Posts tagged ‘impact’

SFI12: Quantifiable impact.

Part 4 of 5

The third panel was full of projects with clearly recognizable social, environmental, and economical impact. BNIM Architecture’s SEED award winning Bancroft School Revitalization was the first project presented, including heartfelt anecdotes by the neighborhood association’s president, Sandra Hayes. One of her biggest takeaways from this project is that “to be a change agent, you have to build relationships.” Tim Duggan, the landscape architect on the project and a long-term collaborator with BNIM, described another challenge for the team: creating a design language for Manheim that is distinct but still local. Duggan admitted that it’s a tricky but very important line to navigate.

rendering of Bancroft School Revitalization by BNIM and Make It Right

The next speaker was Green Guide for Health Care co-founder Gail Vittori, who realized 12 years ago that “no one was really connecting human health & the built environment.” The work that she has done and encouraged others to do (including some great progress by my employer, Perkins+Will!) has moved healthcare facilities forward by leaps and bounds. Now, the standard for hospital design is finally shifting toward healthy food, water and energy savings, and carcinogen free building materials. When asked about mobilizing this type of change, specifically though the effect of a “multiplier,” Vittori shared that employee retention in a powerful motivator in healthcare; statistics show that nurses stay in their jobs longer when there’s a green commitment from their employer, and hospitals clearly understand the value of lower turnover.

The always entertaining Pliny Fisk, co-founder of the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, also shared some pieces of his portfolio. His project goals are strongly rooted in social impact and understanding, making him and Vittori (his wife) quite the power couple of public interest design. With his projects, Fisk said that his aim is for clients to think “that crazy American, he actually understands who we are as a culture.” In my opinion, it’s a goal that’s far from crazy.

MASS Design Group aims for triple bottom line impact with all their projects, including construction of housing for Butaro Hospital’s doctors

Michael Murphy and Tanya Paz were up next, presenting MASS Design Group’s SEED award winning Nyanza hospital. Murphy shared that designing “healthier environments” was the primary goal in founding the non-profit firm, a goal that has definitely been achieved with their celebrated Butaro hospital. The Nyanza project has many of the same goals as Butaro, but is located on a much tighter site, making it both a challenging and very rewarding project to work on.

When the audience asked this panel how we can improve legislation to make healthier cities, several great answers were offered. BNIM’s Sam De Jong reaffirmed the power of seeing the local community as a partner. Duggan reminded the audience to vote! And moderator Michael Gatto added by saying that we all need to be “solutionary” in our approaches.

April 7’s daily design idea is a quote by Make It Right’s Tim Duggan: “the moment you quantify the benefits, the bean counter will understand the value of tree hugging.”


April 7, 2012 at 9:42 pm Leave a comment

Expanding the scope of brand impact.

via Co.Exist (January 1, 2012):

What’s the trick to making a brand meaningful? Focus on outcomes, not outputs. The criteria, says Haque [director of the Havas Media Labs and HBR blogger], are simple: “Did this brand make you fitter, wiser, smarter, closer? Did it improve your personal outcomes? Did it improve your community outcomes? Did it pollute the environment? We’re trying to get beyond ‘did this company make a slightly better product’ to the more resonant, meaningful question: ‘Did this brand actually impact your life in a tangible, lasting, and positive way?'”

Haque cites Nike+ as a prime example. “Instead of putting up another campaign of billboards with celebrities saying ‘Buy our shoes, they’ll turn you into a master runner,’ Nike+ actually helps makes you a better runner. That’s a constructive way to build a meaningful brand.”

image by Flickr user Mathieu Thouvenin

March 8’s daily design idea is consumers have long demanded (and received) positive impact from the strongest and most meaningful brands, but the impact that we’re demanding now is extending far beyond ourselves. Exciting!

For even more insight from Co.Exist on consumers’ growing expectations for businesses, check out the article “The Three Ages of Socially Responsible Business.”

March 8, 2012 at 11:52 am Leave a comment

Tweeting on professional development: Lisa Curtis

via @LisaCurtis (Feb 21, 2012):

“…recently I’ve come across some really good advice for young people like me who want to make a difference, make some money and be really effective at what they do.

This advice comes in the form of two books, both of which have overly long titles. The first is The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, a self-help classic published in 1989 that was named the most influential book of the 20th century. The second is the recently released Making Good: Finding Meaning, Money, and Community in a Changing World, a book that has the potential to become the 7 Habits equivalent for a whole new generation of professionals looking to make an impact alongside paying the bills.”

Curtis goes on to outline a nicely mashed-up “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Changemakers.” It’s worth noting that these align well with the “25 Thoughts for Changemakers” suggested in Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know by David Bornstein and Susan Davis, a book that is also worth a read if you’re looking to develop the changemaker in you.

You can the top-line version of Curtis’ seven habits below, or the full article on Huffington Post Impact:

Habit 1: Develop a Personal Mission Statement (aka a “daily mantra”)
Habit 2: Envision What Success Looks Like
Habit 3: Cultivate Your Special Powers
Habit 4: Find Your Inner Circle
Habit 5: Practice Deep Listening
Habit 6: Seek Synergy (aka learn to play nice with others)
Habit 7: Practice

February 21’s daily design idea is a quote from Aristotle, which Curtis also uses as her concluding thought in the Huffington Post piece: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

February 21, 2012 at 4:34 pm 2 comments

“A dignified house, a beautiful house, a house that everybody likes – not just architects.”

