National Endowment for the Arts Announces Webinar Series on Social Impact Design

Series follows release of white paper on results of Social Impact Design Summit of 2012

Washington, DC -- Social impact design -- the practice of designing for public benefit, especially in disadvantaged communities -- has been garnering more attention from both professional and aspiring designers in a variety of disciplines. The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has long supported design across these disciplines, from graphic to landscape design and architecture to product design.

As a natural outcome of that support and to promote the emerging field of social impact design, the NEA's design program will host a series of webinars to build on findings discussed in the just-released white paper, Design and Social Impact: A cross-sectoral agenda for design education, research and practice (pdf). The paper is a result of the Social Impact Design Summit that was hosted by Cooper-Hewitt, the Lemelson Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts in February 2012.

The NEA's webinar series will be curated and hosted by thought leaders in social impact design and will cover topics that enhance the field's capacity to design effectively for social impact.

"We are excited to build upon insightful discussions from the Social Impact Design Summit by highlighting the work in this field for both funders and designers," said NEA Director of Design Jason Schupbach. "The webinar series will enable design practitioners, educators, thought leaders, and supporters to delve more deeply into recommendations presented in the white paper and to build a stronger community of practice for social impact design."

The schedule, topics, and speakers are:

April 24, 2013 at 2 p.m. ET: Creating a Culture of Storytelling & Evaluation Hosted by: John Cary, founder of Social impact design is distinguished by its human-centered approach, a practice ripe for storytelling and evaluation, with the unique potential to change hearts and minds. This webinar will explore the topics of communication and critique, featuring campaigns, entities, and individuals that successfully communicate the value of social impact design work and techniques for effectively evaluating its outcomes.

June 12, 2013 at 2 p.m. ET: Making it Happen: Spotlight on Successful Projects Hosted by: Jen Hughes, design specialist at National Endowment for the Arts 
The social impact design field encompasses a diverse community of inventors, architects, designers, and urban planners working across the globe. This webinar will profile successful social impact design practitioners (including NEA design grantees), and their approach to executing projects in this field. Featured designers will discuss key lessons learned, their organizational models, and their thoughts on scaling social impact work. 

August 20, 2013 at 2 p.m. ET: Educating the Next Generation of Social Impact Designers  Hosted by: William Drenttel, president of Winterhouse Institute and co-founder of Design Observer 
Universities and design schools are currently an important seat for social impact design training and fieldwork. This webinar will bring together educators and practitioners to discuss strategies for teaching and practicing social impact design. It will delve into the need for diverse skills and curricula to prepare effective social impact designers for the field.

To register for any of the webinars, go to the webinar section of the NEA website. All webinars are archived and available for viewing shortly after the live presentation.

The one-day Social Impact Design Summit, held Feb. 27, 2012, brought together public-interest architects, industrial designers, planners, civil-society designers, landscape architects, engineers and inventors from Australia, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas. The summit focused on issues such as creating successful and sustainable organizational models and preparing designers for this new area of practice.

The resulting white paper, Design and Social Impact: A cross-sectoral agenda for design education, research and practice, includes the following five recommendations:

  • Expand networks, as there is much that members of this diverse, global community can learn from one another and from the constituents they serve.
  • Emphasize storytelling to more effectively communicate social impact design's value and how design can play a significant role in creating social change.
  • Build a culture of evaluation with better tools to demonstrate the long-term impact of design projects and initiatives.
  • Form intelligent coalitions with dedicated social impact design programs within universities as well as informal teaching environments, both physical and online.
  • Create alternative funding strategies to enable innovative and ongoing support.

A panel discussion, Intelligent Coalitions: Design and Social Impact, will be held tonight, Thursday, February 21 in New York City. For more information and to watch the live web-stream, please go here. The webcast will be archived and available for viewing on the Cooper-Hewitt's YouTube channel.


Victoria Hutter