The role of design and social impact

Another fantastic round of speakers at our weekly seminar series – Market-based Approaches for Reducing Poverty. This time the speakers were our very own senior lecturers: Jocelyn Wyatt of IDEO’s Design for Social Impact and David Lehr of Mercy Corp’s Social Innovation team.  While Jocelyn and David have done a great job facilitating dialogue with other speakers during class, it was really interesting getting to hear about their own experiences and background.

Jocelyn, and her colleague Sally Madsen, kicked off the session with an introduction to IDEO’s design approach and how it can be applied to achieve social impact in developing countries.   Development is a topic we’ve heard about many times before, but this time Jocelyn and Sally emphasized a different perspective -a bottoms up approach, talking directly to the people being affected, and coming in with no preconceptions but an open mind and a willingness to listen.  The ideas weren’t necessarily revolutionary, but sparked the “a hah!” and “well, of course that makes sense” moments of insight several times throughout the presentation.  A couple of examples:

  • Place individual behavior in the broader context (e.g. don’t ignore the role that culture plays, as illustrated by Yang Liu’s East vs. West)
  • Realize that design trade-offs are necessary for different audiences (For example, both IDE and KickStart have irrigation pumps. IDE pumps are made out of bamboo and are affordably priced to the mass market. In contrast, KickStart has a more reliable, but expensive metal pump.  Both products serve the same need, but with completely different business models).
  • Understand that owning a business is risky and most entrepreneurs in developing countries would prefer a more steady source of income if given a viable alternative

Many more insights from Thursday’s lecture, but rather than recapping everything I thought I’d share other interesting articles on the intersection of design and social impact:

  1. How-to guide for applying design thinking to social issues, prepared by IDEO Social Impact team in conjunction with the Rockefeller Foundation
  2. Example of IDEO design thinking applied to a social issue (the transport and filtering of water), both in storyboard and video format
  3. Additional Market-based solutions coming from Paul Polak of IDE, featured in BusinessWeek

2 Responses to The role of design and social impact

  1. sally madsen says:

    Thanks for the great post! I really enjoyed the class, questions, and discussion afterward – thinking about what makes a good partner in the field, the benefits of streamlining a distribution system vs. having more jobs, etc. Enjoy the rest of the series!

  2. emarketing says:

    Tremendous factors below. I’m just very content to peer your post. Thank you much using this program . having a look forward to contact an individual. Might you be sure to decrease us a e-mail?

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