June 23, 2024

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Can design save the world? A new alliance is trying

2 min read

On paper, a hackathon sounds like a perfect way to foster creativity: Put people together in a room with stationary, laptops, and a lot of caffeine, and give them a few days to come up with a breakthrough. 

But Ben Sheppard, who leads McKinsey’s global design research, had an unfortunate realization: The hackathon ends, the designers go home, and nothing more gets done. 

Other top designers felt the same way. Many designers “had been through activities where we had tried to design for good, where we had tried to hold activities to make the world a better place,” says Sheppard, who leads a roundtable of chief design officers for McKinsey. “Did it actually make the world a better place? In many cases, sadly, the answer was no,” he concludes.

Sheppard is one of the founders of “Design For Good,” a new alliance made up of some of the world’s largest companies to use design talent to solve social issues. (Sheppard is on the advisory council for Fortune’s upcoming Brainstorm Design conference on Dec. 6)

Halfway through its first two-year program, Design For Good has dozens of projects ready to go. But to prove the alliance is more than what Sheppard deems “design theater,” it now has to do something just as difficult: Get these projects to work in the real world.

Designing better sanitation and water access

The alliance, formally launched in April 2022, counts some of the world’s largest companies— PepsiCo, General Mills, Microsoft, Lixil, Nestle—among its nine corporate members. The U.K.’s Royal College of Art provides education and training for participants. 

For its first round of projects, Design for Good focused its efforts on the mission of improving sanitation and access to clean water. To start, Design for Good placed its hundreds of designers, all from its member organizations, into cross-company teams and offered them a design brief from the alliance’s first round of partner development organizations:…

Nicholas Gordon

2023-10-30 01:00:00

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