IDEO announced that in the fall of this year, it will launch a new organization aimed at spreading human-centered design throughout the social sector in order to improve the lives of people in low-income communities around the world and focus on challenges related to poverty. The organization, which will be called IDEO.org, is the result of interest from nonprofits and foundations that seek more access to innovative ways to address some of the world's most challenging problems and that are looking to create tangible impact through design.
IDEO.org will reflect the human-centered, design-based approach IDEO has championed since its inception in 1991. The need for IDEO.org has emerged over the past 10 years as IDEO has expanded its work in the social sector. Examples of projects include Ripple Effect, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and done in partnership with Acumen Fund. Ripple Effect improves access to safe drinking water for more than 500,000 of the world's poorest and underserved people.
IDEO's Human-Centered Design Toolkit, a free innovation guide for social enterprises and NGOs, also demonstrates the positive effect human-centered design can have in low-income communities. Human-centered design is based in the needs of people. It's a process of prototyping and learning with the goal of delivering more effective solutions. Created with International Development Enterprise (IDE) as part of a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the HCD Toolkit is designed specifically for NGOs and social enterprises that work with impoverished communities in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. It walks people through the human-centered design process and supports them in activities such as building listening skills and implementing ideas. To date, it's been downloaded more than 49,000 times and has been used by organizations throughout the developing world, including Acumen Fund, AyurVAID, Engineers without Borders, Heifer International, ICRW, IDE, Micro Drip, Nuru International, and VisionSpring.
Drawing on what IDEO has learned through its work in the social sector, IDEO.org will seek to have impact in three ways: By partnering with organizations on design projects focused on poverty alleviation in the areas of health, agriculture, water and sanitation, financial services, and gender equity; by spreading human-centered design through storytelling, platforms, and new networks; and by fostering future leaders through a fellowship program that will bring together residents from IDEO and people from the design, business, and social sectors.
A general set of criteria will help determine which projects IDEO.org takes on: The place or people benefitting from the project is a low-income community or group; the partner organization is a non-profit, foundation, or social enterprise; and the result of the challenge is tangible - a product, service, business, or system - that will directly benefit the community or people for which it was designed.