economic and aesthetic inequalities. This, in the belief that cost and other effectiveness will be best served.  




Professional Philosophy Statement

JUSTICE... Social + Economic + Aesthetic


Enter a brief description for the visually impairedA lifelong spiritual quest that had its origins in looking for deeper meaning has informed my sense of justice. Grateful for many advantages, I felt compelled to help others by investing in my community through participation in charity events, offering complimentary design services for elementary schools, women’s centers and shelters, and leadership/collaborative work on long-range organizational development planning. Active in my professional organization, the American Society for Interior Designers as a board member and community service chairperson, I  planned, managed and served in fundraising events for local charities.

With a a social work lens that emphasizes personal, community wellbeing and social  building social cohesion and social capital, I searched for examples of physical environments that encourages such, in order to determine viable best practices. In Scandinavia 20 percent of the population lives in collaborative housing developments. In Europe, I visited a range of co-housing communities as an independent graduate study. By first understanding social behavior and evaluating what makes the physical design support positive sociological and psychological dimensions within these communities, and then, how the collaborative housing developments have come to emerge along with new social policy- that may have important value for cross-fertilization into American neighborhoods which are challenged. Social work capacities, like community assessing, community organizing, dialogue facilitation, policy evaluation are some of my skills that are requirements for the complex interdisciplinary process of urban and housing development, within which the promise of the three justices can be realized.

How might a variety of housing typologies  and their unique social systems like that of collaborative housing be expanded to address many American challenges such as affordability, aging in isolation, single and intergenerational parenting, supporting women, immigrant communities and other's marginalized by permanent and temporary physical and mental disabilities, poverty and class striations, and un-sustainable and environmentally destructive building practices? These are the questions for which I feel a personal mandate to seek collaborative partnerships in order to create viable solutions, which will be realized, so that all may live within an effective common standard. This new standard will shape our future urban landscapes, and will provide vitality, well being and inspiration equally for all humanity.


Photovoice Project * Detroit Michigan

JEBA Community Housing Assessment: Lower Eastside Neighborhood

Photovoice is a grassroots community-participant assessment tool designed to uncover root causes of community problems along with collective hopes and desires for change. Using the photovoice process, the potential for individuals to become empowered, and social action catalyzed, as the engaged group reflects upon what in their community is unique and valuable to retain, as well as what change is necessary to directly impact the quality of life within their own community. 

Importance of Experience                               Click here to see the Photovoice Exhibit below.

Enter a brief description for the visually impaired Detroit's Lower East Side has suffered the most neighborhood disintegration as a result of business disinvestment, unemployment, "flight" and abandonment in combination with the additional citywide and national challenges and pressures of which racial and working class discrimination greatly factors.

  • This small group of empowered photo-activists, as a result of building social capital, critically analyzing their situation and concerns, followed with envisioning, perhaps previously unrecognized, possibilities fro themselves and their neighborhood, have become emboldened to promote their concepts to the larger arena of stakeholders.
  • A side-effect is the increased esteem of these photo-activists realizing their leadership in that they have created concepts worthy of debate.
  • The photo exhibit remains displayed at JEBA's community room and has touring potential to other venues to expand awareness and promote their cause for re-establishing neighborhood wellbeing.

Initiating, Developing and Managing the Project

  • Research: best practices, scholarly studies, grass-roots conditions, organizational and other opportunities.
  • Evaluation of the community to determine which assessment tool might empower residents.
  • Envisioning possible futures and conceptualization leading to synthesis of local conditions, goals, methodology and best practices.
  • Obtaining IRB approval.
  • Program Design, Development and Management
  • Community Outreach and Empowerment
  • Dialog Facilitation: Power of Photographs,
  • Presentation, urban planning history/worldwide neighborhood/housing solutions, ethics, and policy-maker messaging
  • Event Planning, Management and Outreach and Marketing with press releases, stakeholder/policy-maker invitations
  • Exhibit Curatorial Design, mounting and promotion of resident photo-artists, and hosting the event.
  • Working in tandem with organizational missions and their structure as a team collaborator.

Personal Reflections and Impact

Having the privilege to work with a mixture of residents of this challenges neighborhood, I have witnessed capacities of wisdom, endurance and innovation upon which "survival" has been made possible. These remaining residents hold a strong connection to their community, even when problems may become all-consuming and demoralizing. Gaining cultural competency with groups one has not had much exposure with is not always easy to achieve. This experience permitted me to experience a familiarity and warmth with the participants who had a range of backgrounds and histories, yet all experiences similar challenges within their neighborhood.

