Design for Freedom: Equity in the Built Environment
Sharon Prince, CEO and Founder of Grace Farms Foundation

In October 2020, Grace Farms Foundation launched the Design for Freedom movement, with more than 60 industry leaders and experts, to create a radical paradigm shift and remove slavery from the building materials supply chain. The health and resilience of our environment is inextricably linked to human health and wellbeing and we need to address this modern slavery humanitarian crisis.  Although human rights advocates have begun to raise awareness of the pervasiveness of forced labor on construction sites around the world, the use of raw and composite materials produced with forced labor largely continues with impunity within the built environment supply chain.

Grace Farms Foundation’s interdisciplinary humanitarian mission is to pursue peace through five initiatives — nature, arts, justice, community, and faith — and Grace Farms, a SANAA-designed site for convening people across sectors. Our stake in the ground is to end modern slavery and gender-based violence, and create more grace and peace in our local and global communities.

Sharon Prince is the CEO and Founder of Grace Farms Foundation, a private operating foundation established in 2009. The Foundation’s interdisciplinary humanitarian mission is to pursue peace through five initiatives — nature, arts, justice, community, and faith — and Grace Farms, a SANAA-designed site for convening people across sectors. Its stake in the ground is to end modern slavery and gender-based violence, and create more grace and peace in our local and global communities. 

Prince commissioned the Pritzker Prize-winning firm SANAA to design the River building at Grace Farms. Since opening in 2015, Grace Farms has garnered numerous awards for contributions to architecture, environmental sustainability, and social good, including the AIA National 2017 Architecture Honor Award, Fast Company’s 2016 Innovation by Design Award for Social Good, and the  Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize  from the Illinois Institute of Technology. In 2019, Prince and Grace Farms received the NYC Visionary Award from AIA New York and the Center for Architecture. 

Prince has fought to disrupt contemporary slavery and violence against women on a local and global scale. She co-hosted a multi-sectorial convening with the United Nations University entitled Fighting Human Trafficking in Conflict, which resulted in a published report to the United Nations Security Council and advocacy for UN Resolution 2331, followed by 25 Keys to Unlock the Financial Chains of Human Trafficking and
Modern Slavery.
After recognizing a void in addressing exploitation in the building materials supply chain in late 2017, Prince formed an expanding working group to initialize a radical paradigm shift towards a slave-free built environment.  Together with Bill Menking, founding Editor-in-Chief of The Architect’s Newspaper, they brought together more than 60 global industry leaders and experts within the ecosystem of the built environment to build awareness and create institutional responses.

In October 2020, Prince launched Design for Freedom, a ground-breaking movement with the publication of Design for Freedom, a nearly 100-page new report, providing analysis and data on how slavery is cemented into the very foundations of our buildings, and a dedicated website with tools, resources, and original content.  She has guest-lectured at many universities and industry associations, and has been interviewed by several publications, including NYT, Forbes, Fast Company, Architectural Record and designboom.

Prince co-founded Grace Farms Foods, a new social entrepreneurial venture and public benefit corporation, wholly-owned by Grace Farms Foundation. Launched in March 2021, the for-profit company was created to demonstrate and educate on the charitable purposes of the Foundation.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic Grace Farms launched the Relief Fund for Connecticut to provide critical PPE, over 2 million, to first responders and health care workers and food relief to excluded communities.  In recognition of these efforts, Prince received the CEO Forum’s Transformative CEO Award | Leading through Crisis in the category of  Community.