To be widely appreciated is just one of the many goals of the $20K House, “an ongoing research project at the Rural Studio that seeks to address the pressing need for decent and affordable housing in Hale County, Alabama.” The goal of this project is a product line of three (or possibly more) houses that can each be built in 3 weeks for $20,000 – equating to $12,000 in materials and $8,000 in labor. But beyond being admirably cost effective, the $20K Houses will also employ local labor, use locally sourced materials, and (as I mentioned) be designed to have overall value to a huge variety of people – most importantly, the residents of the houses themselves and the larger Hale County community.

rendering of a 20K House from March 2011

Presented by Andrew Freear, a professor at Auburn and director of its Rural Studio program, the $20K House is one of many projects that I learned about at this year’s Structures for Inclusion conference. Titled “Structures for Inclusion 10+1,” this is the eleventh conference hosted by Bryan Bell and his organization Design Corps, a major force behind the SEED Network. The design priorities for the $20K House line up perfectly with the goals of the SEED Network, which fundamentally exists to promote a triple bottom line approach to architecture (i.e. Social, Economical, and Environmental design).

Later in the conference Sergio Palleroni, founder of the BaSIC Initiative and professor at Portland State University, noted that a major benefit of taking this approach with your projects is that the SEED priorities communicate easily to all stakeholders and to potential investors, which can’t always be said for the traditional priorities of architects. As someone who strongly believes that architects need to more clearly articulate their potential ROI to clients, I couldn’t agree more.

March 26’s daily design idea is the SEED Vision: “Every person should be able to live in a socially, economically, and environmentally healthy community.” And be able to live in a house that they like.

This is post 1 of 7 recapping Structures for Inclusion 10+1, an annual conference focused on design for social good.

March 26, 2011 at 7:23 pm Leave a comment

“Why We’re All Designers”

“Why We’re All Designers” is a concise and fantastic article by Laura Weiss, Vice President of Service Innovation for the Taproot Foundation, published in Change Observer. While I highly recommend reading the whole thing, below is my favorite section:

“Without an appreciation of the design process, it is difficult for someone who has a stake in the outcomes to be a productive participant. Design, and the professions that engage in it, are still pretty exotic to most of the American public…. So when the concept of “design thinking” was introduced to the business world more than a decade ago, it became hugely popular. Designers started promoting the tools of their trade as applicable to core business decisions, and this education has enabled more productive collaborations between designers and their clients, as well as product managers and their bosses. Both translate into better outcomes in the form of successful commercial products.”

illustration based on Peter Drucker’s Paradigm of Change Model, from ZURBlog

March 24’s daily design idea is Weiss’s concluding thought: “When such capabilities are widely developed within the social sector, we’ll be able to say that we’re all designers too. To thrive, we’ll have to be.”

March 24, 2011 at 11:05 pm 1 comment

“Why is the category of humanitarian architecture even necessary?


“The two terms should be synonymous.
Because sound building practices
can and should lead to social justice.”

Inspirational words from Michael Murphy of MASS Design Group (a not-for-profit design firm headquartered in Boston), as quoted in the article “Social Design: Straight Out of School” in Metropolis Magazine (posted January 17, 2011).

photograph of MASS’s Butaro Hospital in Rwanda; stone cutting was performed by local masons

Here’s more on the amazing and inspirational MASS, from their website: Appropriate, high quality architecture and planning means that the underserved receive the services they need, as well as meet the goals of governments and aid groups hoping to provide basic civic, social, and environmental benefits. MASS believes that our design process can empower communities, provide better access to critical services, and build civic identity. Our approach brings architects and builders to meet directly with communities most in need and assists with aid and development efforts at a range of scales.

diagram of MASS’s approach

March 11’s daily design idea is the greatest design accomplishments involve leveraging limited resources to create a positive impact, aesthetically, socially, environmentally, and otherwise. Kudos to MASS for demonstrating that in spades.

March 11, 2011 at 9:32 am Leave a comment and piece of advice #6.

via Fast Company’s Co.Design (March 7, 2010):

Design and innovation consultancy IDEO “announced today that it would spin off a genuine 501c3 corporation to handle its social innovation practice.” The new “non-profit,, which will officially launch in the fall, will be in a better position to get grants from foundations whose rules make working with for-profit companies difficult.”

While IDEO has a history of doing projects with social impact priorities, “the new organization will aim to work in three different ways: partnering with non-profits to design solutions to problems in the areas of health, agriculture, water and sanitation, financial services, and gender equity; using open innovation platforms and social networking to share insights on best practices; and launching a year-long “future leaders” fellowship program that will pair fellows from the developing world with selected IDEO staffers.”

But will these new approaches be as successful as everyone hopes? IDEO plans to set the bar high for which projects even get picked up, and then be the first to find out if there is a real and positive impact made. “Projects themselves will have to meet a rigorous set of standards: they’ll have to be aimed at low income communities across the globe, be funded by a non-profit enterprise, and deliver tangible results — a real product, service, or system that will directly benefit the community it targets.” In addition, “there will be a huge emphasis on understanding impact,” says the head of IDEO’s Social Innovation domain, Jocelyn Wyatt. “We’ll conduct pre-project baseline surveys, do post-project evaluations, and bring in academics or other third parties for analysis of the results.”

March 10’s daily design idea is professional piece of advice #6: document and analyze your results.

March 10, 2011 at 7:29 pm Leave a comment

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