John Cary and William Drenttel | Miscellaneous

Give the Gift of Design this Holiday Season

There are countless holiday gift guides circulating this year, including several aimed at design lovers. For our part, we’d like to recommend something a little different.

Together we (as editors of Public Interest Design and Design Observer) have assembled a list of 10 nonprofits that are using design to make an impact — and we want to encourage our readers to join us in supporting their good work. Tax-deductible gifts: they feel good for the giver, meaningful for the recipient, and provide crucial support for hardworking nonprofits on the ground.

Our process for selecting these 10 nonprofits wasn’t terribly scientific. They simply caught our attention and sparked our imagination, either by introducing new models or sticking to what they do best. Although admirers and supporters of many other organizations and efforts, we wanted this to be an experience of discovery. We’ve opted for a mix of new, small and lesser known groups, where even modest gifts can make a huge difference. Each of the ten profiled below includes a link to their website and a direct link to their donate page. Additional recommendations are welcome in the comments section.

Catapult Designs field-testing its handcart prototypes in eastern Africa, having partnered with Anza Technologies in Moshi, Tanzania.


Designing better lives.
Catapult designs products and technologies that are appropriate, self-sustaining, environmentally-friendly, socially-responsible and culturally-sensitive. It ensures buy-in from those it is working to serve, while partnering with private and public entities to get stuff done.
Donate here >>

Community Solutions' flagship "100,000 Homes Campaign" is a national movement designed to ensure permanent housing for 100,000 homeless people by July 2013.

Community Solutions

Designing an end to homelessness.
Community Solutions is a new spinoff of the nonprofit Common Ground, focused on eradicating homelessness nationally. It is aimed at the development of well-designed affordable housing nationally, but also redesigning the cumbersome systems and processes required to get and keep people off the street.
Donate here >>

CUP's "The Street Vendor Project" campaign brochure, part of its Making Policy Public program.

Center for Urban Pedagogy

Designing better public policy.
CUP creates visually-based educational tools that demystify urban policy and planning issues, as evidenced by their Making Policy Public initiative. Their work stems from a belief that better understanding of how systems work is the first step to better community participation.
Donate here >>

Code for America 2011 Fellow Peter Fecteau, kicking off Philly Data Camp.

Code for America

Designing better civic services.
Code for America solves service design and technological challenges facing city governments. It leverages social media and technology to make city services more open and efficient. Among other initiatives, Code for America co-created the Civic Symbol Suite, a democratically created icon set for use in the public domain.
Donate here >>

Design Impact, in association with ODAM, produced the Erikoodu Briquettes in the rural area of Tamil Nadu to burn smoke-free and improve health conditions for women cooking.

Design Impact

Designing for social justice.
Design Impact uses design to expose and remedy social inequities in India, partnering designers with community organizations. Its engineering, graphic and product design work, focuses on improving access to safe drinking water, reducing the cost of life-saving medical equipment and raising awareness of other social challenges.
Donate here >>

Embrace's Infant Warmer is a hypoallergenic sleeping bag with an isolated compartment to hold the warmed wax heat agent.


Designing to save lives.
Embrace concerns itself with the 20,000,000 under-developed babies born each year, but particularly with huge numbers of those that die due to hypothermia. Its innovative Infant Warmer was designed to cost roughly one percent of a normal incubator and be deployed in rural areas to buy crucial time to keep babies warm in transit.
Donate here >>

HERO's utility truck parked outside its headquarters on Main Street in Greensboro.

HERO: Hale Empowerment & Revitalization Organization

Designing for dignity.
HERO has designed and built over 100 homes across the Alabama Black Belt as well as designed and launched several new business enterprises. It is a frequent common denominator and unsung hero in a landscape of efforts to empower people in rural Alabama.
Donate here >>

IDEO.org 2012 Fellow Liz Ogbu developing multi-use water systems with Winrock International for drinking, sanitation, and agriculture.


Designing an end to poverty.
A new nonprofit launched by its design firm namesake, IDEO.org undertakes human-centered design projects on issues as wide-ranging as water delivery, education and youth employment. Partnering with foundations, social enterprises and other nonprofits, its collaborative design teams are focused squarely on ending global poverty.
Donate here >>

Interior courtyard and signage of MASS's Butaro Hospital in Rwanda. Photo by Iwan Baan.

MASS Design Group

Designing for public health.
MASS even while just fresh out of architecture school, has managed two 
extraordinary design facilities — a hospital and vocational school — in Rwanda. Its Butaro Hospital, undertaken with Paul Farmer’s Partners in Health, has brought high-quality healthcare in a world-class facility to a district of 400,000 people.
Donate here >>

Still of TeachAIDS's animated health awareness campaign for India.


Designing to raise awareness.
TeachAIDS uses culturally-sensitive graphic design and animations in healthcare awareness campaigns, already adapted by more than 30 countries. The research-based resources are free, produced and disseminated in partnership with international organizations, and incorporate the voices of cultural icons.
Donate here >>

Posted in: Aid , Health + Safety, Philanthropy

Comments [1]

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