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of adventure, connection, and change making.


Find a problem, design a solution

Do It

The next time a problem, big or small, confounds you, use your design skills to come up with a solution. Whether it’s a crisis of global importance or a door in your home that just won’t close right, try something new and share the solution that ultimately works for you. Even if you’re not a designer in your daily life, you’ll get a new, deep satisfaction from fixing something that’s broken, making something you use better, or designing your way around one of your biggest frustrations.



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Stories (22)

  • Priti Ambani

    Our living spaces define us in many ways. They contribute to our health and well being. But not many of us are thinking about how these spaces are built. Moreover buildings use energy and contribute to 40%o of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. We need to change this and have a bigger say in demanding greener, cleaner buildings to live, work and play.

    Together with the MIT Climate Colab, we are seeking your ideas to get communities involved in demanding better living spaces?
    Personally, I feel we can do a lot if we come together - reduce factors that contribute to climate change and create thriving living areas that benefit us all. But how do we do it? - Share your idea on the MIT Climate Colab platform >>

  • Jose Vadi

    Sometimes even in the digital age, direct hands-on engagement is necessary to bridge the real world with the digital world.

    Myself and my colleague at Youth Speaks, Natasha Huey, faced a problem with our two digital poetry projects (Off/Page Project and RaiseUp, respectively): How can we provide a live tool to allow kids to tell and upload video testimonials for our projects? We spoke with our supervisor Hodari Davis and came up with this DIY video booth.

    Part art installation, part engagement strategy, this was a first for either of our projects, let alone Youth Speaks. Through PVC pipe, duct tape, and pre-produced media banners, we were able to create both a video booth and sidewalls for Instagram opportunities. This enables double the content, and double the brand representation. We recently tested it out at the Nourse Auditorium for the Grand Slam Finals of Youth Speaks' Bay Area Teen Poetry Slam. Check out the results in the photos below.

    To learn more about our projects, follow Off/Page (@offpageproject) and RaiseUp (@raiseupproject) on Twitter and Instagram.

  • Ben Weinlick

    Poverty, homelessness, and the marginalization of people with disabilities, are examples of social challenges that require dedicated solution-seeking space. These are also challenges that require engagement and collaboration with diverse community members to move forward effectively. A few years my team and I started exploring design thinking and hosting social labs to address how we might help disabled citizens move from the margins of society to being valued and part of all our communities. Some of the innovative strategies and processes we engage in, in our Citizen Action Lab include the use of story as a change agent to inspire action and the creative problem solving processes we use to help spark new ways of supporting engaged citizenship of people with developmental disabilities.

    These Citizen Action Labs have been a place and time where a diverse and open minded group of social sector leaders, University of Alberta academics, students and community members have come together to brainstorm ideas and action that could help people be more connected in community and valued as citizens.

    One of the unique features of a social change lab is that they not only co-create new knowledge through conversation and story telling, they also put forward possible solutions and test them out. There is a big emphasis in social change labs on making ideas tangible through prototyping. Prototyping doesn't mean you have to be a designer or engineer, it simply means to show what an idea might look like. Having to draw an idea or make a little model of it helps a group to better understand an idea and test aspects of it early. So, an example coming out of our citizen action lab would be to explore drawing or making a rough model of what it might look like for a person we support to develop a little neighbourhood compost business. This helps good ideas turn into action much sooner.

    Check out a little video about our Citizen Action Lab here-
    Outcomes from the lab

  • Joseph Chan

    SunBell Solar lamp & Phone charger – For a world where people see new possibilities

    What´s the problem?
    In Africa, Asia and Latin America 1.3 billion people live without access to electricity. They depend on the polluting and fuel guzzling kerosene lamp for light, limiting their opportunities to study, work and socialize after dark. In more developed regions of the world millions of hikers, campers and "Emergency Preppers" are looking for smarter and greener gadgets for light and mobile phone charging when the situation calls for it.

