Design and Social Impact“There is much that members of this diverse, global community can learn from one another and from the constituents they serve.” – Design and Social Impact finding

“Where are the gaps? What are the models? How can we prepare the next generation of designers?” were the three topics a diverse group of leading practitioners and educators explored together at the Social Impact Design Summit in New York. Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, the National Endowment for the Arts, and The Lemelson Foundation organized the one day convening to advance the burgeoning field of socially responsible design.

A white paper “Design and Social Impact: A cross-sectoral agenda for design education, research and practice,” authored by Julie Lasky for Cooper-Hewitt, NEA and Lemelson Foundation, chronicles the day’s discussion. Five general proposals emerged from the exchange of ideas, along with short term actions and longer term strategies for each.

  1. Expand networks, as there is much that members of this diverse, global community can learn from one another and from the constituents they serve.
  2. Emphasize storytelling to more effectively communicate social impact design’s value and how design can play a significant role in creating social change.
  3. Build a culture of evaluation with better tools to demonstrate the long-term impact of design projects and initiatives.
  4. Form intelligent coalitions with dedicated social impact design programs within universities as well as informal teaching environments, both physical and online.
  5. Create alternative funding strategies to enable innovative and ongoing support.

On February 21, 2013, a panel discussion Intelligent Coalitions: Design and Social Impact, reconvenes several of the summit participants–– Mariana Amatullo of Designmatters, Bryan Bell of the SEED Evaluator, Krista Donaldson of D-Rev, Ezio Manzini of DESIS Network and Nadia Elkordy of the new International Development Innovation Network––to expand upon the white paper’s recommendations and proposals for how best to move forward and discuss what is next for this growing area of design. If you cannot join the conversation here in New York you can watch the live webcast and list questions you would like posed to the panel here in the comments section. Join the conversation on twitter #socialimpactdesign.

Intelligent Coalitions: Design and Social Impact
Date: Thursday, February 21, 2013 – 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Venue: The Greene Space at New York Public Radio, 44 Charlton Street (at Varick Street), New York, NY
Webcast live at

Next: Social Impact Design Webinar Series
The National Endowment for the Arts Design Program will host a series of webinars to build on the summit’s findings covering topics that further enhance the field's capacity to design effectively for social impact. For more information go to

  • April 24, 2013 at 2 p.m. EST: Creating a Culture of Storytelling & Evaluation, hosted by: John Cary, Founder of
  • June 12, 2013 at 2 p.m. EST: Making it Happen: Spotlight on Successful Projects, hosted by: Jen Hughes, Design Specialist at National Endowment for the Arts
  • August 20, 2013 at 2 p.m. EST: Educating the Next Generation of Social Impact Designers, hosted by: William Drenttel, President of Winterhouse Institute  and Co-Founder of Design Observer

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