Social Impact Design

OpenIDEO is a Web platform where creative thinkers worldwide can design better, together. The community of over 26,000 members tackles global challenges for social good. Community members can contribute to the process in a variety of ways, from inspirational observations to business models and code snippets. The strongest ideas are then published in the public domain and can be taken forward by the community or the sponsoring organization.

Credits: Design credits: IDEO
Client: IDEO
Contact: Andrea Pomerance:


Firefly Phototherapy

The Firefly Phototherapy device was designed to treat newborns with jaundice in low-resource remote settings in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. The combination top and bottom phototherapy, robust enclosed housings, table-top size, removable and cleanable single-infant bassinet and high-tech medical aesthetic make trustworthy, intuitive and effective for in-room use with mothers in rural hospitals.

Credits: Design that Matters, William Harris IDSA, Elizabeth Johansen, Timothy Prestero, Lincoln Design Solutions, Dave Duncanson, Oakley Thomas, Boston Design Solutions, Mike Damiano and Joe Galibois
Corporate Sponsor: East Meets West Foundation
Contact: William Harris:



EzyStove® is a wood-burning stove developed with local users and produced locally for developing countries in need of a solution that replaces cooking over an open fire. EzyStove traps and insulates heat, thereby reducing the amount of wood needed by one-third, the CO2 emissions by 40 percent and other toxic gases by 70 percent.

Credits: Ergonomidesign, Mårten Andrén, Håkan Bergkvist, Jonas Dolk, August Michael, Stefan Strandberg and Elisabeth Ramel-Wåhrberg
Corporate Sponsor: Creative Entrepreneur Solutions (CES)
Contact: Niclas Andersson:


STREET FURNITURE FOR THE CITY OF SÃO PAULO – Bus Shelters and Information Displays

The project has won one of the biggest international bids for city furniture in the world: 7,500 bus shelters, designed for the City of São Paulo, constituting one of the largest outdoor urban media circuits in the world. Considering the urban scale, diversity and contrasts, the complex DNA Paulistano (from São Paulo) and the city s different realities, four distinct typologies were conceptualized: Brutalist, Structured Chaos, Hi-Tech and Minimalistic. The language of each typology is complementary and reflects the diverse urban situations, characteristics and personalities of São Paulo. With the human being as its central element, the design was created to provide maximum well-being to the 9 million passengers who use the  public transport system on a daily basis. As a premises, it contains the principles of universal design and all of the general principles of sustainability.

Designed by Guto Indio Da Costa

Contact: Guto Indio Da Costa -


Obama for America Mobile Strategy

The design team was approached to design and develop a mobile strategy for President Barack Obama's 2012 bid for reelection. Working with Obama for America, the team crafted an ambitious set of mobile applications designed to support Obama's large base of campaign volunteers and grassroots supporters.

Instead of creating a simple brochure application outlining the president's policies, the team focused on creating a real-time mobile solution to aid campaign organizers and volunteers working in the field. The application, which was part of a larger digital initiative, was completely location-aware, designed to automatically deliver timely information, push notifications and field directives straight from the campaign's headquarters to people's phones. By simply downloading the app anyone could join the campaign, become a field volunteer, collect donations, register voters or go door-to-door in their neighborhood or community to help get out the vote.

The design challenge was to leverage the latest in mobile and cloud technology to harness the efforts of thousands of grassroots supporters in battleground states and across the nation. The initiative needed to decentralize volunteerism, capitalize on microdonations, and make it simple to join and participate in the campaign. Perhaps the largest constraint was executing the design and development for both the iOS and Android platforms in under 60 days.

Understanding the campaign's message, its volunteers and the habits of prospective voters was critical to the success of the project. From the standpoint of human interaction, the designers were less concerned with coming up with novel forms of interaction and more concerned with bridging the gap between information, people and communities.

The Obama for America app is the first of its kind. While there have been other applications relating to politics and elections, none have provided a mechanism or the infrastructure necessary to drive real political participation. The New York Times has said of it, “It's been the science-fiction dream of political operatives for years: an army of volunteers, connected to the Internet as they walk from door to door, looking up names on a device and entering their responses electronically. Obama's campaign [has made it] a reality with the release of a new iPhone app that will replace the ubiquitous clipboard for Democratic canvassers.”

This project has helped redefine the role of mobile computing in modern-day elections. It not only lowered the barrier of entry for political activism, thus increasing participation, it also provided insight into the campaign’s operatives at every level (regional, state, local and precinct). By focusing on the ground game and decentralizing the canvassing effort, this app enabled the campaign to reach more voters in more communities and increase voter turnout. As a result, the campaign made strategic gains in a number of battleground states, ultimately securing the president's reelection.