    What´s the solution?
    The unique and internationally awarded SunBell from BRIGHT Products is charged by the sun and can be used for several, universal needs for light: 1) The need for a light-weight portable light, using only the LED light and battery unit in the hand or around the neck. 2) The need for directed reading light or task light on a table, using the "Bell" as a lamp stand with the LED head directed at the task. 3) The need for a well distributed social light / ceiling light, with both the battery pack and the LED head inserted in the "Bell" as a lampshade. Finally, in a world where almost everyone across every country and culture has a mobile phone, the SunBell can be used for phone charging when the power is out or the nearest socket is miles away. You might call it "The Swiss Army Knife of Solar Lamps".

    It takes about 5-6 hours of good sunlight to charge the Lithium battery of the SunBell. With three dimming levels it will give strong light for 4,5 hours, medium light for 15 hours or low light for more than 100 hours. The battery will last up to 2.000 cycles (5-7 years in daily use) and can also be charged with an optional AC/DC wall charger. The solar panel has 9 feet of cable rolled up around the core, allowing the panel to be out in the sun while the lamp unit is stored safe and dry in a cooler spot. When the SunBell is not in use, the light and battery unit can be stored inside the "Bell" with the solar panel unit as a snap on lid for smart storing.

    The SunBell project started with K8, a "playful, fearless and responsible" design office in Oslo Norway. In 2010 the design was honored with the "International Design Award" in L.A. In 2011 chief designer Marius Andresen teamed up with Kristian Bye who soon became the director of new founded BRIGHT Products. In August 2011 BRIGHT won the Common Pitch, initiated by advertising guru Alex Bogusky in Colorado and in 2013 the SunBell was awarded as "Product of the year" by the Alliance for Rural Electrification. In the US and Canada the SunBell is distributed by who will sell it through their own online store and a growing number of retail outlets. The SunBell is also sold in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Kenya, Tanzania and Sierra Leone.

  • Bridget Hilton

    I knew from a young age that music would be my path in life. At 15 I got my first job at a concert venue in Detroit. Over the next decade, I grew up between the vinyl racks at record stores, packing boxes in major label mailrooms and selling merch on tour with bands that I loved.

    The next chapter started with a video. A woman my age hears her own voice for the very first time while her husband films it, then uploads to YouTube. It inspires millions of people to click "share", and I press play. After imaging how different my life would be without ever hearing music, I did some research and find there are 360 million people with disabling hearing loss just like her. Most of them are in developing countries and can be helped with just hearing aids. Music is so important - it shouldn't be something that is dependent on status, age or location. I had to do something to help.

    Joe and I started LSTN Headphones at my kitchen table with the mission of changing the world through the power of music. We later moved ourselves and our new interns into a 200 square foot office. Our offices have now become trains, planes and automobiles as we now travel the world growing our small company. LSTN is a for-purpose company that connects individuals, families and communities through sound. For every pair of headphones we sell, we help restore hearing to a person in need through Starkey Hearing Foundation.

    In under 2 years, LSTN has been able to give the gift of sound to over 15,000 people through Starkey in the U.S., Peru, Kenya and Uganda because of your amazing support. We are just getting started and truly appreciate each person that has spread the word about LSTN. Check us out here:

  • Unni Royland

    I wanted to protect lions. Then it was elephants. Soon it was the entire Serengeti and the Arctic and other pristine places. I wanted to help out in any way I could. I wanted to stop the poaching and the mass species extinctions that would follow. I wanted to slow down climate change to give the Arctic a fighting chance. I knew the best way was to elevate awareness in the general population, inspire and evoke true empathy in people in far away lands that could make a difference. I needed to galvanize support from consumers, leaders, and politicians. I wanted to offer my art and photography to charities and NGOs that were creating change on the ground. But many charties just weren't equipped. What would they do with the photography? Where would they display it? While the charities could see the benefit they were focused on the endless cycle of fundraising and on their primary goals and causes.
    I was sure it wasn't just me that had this faced this issue. Artists by nature are passionate about our world.

    Gallery for Good was born. A platform for artists and art lovers to impact the world by helping causes they love.

  • Jessica Lowry

    It's time we modernized the way people submit their ideas for city planning. Place is defined by the citizens who inhabit it. Yet too few voices are heard and too few ideas are brought forward.

