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Diving Deep into Design for Good
by Matthew Porter
As with Wikipedia, the
users of Design for Good’s site are its creators, editors and police. If
you have a story to tell, put it up. If you see trouble, flag it and
alert the responsive contact line at AIGA. Or you can simply enjoy a
leisurely perusal of this site full of wonders.
The site has
people. You will meet the persistent and lightly combed Mark Dudlik, who
led the Phoenix Design Summit. Or you can visit the New England
hedgehog-hugger Lindsey Ruane, whose Critter Calendar “to benefit animals in need” is a pastiche of overwrought, overexposed cute animal calendars.
site has politics. In the story of a “community-sourced exhibit” at the
El Paso Museum of History, you’ll learn how a team of designers turned
themselves into curators of cultural memory: Neighborhoods and Shared Memories/Nuestros Vecindarios y sus Memorias
is a fully bilingual exhibit of local residents’ diverse cultural
stories and remembrances, keyed to works by local artists. Elsewhere, in
national politics, the case study on Make Congress Work! tells
the tale of a nonpartisan public information campaign aimed at breaking
political gridlock in twelve steps—and how it infiltrated the Capitol
and cable TV on a shoestring.
And the site has back-to-the-wall
heroics. Since working affordably and in response to social problems
can mean working fast, it’s fitting that several impressive cases
feature projects realized with amazing speed. The Wild Fire Tees
project, for instance, conceived and launched in under 48 hours, raised
$600,000 for victims of the 2012 Colorado wildfires—just by selling
batches of one-off T-shirts by volunteer designers.
Dig in and learn. From Los Angeles to Boston, and from whimsy to disaster, you’ll find ideas at work for good all over the map.
CONNECTING AND CELEBRATING
site not only showcases success, but also creates connections. Those
who have contributed stories to the site are also eager to help others
get started. For Doug Grimmett, Atlanta AIGA 2013 Fellow and a founding
member of Good Thinking Atlanta, the forging of new professional
connections is as central to the new pro bono paradigm as the demise of
the donation model.
“I want the idea of social benefit to be two-way,” Grimmett says. “At our nonprofit, pro bono equals quid pro quo.
If you want design to get real social results, your designers need a
real motive. Does it have to be money? No. But it does have to be more
than a warm fuzzy feeling.”
The premise of Good Thinking is to
supply that motive—and spread it around. The creative Atlantans from
firms around the city who volunteer their talents gain new friendships
and see their work honored and promoted. The organizations served by
Good Thinking gain the benefit of “free” creative. But those
organizations are requested to ask their benefactors to become sponsors
of Good Thinking services at a 90 percent discount.
this as a new means of investing in the common good,” explains Grimmett.
“It’s not a donation—it’s a mutual investment. We invest our time in
these nonprofits, and we make it smart for foundations and other
sponsors to invest their money in our time. Their investment in us
allows us to help their pet nonprofits, but it also helps us help others
who lack the means to even attract sponsors. Is this a sustainable
model? We will see.”
I found a clear and inspiring answer to
Grimmett’s question in the story of COMMON, an incubator and promoter of
new ideas in social innovation launched by Bielenberg, Alex Bogusky,
Ana Bogusky and Rob Schuham in January 2011. COMMON’s senior officer
Mark Eckhardt explains COMMON as an ecosystem of people who are aligned
based on shared values, with a mission of accelerating positive social
innovation by launching businesses and celebrating the new generation of
COMMON believes the “celebrating” part is
crucial. “John, Rob and Alex have often expressed that the social
responsibility space was too drab, severe and joyless, and I agree,”
says Eckhardt. Whereas Galle and Powell reject the tradition of charity
work as a giveaway, Eckhardt rejects the idea of the do-gooder as an
anonymous benefactor. In Eckhardt’s view, social good and professional
glory should go hand-in-hand. He says he wants “to make social
entrepreneurs rock stars.”
He may get his wish. And it will be good. But it won’t be free. ca