Over the past decade, design consultancy IDEO has taken on an impressive roster of social change projects, like Ripple Effect and GlobalTap, deploying staff and resources to help improve the lives of underserved people. Now IDEO is moving to solidify that commitment by launching a nonprofit organization, IDEO.org, as a dedicated unit that will work with foundations, nonprofits and social enterprises. “These are not traditional IDEO clients so the new organization will make our work more accessible to them, easier to scale and at a better price point,” explains Jocelyn Wyatt, co-lead and executive director.
As the field of design and social innovation expands, designers have been experimenting with different business models, from hybrids to for-profits and foundations, as the best way to accomplish their goals. For IDEO the idea is to attract philanthropic support for projects, as IDEO already does from organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as fundraising and matching funds for projects. The separate nonprofit approach was chosen because “it’s easier for a nonprofit to fund another nonprofit,” Wyatt adds. IDEO.org will focus on design projects involving poverty alleviation in health, agriculture, water and sanitation, financial services and gender equality. It will spread ideas about human-centered design via new platforms and networks. And it will foster new leadership in the field through a fellowship program that includes bringing senior IDEO designers into the organization for 11-month residencies and inviting design, business and social leaders to provide a global perspective.
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