I found it exciting to see this group puzzle through new concepts, their thoughts, and with the Photovoice process to find exuberance and delight within, and to devise clear narratives and messages of their vision for personal and community evolution. Working on security issues, with an art-form, at a grass-roots level by empowering others was a deeply rewarding experience for me, beneficial for all, and, I hope to have more such opportunities in the future.



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 Independent Study * Collaborative Housing


                       Housing: Social+Economic+Aesthetic Justice

Scandinavia and Europe have provided their citizens affordable housing options designed to foster personal wellbeing and social cohesion.These successful communities aggregate behind shared values of community building that manifest with variations suited to each housing development's goals. Spatial adjacencies are created to defeat isolation while at the same time assuring privacy. Private homes are designed to accommodate current lifestyles in a smaller footprint so that a variety of common spaces can be shared-allowing an abundance of opportunities for all of the individuals within the housing community.

During my visit to over twenty housing developments in five countries, I was able to experience the collaborative communities as a guest, and to interview the residents, developers, architects, sociologists and feminists involved in creating the living spaces and social systems that contributed to community wellbeing.


                                        Justice and Housing

With more than one billion people worldwide living in inadequate housing, 100 million people living in conditions classified as homeless, and in the United States, approximately 3.5 million people annually experiencing homelessness, as the population density increases, providing shelter and creating and infrastructure framework that supports human capacity is an evermore urgent and compelling challenge and necessity. As the aging boomer generation increases, by 2030 one in five Americans will be over 65 and require housing and increased social/medical services. Sustainable and affordable  systems must be developed to serve this increasing need.

  • Creating new spatial arrangements and activity adjacencies that move away from the normative single family home and neighborhood of the past few generations may better serve all individuals, but also new family configurations of the employed, school‐age, disabled and the elderly, and re-ignite social cohesion and social capital.

  • It is immensely relevant to design/build urban landscapes and neighborhood/housing using research including psychological, sociological perspectives typical of the social work lens to formulate design programs for architects and developers.

  • Low levels of social organization are associated with high levels of adult crime. A lack of social capital may erode the quality of social support available to an individual. Fear of crimes fosters a distrust of others that can contribute to social isolation. Social Isolation has in turn, been related to an array of adverse health outcomes and compromises immunologic functions.


Personal & Professional Mandate

It is possible to design sustainable infrastructure, including housing, which is responsive to a society's desire for abundance and fairness with awareness and collaboration. Using the sensitivity of combined social work and interior design competencies, this blending of knowledge, skills and abilities will guide my professional duties and work ethic.


Tasks Accomplished and Skills Demonstrated

  • Research best practices examples of housing/community typology variations
  • Develop a network of housing development stakeholders internationally
  • Create a study plan and schedule contacts
  • Apply for funding scholarships
  • Finalize travel plans and commandeer overseas travel/study tour challenges
  • Interview stakeholders and collect research
  • Create documents of synthesized themes and variations, including poster
  • Make a public presentation of the subject in France with interpreter
  • Begin to apply findings within applicable projects
  • Cement bonds with network of potential future collaborators


 Impact Made

During my subsequent field practicum I was able to create a grass-roots community collaboration exploring housing typologies within the sessions of the Photovoice project exploring the question, "What does HOME mean to me?". My poster presentation on Collaborative Housing has been requested at three University of Michigan events.

  • I have become aware of my attraction to explore new concepts, overcoming geographic and cultural boundaries, and sharing the excitement of knowledge discovery with those who might benefit, and to reach out to forge these new alliances and build professional relationships.

  • I have succeeded in dialogue and discussion facilitation and presentation within multiple cultural settings.

 Click here for: Collaborative Housing Study Brief

Click here for: Presentation Poster


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 Management, Evaluation and Assessment Artifacts

My social work curriculum focused on the Management of Human Services and Policy and Evaluation of Social Systems. My independent research study and my field internships were directed toward community and neighborhood development and preserving affordable housing and safety. Strengthening the neighborhood by providing convenient access to pertinent resources with a local fair was a program for which I was responsible. Essentially, along with preparing grant proposals, I initiated and/or developed and managed many programs for the non-profit agencies I worked for.

