Over the past ten years, we’ve seen the proliferation of design projects that explicitly aim to have a social, economic or environmental impact… but where are the firms? There have been dozens of publications that highlight successful projects, but few that explore how these types of projects could sustain an entire design practice. However, we’ve already seen leaders like D-Rev and MASS prove that it is in fact possible to develop a financially sustainable design practice focused on social impact design. But how have they done it? What are their strategies and methods? What are their business models and organizational structures? How do they make money?
Over the past two years, I’ve been researching these very questions alongside my two partners, Mia Scharphie and Nick McClintock. Our work explores how social impact design firms fund projects and develop viable business models, as well as how these new approaches to practice are redefining the scope of the traditional design process. We recently received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to finish and publish this research, which will be publicly available early next year, but we wanted to share just a taste of what’s to come here first! More