What? Design is a process that can solve problems, and socially responsible design is design that seeks to solve problems which vex the world’s poor and marginalized communities. Simply put, socially responsible design uses innovation and the tools of design to improve access to services such as healthcare and education and increase social, economic, and environmental sustainability. When? On February 27, 2012, leaders from design, academia, the community, and both public and private sectors will meet in New York at the Social Impact Design Summit. We want to use this event as a chance to broaden the discussion about the current and future state of socially responsible design: What is it? Who’s doing it well? Why does it matter? What does it mean for the future? The Summit is planned in partnership with Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, The Lemelson Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Why? Socially responsible design covers a broad range of design disciplines. As foundations and organizations interested in this topic, we are still learning about the players and pieces that sustain this area of design. We organized this small gathering to learn and hear from people who engage in this work every day. Why NOW? It is a pivotal moment in the field of socially responsible design. More than ever, design professionals are involved in projects that have a social impact. Student enrollment in educational programs for social innovation is growing exponentially. Tom Fisher of the University of Minnesota has likened the emergence of this area of design to the growth of public health as a field independent from medicine, and we think that is an apt metaphor. Where are we in the development timeline of this new field? Who? The Summit is bringing together individuals and organizations with innovative approaches to socially responsible design, as well as public and private funders that support invention, innovation, and design efforts. Each member of this group is crucial to the future of this topic—leaders in their field, people with strong opinions and big ideas, people who like to talk! You can see some of the people and organizations represented at the Summit talk about their work and the ingenious solutions they are working on to solve some of the world’s most complex problems:

How YOU can participate: At the Summit, we will ask participants to answer some questions. They are not easy questions, and they certainly have no “right” answer. We want to hear from you. Let us know what you think!

  • Where are the gaps in this developing field?
  • What are the organizational models that support social impact and public interest design?
  • How can we effectively prepare future generations of designers for this growing area of design?

Comment below or join the discussion on Facebook. We don’t expect to solve these problems in one day, but we do expect to get people talking. Watch this space for follow-up blogs and news from the Summit. Bill Moggridge Director Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Jason Schupbach Design Director National Endowment for the Arts Photo credits: Design with the Other 90%: CITIES, Jiko ya jamii (Community Cooker)
Photo: Community Cooker-Jiko Ya Jamii 
 Design with the Other 90%: CITIES, Floating Community Lifeboats
Photo: Abir Abdullah/Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha
 Design for the Other 90%, Kinkajou Portable Library
Photo: 2002-2005 Design that Matters, Inc.
 Vendor Power
Photo: Center for Urban Pedagogy
 Design Impact at Organization of Development, Action, and Maintenance (ODAM) in Thiruchuli, Tamil Nadu, India 
Photo: Daniel Timothy Edmunson 
 Design for the Other 90%, Bamboo Treadle Pump
Photo: 2003 International Development Enterprises (IDE)
 Design with the Other 90%: CITIES, Kibera Public Space Projects
Photo: Kounkuey Design Initiative 
 Design with the Other 90%: CITIES, Bicycle Phone Charger 
Photo: Global Cycle Solutions 2011
 Windsor Farmers Market by Project H Design
Photo: Project H Design The Social Impact Design Summit is made possible by The Lemelson Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Surdna Foundation, and The Rockefeller Foundation.

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