Designed by Ryan Hovenweep, Lani DeGuire, Tate Strickland, Shea Cadrin, Bryan Oltman, Shaun Dubuque and Doug Cook of thirteen23

Contact: Doug Cook -


Evotech, Endoscope and Business/Design Strategy

Evotech designs medical devices for the bottom of the pyramid. Its goal is to simplify medical technologies and devices, the majority of which are developed for use in Western hospitals—meaning the tools are expensive and often overdesigned and overengineered. This project reimagined the endoscope, a tube with a light and a camera that is used to look inside a patient’s body through an orifice (mouth, urethra, colon, etc.), making it relevant to and within reach of developing countries.

In US hospitals, these bulky, energy-sucking devices cost an average of $70,000—a price beyond the reach of most doctors in the developing world. Evotech and the design team redesigned the Low-Cost Portable Endoscope with off-the-shelf parts as a $250–$2,500 device powered by a laptop, making the endoscope smaller, portable, energy efficient, durable, waterproof and with the ability to manufacture at scale.

The challenge was to improve the device’s industrial design and develop a business model that would sustain it—and get the device to doctors whose patients would benefit from its use. With regard to the device’s design, the endoscope needed to enable doctors to make more precise diagnoses and to perform surgeries through a small incision, reducing patients’ risk of infection and recovery time. The endoscope also had to have the ability to be sterilized.

To make an excellent design solution, the Evotech experts discovered that one must search for a need. It was easy to find uses for an endoscope in mid- and high-income markets. But the search for endoscope users in low-income communities in the developing world was different: In these environments an endoscope is perceived as a luxury; endoscope use requires training that’s lacking; endoscopic procedures require a support infrastructure; endoscope use should be considered more broadly (beyond fistulas).

In a pilot study, Evotech distributed devices to Medicine for Humanity doctors with endoscopic training who were traveling to Uganda, where they used the prototype to successfully treat more than 20 women with vesicovaginal fistula. These types of cases previously were out of reach for surgical repair by Medicine for Humanity physicians. In India, local physicians used the device in more than 30 clinical evaluations and procedures.

Prototyping led to the final design. Evotech experts iterated and tested the endoscope handle and waterproof casing. In less than a month, and guided by doctors’ feedback, the team built 11 versions of the handle, designing a heat sink and enclosure for the device’s LED light source, which plugs into the USB port on a computer to power the device remotely.

Evotech designed the Low-Cost Portable Endoscope with a simple shell that can be machined from medical-grade ABS at small production scales, which is key. The same design can transition to injection molding in higher quantities.


Designed by and Evotech for Evotech

Contact: Andrea Pomerance -


Clean Team for Unilever and Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP)

To address the lack of adequate sanitation facilities in Kumasi, Ghana, the Clean Team for Unilever + Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) teamed up to provide a safe and suitable in-home sanitation solution. Users receive a portable toilet that is serviced three times a week and enables families to pay on an incremental basis.

Designed by, Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor and Unilever for Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor and Unilever

Contact: Andrea Pomerance -


PackH20 Water Backpack

The PackH2O Water Backpack is a life-changing alternative to buckets and jerry cans for users in water-stressed developing countries. It was designed to ease the burden of carrying household water from the source to home. It features a 5-gallon carrying capacity, a water spout and a removable liner that can be easily sanitized with exposure to sunlight.

Designed by Nottingham Spirk and Greif for Greif

Contact: John Nottingham -


SF Prep

The SF Prep model combines products residents need, the things they should do and items they want when a disaster hits. By delivering earthquake preparedness products and learnings over a six-month period, SF Prep gradually engages residents in the process and motivates them to ever-increasing levels of preparedness.

Designed by Krista Bangsund, John Edson, Danielle Guttman, Jonathan Cofer and Gritchelle Fallesgon of LUNAR

Contact: Danielle Guttman -


Intellectual Ventures Cold Chain Device

The Intellectual Ventures Cold Chain Device is a transportable cooler designed to remain cool without power or ice for more than 30 days. Created as part of the Global Good effort, it is intended for developing nations that do not have proper cooling systems for storing vaccines. It can store up to 5 liters of vaccines.

Designed by Jonah Griffith, Josh Kornfeld, Carl Betterley and Cole Dalton of General Assembly for Intellectual Ventures

Contact: Josh Kornfeld -