During all my professional development I have been concerned about the state of our societies, and how designers can make an active effort to have a positive effect on the world around us.

I don’t believe designers have a monopoly over social impact and don’t need to be involved for its success. But designers do have an important skill-set to apply to social impact – namely, an empathic approach to their solutions. Unlike their engineering cousins working extensively from technology or science, designers start from people. It’s historically been termed empathic design, user, human or people-centred design, and it’s been interesting to hear recent calls for an overhaul of terminology within the design industry, from “human-centred design” to “humanity-centred design”, which does rather hit the spot.

This methodological orientation explains why, in my opinion, designers tend to gravitate toward the social rather than environmental problems of sustainability, as it’s a natural fit for their skills requiring no retraining.

Where to start?

If you are interested in learning more about organizations working for a social impact, have a look at this resources. Here you can also find inspiration for your own impact journey, whether it is supporting an existing initiative or starting your own.

  Social impact resources

The Next Billion blog. The blog offers a delightful range of topics, from solar irrigation to dry toilets to the problem of microcredits.

The University of Michigan Center for Social Impact. Collection of social impact resources, North American focus.

The Centre for Social Impact in Australia, conducts research projects into solving societal problems Down Under, bringing together leaders from government, business, and civil society.

Social Impact calls itself the ‘agency for social innovation’. Their website offers a very detailed calendar for social impact events in Germany.

The Guardian’s Sustainable Business. A good place to find newsworthy topics and some of the current approaches to solving them.