    When I visit a new place I always want to walk around. There's so much more to see and experience on foot than in a car. You smell and taste your surroundings. A place becomes personal when you're immersed in it.

    Almost two years ago I started to investigate what defines a place. What is the social life of a place. How do you define the identity of a place. And when it comes to safety how do we know when we're in a safe place?

    One of the greatest fears regarding gentrification is the destruction of a communities sense of pride, order and resilience. When our environment changes without our involvement we experience anxiety and fear. These negative feelings tend to rally people into a frenzy. It’s not necessarily that people don’t want change to happen, but they want to ensure the change will benefit and support them.

    Currently, there are several tactics for engaging the community in planning exercises in an effort to preserve, promote, protect and improve public spaces. City Planners conduct a series of outreach initiatives, workshops, publish articles and blog posts. They organize ‘walkabouts’ inviting the community to join them in reviewing the proposed changes on site.

    Although these outreach initiatives tick the box in terms of compliance measures to manage change within a community there is little opportunity to tap into real insights. Traditional methodology for collecting information has changed very little over the past 20 years. Workshops can only accommodation so many attendees and occur at times of the day unsuitable for many people. Surveys do not provide the opportunity for the community to collaborate with each other and share ideas. There is little transparency or visibility. If you aren’t able to attend a community meeting you can only rely on the information provided by a website to inform you of the proposed changes. Voting is closed without any ability to educate people on the breath of the decision making process. And the language used can be extremely heavy in industry jargon making it challenging for many to understand the information being conveyed.

    Quite simply, the residents aren’t adequately engaged in the development of their city. And the public at large aren’t being adequately represented in the policies, zoning by-laws or methodology behind design decisions. Without adequate consultation it is not possible to create inventive new designs that reflect the needs of the people living in the community. The greatest asset of any city are the people living there and spaces should reflect the community’s values.

    Control is an important aspect of our psychological well-being. Many of the most frustrating situations in life involve cases where events are happening around you; yet you have no say in how the situation turns out. In order to get everyone on board with proposed changes it’s important to bestow people with a sense of control. Empowering the community to contribute their ideas as early in the process as possible will help to change the nature of the conversation. If my ideas are considered and discussed before the design solution is presented I feel as though I’ve been heard. Providing a platform to be heard proactively shifts the nature of the discussion from complaining to collaborating.

    My solution is to empower people to collect information about pubic space using their phone. This information helps City Planners and Urban Developers see streets through the eyes of it’s residents. Users of Key to the Street become social anthropologists collecting qualitative data about the street. The design tool enables users to participate in virtual paper-prototyping.

    Key to the Street is a change management tool for societal shift from a car-centric culture to a more sustainable culture. The focus is to raise peoples consciousness regarding the alternatives to driving. As cities continue to change and evolve there are opportunities to engage more people in the design of public space. And it’s important to provide everyone with the tools and information they need to make informed decisions.

    Learn more:

  • Lee-Sean Huang

    The Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre is built on the site of a mass grave, housing the remains of 250,000 Rwandans who were killed over three months in 1994. Like all such memorials, it is intended as an antidote to genocide itself – teaching us and moving us to ensure we will never again be detached and complicit.

    But, for the most part, we remain unchanged. Virtually every visitor to a genocide memorial or holocaust museum can attest to overwhelming feelings of sympathy, sadness and outrage. Schoolchildren and world leaders alike leave speechless. But most visitors can also attest that they did nothing substantively differently as a result.

    The profound feelings genocide memorials elicit are a powerful fuel. What can we do to convert them into meaningful and sustainable action?

    The Kigali Genocide Memorial and the Aegis Trust, the organization that operates the Memorial, invited me and nine other designers to design a solution to this problem. We came up with a framework called the "Inzovu (Elephant) Curve," to help shape the museum's storytelling and design of experiences to not just provoke strong emotions, but concrete, sustained ACTION in support of genocide survivors and prevention against future atrocities.

    More details coming soon..
    Stay tuned:

  • Mallory Baches

    At its worst, the public decision-making processes tend to marginalize forward-thinking. You don’t need to look any farther than Congress to witness how stonewalling is systematically encouraged, how obstructionism by a minority means that a majority never truly succeeds. With the good and necessary checks and balances in place to stop absolute power, somehow we’ve come to a place where most of us feel like we’re all rendered powerless.

