What are the ultimate goals when designing for social impact? We spoke to industrial designer Tasos Calantzis who leads our Social Impact jury about the team he's assembled in Pretoria, South Africa. A former contributor to Core77, Tasos is CEO of design consultancy Terrestrial, and was behind Fabrication Africa which manufactured 21st century African products that created employment for South Africans, and Arivi, which creates safe and efficient energy products for low income homes in emerging markets.
Tell us a bit about your jury and why you chose these individuals.
Tasos Calantzis: I was looking for a group that would constantly find new angles to question from. The people I chose are exactly that—intellectually curious, imaginative, rigorous and experienced. So Allon is my start-up guru, McLean is my innovation guy and Seelan is my NGO/design management expert. They all run organizations and they share a passion for creating anew. This is an awesomely power-packed team!
What qualities will you be considering when evaluating each entry?
I expect entries to be well-informed, either through personal experience, working with users or deep research. They should be appropriate by considering their environments and users respectfully. They should be simple and practical—borrowing here and inventing there. The ideas must be able to grow to a larger impact and create a self-sustaining cycle. Those are the components of a great entry.
What are you most excited about discovering while judging the entries?
I believe that people have an amazing capacity to improve life on our planet despite the suffering in our world. I love seeing how visionary people with big hearts seek to bring lasting change. I'm excited to see the ways in which the entrants are carrying that light.
Where do you see the future of this field heading?
Well I believe that social impact interventions should seek to change the fundamentals so that people are able to solve their own problems. Design is a great approach to doing that on a small and large scale. Of course, funders set the rules to a large extent and I've seen some large foundations embracing design principles and benefiting. I hope that this is part of a move to smarter funding. I hope that the shift we're seeing in the business domain; where creativity, experimentation and holistic thinking are becoming acceptable, will be more prevalent in the social impact sphere. I have no doubt that such a shift will raise the success rate enormously.