Questions on Social Impact Design

Think back to when you first discovered social impact design. Your head buzzed with excitement. You enthusiastically told your friends, family and anyone with a willing ear about this new area of work you want to dedicate yourself to. You Googled (or even dug through the–gasp!–library records) to research people, projects, theory, and history on it. You read magazines, books, blogs, anything you could get your hands on about it.

But that just whet your appetite.

You decided to take the plunge and do the work. You found an organization with people as passionate as you to volunteer nights and weekends. Deep inside, you felt you’d found your calling.

Then the moment came when your passion began to wane. Time and energy was drying up. “How can I do this full time?”, you questioned.

I’ve been there, too.

Five years ago I was at that point. Frustrated, impassioned, and energized, I sat outside with my husband on a warm autumn evening listing options on how to make a full time career in social impact design.

After six months saving money, gathering courage, and leveraging support from mentors, friends and family, I took the plunge.

Five years on, I’ve started two organizations, run two blogs, hosted a dozen workshops, served on an architecture charity board, juried numerous competitions, and managed to create a financially sustainable career in social impact design.

Through the expertise shared by countless entrepreneurs and designers, I created a career that allows me to explore, create and contribute to the field.

Let’s open up the discussion.

Now I’d like to pay it forward by answering your questions on the field. What burning question do you have that you can’t find an answer to? I’m 100% certain you are not alone in thinking about it. Write it in the comment box below and click “post comment”. I’ll do my best to answer each and every one.

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2 Responses to Questions on Social Impact Design

  1. Daniela Fdz says:

    I have just discovered this year social design and have read 3-4 books on the subject. Also during highschool I started having an aproach on the subject viewed in a more philantropicish way.
    I study industrial design and I try to apply this knowledge in my projects, but my school and even the city is a bit behind in the development and all the growth has been unsustainable and bases itself in donations and stuff like that.
    Shortly, how can I apply social design in communities that either do not know what it is, or think it is philantropy? And how can I make that a way to sell the ideas or consulting without losing the focus?

    • Katie says:

      Daniela, thank you for asking this great question. It can feel like an uphill battle when you’re trying to discover monetary value in a place where probono is prevalent. But you could take a couple approaches. First, I would start speaking with potential clients to get them know them better and find out what they’re in need of. This will give you an understanding of what you might provide and if there’s mutual benefit. Then, you could either 1] offer a small part of your services probono or for a reduced fee in order to build up your relationship and repoire OR 2] if you’re confident with what you’ve learned, put together a proposal with options!
      The most important part of this is getting to know your client, their needs, and what you can offer them. This takes time but it’s worth it in the long run!

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