    It has made me question: are we all really OK with just canceling each other out, even if we’re doing so through a “democratic” process? Is there a better way to engage for change?

    I saw a lot of “canceling out” early in my career as an urban designer. I poured myself into the creation of so many ideas for places that would never come to be, because an elected council member didn’t like the architecture in the renderings, or because a newspaper editorial painted the designers as “outsiders” in encouraging dissent, or because a group of competing land owners rallied fear of change in locals. I still remember each one of those losses of opportunity, and I continue to regret that every one of them came without meaningful conversations involving everyone invested.

    Ideas that could truly contribute to a community faced barriers of complacency.

    It was out of my frustrated need to break down the barriers to collaborative community-building that I founded The Civic Hub. Our mission is to empower citizens with the tools they need to change their communities for the better. We help start those meaningful conversations I missed when I was designing solutions for communities, and in doing so we design our own kind of community solution: connection.

    The Civic Hub is a social capital incubator: we work with individuals, groups, organizations, and even municipalities to help kickstart community-building. We have found that the biggest obstacle for any community-based initiative is always the unknown: a lack of “been there, done that” experience that could help keep momentum going. This is where we get to work. We provide services, tools, techniques, support, and old-fashioned elbow grease to help citizens understand the needs of their community and design ways to solve for those needs.

    Our work has been described as the “hub” between urban design and community development, connecting design projects with the citizens that will ultimately utilize those designs and vice-versa. Whether we are building connection between disparate community interests, providing valuable public education on topics that will benefit all citizens, or developing communication avenues for citizens to hear each other better, we get to know so many wonderful towns and neighborhoods and citizens around the country.

    And everywhere we work, we are greasing the gears of building community.

    Learn more:

  • Lee-Sean Huang

    How can we use the power of branding to strengthen a shared identity and spark positive change in the neighborhoods and cities where we live? An effective visual identity references the culture and history of a place’s people and reflects their hopes and aspirations. Logos, fonts, or color schemes, the most tangible parts of a brand identity, are not magical cure-alls for the financial, social, and cultural ills of a city, but they can be powerful symbols and rallying cries that galvanize people to action. Here are some stories and insights on how you can create a brand identity for change in your community:

  • Tippy Tippens

    In September of 2010, I moved from Brooklyn to New Orleans after watching the BP Oil Spill unfold without a solution in sight. As a product designer, I created BirdProject Soaps as my way to help.

    Each black, bird shaped soap contains a white, ceramic bird, handmade from Louisiana Clay, which remains as a keepsake once the outer soap has washed away. Through the daily act of washing, you will eventually free the clean, white, ceramic birds inside - potent symbols of restoration and recovery. The soap is shaped to be cradled in your hand and is a powerful representation of all creatures affected by the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Disaster.

    50% of proceeds are donated to to environmental cleanup and care for affected animals of the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Disaster. (Gulf Restoration Network & International Bird Rescue) We have donated $21,000 to date and counting!

    The soaps are made with natural, locally sourced ingredients: biodiesel glycerin, fair trade olive oil, aloe, activated black charcoal, and a light cypress scent - reminiscent of Louisianan bayous. They are made by Emily Manger Davis of Sweet Olive Soaps, a third generation soapmaker from New Orleans & John Oles, a master ceramacist.

    I became inspired to form a company 'Matter, Design for Social Change' upon developing BirdProject, when I saw the need for socially inspired products which sustainably and poetically fulfill our basic needs. Matter, Inc., fuels a movement for good living, sustainability, and progress for manufacturing in the U.S. We are proud to be the first Benefit Corporation in Louisiana and are excited to continue to develop new, meaningful products, each one focusing on an important social or environmental need.

    Matter launched three new products last year via Indiegogo which focus on building literacy, education opportunities for students in low income communities, and restoration needed post Hurricane Sandy. Our two new social goods this year focus on the disappearance of bees & gun violence, with the preciousness of water & wetland restoration soon to follow. Also in the year ahead, I will be opening a retail + creative workshop space that includes community fellowships to share knowledge on how to start/run a business. Come and see us in New Orleans, or visit us online here:!

