Response to the Lawsuit Against Architecture for Humanity Founders and Board members

Garrett Jacobs
Jul 20, 2016 · 2 min read

Dear Friends and Supporters,

By now you’re likely aware of the lawsuit filed against the founders and board members of defunct nonprofit Architecture for Humanity (AFH). In my position as Executive Director of the Open Architecture Collaborative (OAC), and as someone whose career and organization grew out of AFH, I’m often asked ­– both before and since this news broke — about the OAC’s relationship to AFH.

The Open Architecture Collaborative finds many of its ideological roots at Architecture for Humanity. But the Open Architecture Collaborative is unequivocally an independent organization, a California LLC and Public Benefactor Corporation, and is pursuing our own 501(c)3 federal nonprofit status. For this reason, the lawsuit filed against AFH’s founders and board members will in no way affect the OAC.

More than 12 years ago, locally based chapters began to take up the name of Architecture for Humanity to organize and serve their communities. But even “under the umbrella,” the chapters’ relationship with Architecture for Humanity remained loose. Throughout the organization’s history, AFH headquarters’ (HQ) support was limited to an online platform, brand identity, advocacy and fiscal sponsorship. At no point did HQ directly manage any recruiting, hiring or training of volunteers nor oversee local projects, fundraising efforts, communications, professional development, program guidance, or local partnerships. Nor did the chapters ever have influence over the same at HQ.

When the AFH Board filed for bankruptcy, all of the funding that they held on behalf of the US based chapters — money raised by the chapters, for the chapters — was forfeited to the State of California. However the chapters moved forward, and local leaders kept their promises to their community partners and delivered their work.

The board and leadership of the OAC intends to allow the details to come to light in court. Whatever the outcome, we will learn from their actions. I am confident that those who committed wrongdoing will be held accountable, and that any malfeasance will come to light. I am also confident that the final story will adequately celebrate all the good that AFH did.

While Architecture for Humanity implemented its mission through building projects around the world, the Open Architecture Collaborative has a different mission, leadership, business model, and future, all focused on educating community design leaders, incubating chapters to serve their local communities, and supporting the greater movement.

As we are directly confronted with the challenges of global migration, growing awareness of the economic and environmental injustices, and learning to live, work, and play in dense and diverse areas, we need to respond with every positive tool for action. We cannot stop now; the mission is far too powerful, the potential too great, and the need is only becoming more clear for productive and empowering ways to address the major conflicts and injustices of our time.

Thank you for your continued support,


Executive Director, Open Architecture Collaborative

Garrett Jacobs

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Using privilege to shift power. Learning from others, following women, and being vulnerable. Director of the Open Architecture Collaborative.