Social Innovation by Design

via @Guardian

Lisa Tarver, co-founder of the One World Futbol Project, holds one of the project’s footballs, designed with social impact in mind. Photograph: Jeff Chiu/AP

We often talk about the need to integrate design principles, design thinking, and of course, designers, when we talk about social innovation. This may not be essential nor always necessary, but there is a definite role for the design community to play within this large field, as these three projects show (which have been shortlisted for the 2013 Index awards for “design to improve life”).

For example, the One World Futbol Project is promoting a new ball design which never needs inflating and will rarely puncture, is guaranteed child labour-free in its manufacture, and is sold using a “buy-one, give-one-to-developing countries” model to send equipment where football can create hope and build communities.

The one-handed condom wrapper design provides contraception without those awkward, embarrassing and doubt-creating moments of fumbling – to promote dignity, empowerment and build confidence.

This blouse design replaces standard issue hospital robes to provide better wearability, access, comfort and self-worth for breast cancer patients throughout radiology treatment.

What I like about these projects is that the design element in each of these brings in an element of fun and playfulness into the solution towards fairly complex, serious or taboo subjects. The author of the Guardian article where I came across these examples goes on to explain the unique role that designers can play in the social innovation field.

…designers do have an important skill-set to apply to social innovation – namely, an empathic approach to their solutions. Unlike their engineering cousins working extensively from technology or science, designers start from people. It’s historically been termed empathic design, user, human or people-centred design, and it’s been interesting to hear recent calls for a overhaul of terminology within the design industry, from “human-centred design” to “humanity-centred design”, which does rather hit the spot.

For more examples of excellent design for social innovation, click here.

About Ayesha Vemuri

Ayesha Vemuri is responsible for thought leadership and outreach efforts at CKS. She has undergraduate degree in Visual Art from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, where she also studied such varied subjects as biology, literature and the humanities. At CKS, she is responsible for curating the Design Public blog, managing our various social media platforms, organizing Pecha Kucha Nights and contributing to the intellectual content of the Design Public Conclave and other CKS initiatives. Find her on twitter at @ayeshavemuri.
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