  • Eric Ho

    Even in the cramped high-density world of New York City retail, there are still empty spaces looking to be filled. In the summer of 2012, we recognised that there are over 200 vacant storefronts in the Lower East Side alone. Rather than letting them sit idle, we decided to take action and explore how communities can activate these spaces on a short-term basis, opening storefronts to countless possibilities.

    We got started by conducting engagement workshops to see, quite simply, what people wanted to do in these spaces-- the community was very enthusiastic in telling us what they wanted to see and create in the neighborhood. As we continued to listen, in Spring 2013 we began to prototype our idea of multi-use activation in a small storefront of about 300 square feet. One challenge for using one space for multiple purposes was the furnishing of the space itself-- a mini film festival needed a different setup than a coworking space, which needed a different setup than a retail shop. Responding to this, we designed our first prototype of a set of furniture to transform the storefront into different uses. In this prototyped storefront, we learned a lot about interacting with landlords and the logistics of opening and closing. We identified common challenges which we wanted to streamline, simplify, and pre-emptively move popuppers through. We were both surprised and impressed by how each popupper used the space so uniquely, each turning the space into their own chance to test their ideas and projects, showcase their products, and invite the public into their vision.

    With our first round of pop-ups, the need for a more accommodating and more comprehensive set of amenities to easily transform storefronts became obvious. If you’re only taking over a space for a week or a day, buying or renting (or even deciding on) furniture is not only a hassle but a relatively big added expense-- an additional barrier to accessing the spaces that lay idle. With this in mind, we decided to go back to the drawing board and design an even more flexible set of furnishing called “Storefront Transformer” to make this transformation more versatile. Imagine a shape-shifting storefront, one space, many possibilities: from an independent arts space one week to designer fashion boutique the next; from cooking classroom on Thursday to locavore snack bar on Friday.The miLES Storefront Transformer is a set of furnishing and amenities to program any storefront - essentially a 6ft cube that can be easily transported and subdivided to roll through any storefront door. When unfolded, the Transformer provides functional elements (shelving, partitions, tables, seats, stage, etc.) and infrastructure (lighting, WIFI, power strips, speakers, projectors, and PA system), giving you all the basic ingredients to create your own pop-up!

    After a successful kickstarter campaign with the support of 300 wonderful backers, we rolled out our Storefront Transformer in Fall 2013. To see how it could be used for wildly different purposes, we showcased 6 creative uses of storefronts with 6 one-week popups, including a pop-up comic museum by Jack Kirby Museum, a pop-up live magazine by Blood, Sweat & Fears, a pop-up makerspace by The Makery and Kollabora, a pop-up holiday shop by StopTHINKshop, and a pop-up bodega-themed eatery by Ghetto Gastro. It was amazing to see a storefront transformed not only from empty to vibrant, but also from one popup to the next.

    We continued this experiment in Spring 2014 with 10+ different popup uses with the Storefront Transformer, including a pop-up conscious shop by Conscious Magazine, pop-up indies electronics shop by Grand Street, pop-up Museum of Beautiful People by Lilly and Tanner, pop-up cafe by Lululosophy and Honey+Soul, pop-up picnic for charity by Give Half, pop-up design-thinking workshop and taco stand by The Design Gym, pop-up international street art gallery by Imagination in Space, and more.

    Since April 2013 we have helped produced 50+ popups, we now have access to almost 20 spaces that are open to short-term uses. With each pop-up we’ve learned something new about the process-- something to build upon to further improve our popuppers' experiences. We are passionate about not only designing the versatile furniture and amenities that can support building the stories of popuppers, but also about designing and streamlining the process for everyone to easily access these spaces. The one uniting theme is that everyone popping up is extremely passionate about whatever it is that they’re doing, and they want to share it.

    With this in mind, we see popping up not just as a process but as an attitude and ethos. We wrote our #POPUPMANIFESTO at miLES to celebrate the collective movement of people taking empty spaces and producing truly inspired experiences.

    Join our movement! Find us at: or