                                  Please click on the following artifacts to view

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Adoption Agency Business Case and ppt for Adolescent Foster the Family Program

Center for Design and Wellness Grant Proposal

Community Assessment Marketing Outreach Plan

Detroit Youth Afterschool Transportation Program Evaluation and ppt.

Detroit Grandmont Rosedale Comm. Dev. Corp. Farmer's Market Grant

Detroit Grandmont Rosemont Comm. Dev. Corp. Ambassador Brochure

Guide for Girls Magazine

Housing Policy Comparision: Norway and United States

Indian Women's Human Rights & Dowry Practice Policy Brief

   Photovoice: Detroit Community Housing Assessment Photo Exhibit

Detroit Foreclosure Stabilzation Program As a Socially Just Policy Analysis

TANF: Temporary Assistance For Needy Families Debate Powerpoint

World Giving Index Powerpoint

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Professional Use of Self

Everyday one might face an heroic journey. The inequity built into some of our social and politic institutions, enhance survival challenges for those marginalized and less fortunate individuals and contributes to demoralization and hopelessness.  Society's passive acceptance, which often blames those trapped, and prevents the discovery of how to succeed, curtails the quality of life, for everyone. This unbalanced standard of life is noticed and experienced by all. 

Empathetic understanding of another's perspective while suspending judgment is the personal journey's beginning. The professional journey imagines what excellence could look like. By discerning the rightful path of the journey, and feeling the weight of each foot-step in progression- one is able to make needed refinements to assure the end that is hoped for.

Accountability and follow-through end with completions that will, as intended, empower the voice of the other. By mingling the perspectives of the professional interior designer and social worker, aesthetic, social and economically just physical space are effected that are responsive to human needs and aspirations.




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  • initiate
  • empathize
  • suspend judgment
  • identify
  • strategize
  • integrate
  • innovate
  • accommodate
  • collaborate
  • articulate
  • negotiate
  • facilitate
  • cooperate
  • motivate
  • empower...the voice of others


Tasks Accomplished and Skills Demonstrated

Created a Resource Fair so that neighborhood residents could access needed services to preserve assets, health and wellbeing within a distressed community.

Developed a Neighborhood Ambassador and Home-Staging Programs to strengthen a neighborhood falling prey to foreclosures, crime, and lack of resources.

Played a leadership role in the grass-roots urban redevelopment program- the Lower East Side Action Plan (LEAP) and assisted with organizing survey-taking, planning and public dialog meetings to assist a "bottom-up" redevelopment plan for Detroit.

Initiated international research of affordable housing that promotes social wellbeing.

Developed and managed a community housing assessment using Photovoice that culminated in an activist photo exhibit.

Wrote grant proposals for a community development non-profit agency.


detailed with an artistic mind set, a person who makes it happen and doesn't ever give up ~mj

Lisa has a proven track record in people management and project success. Her ability is to advocate for completing any project. Her self-starter attitude does not let anything stop her. She is an asset and leader to any project ~cw

Insightful ~lf


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Innovative: a high-spirited artisian and knowledge-seeker who envisions & crafts new worlds ~hf

           dedicated * persistent * trustworthy ~js


Highly Artistic, Perservering, Genuine interest in people and in connectedness... ~aa

Lisa has the ability to weave gold from floss ~cw



My focus in my Master of Social Work studies at the University of Michigan was in Management of Human Services and Policy and Evaluation of Social Systems for which I received the Dean's Scholarship for both years of study.

In my program, I created an independent study of Collaborative Housing in Scandinavia and Western Europe in which I observed over twenty housing developments in Norway, Sweden, Holland, France and England and interviewed architects, developers, residents, sociologists and social activists involved in these projects. Tracing themes and variations of typologies for the differing cultures and populations served, I then and gave a public presentation in France. OGA, CEW, EUC provided me scholarships for this study.

My field work was in Detroit, Michigan at two non-profit community development organizations where I developed and managed programs, wrote grant proposals, and worked with the LEAP grass-roots redevelopment organization. Upon my return from Europe, I established an IRB-approved Photovoice community assessment program which culminated in a photo exhibit which I curated, mounted and organized for the involved resident community photo-activists of this project which asked "What does home mean for me?"

Please click here to view my resume.