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Featured Non-Profit

Craftmark-Handmade in India

Craftmark-Handmade in India

Arts & Culture, Poverty, Aid

Craftmark denotes authentic Indian handicrafts and helps artisans to access markets

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Featured Member

Kara Pecknold

Kara Pecknold

Vancouver, Canada

Designer + Researcher

Designing beyond the borders..

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Our commitment to improving life through social design has been with us since the beginning. This is who we are and why we’re here.

Our Mission

DESIGN 21: Social Design Network’s mission is to inspire social consciousness through design. We connect people who want to explore ways that design can positively impact our communities – ways that are thoughtful, informed, creative and responsible.

What do we want? Social Design!

Q: What is Social Design?
A: It’s design for the greater good.

We want to use the power of good design for greater purpose.

We believe the real beauty of design lies in its potential to improve life. That potential first manifests itself as a series of decisions that result in a series of consequences. The practice of social design considers these decisions on a greater scale, understanding that each step in the design process is a choice that ripples out into our communities, our world and our lives. These choices are the result of informed ideas, greater awareness, larger conversations and, most importantly, the desire to do good. Social design is design for everyone's sake.

When do we want it? NOW!

We believe that change happens when we design better, together. DESIGN 21 is a resource to make that collaborative change happen: a freelance designer shares ideas with a green business, an arts non-profit connects with a governmental outreach program, a researcher in England brainstorms with an industrial designer in India. It all starts here. And it starts now.

Our Roots

DESIGN 21: Social Design Network is itself a collaborative project undertaken by the global design and merchandise company Felissimo and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, better known as UNESCO.

Felissimo believes that the ultimate goal of any business should be to contribute to the happiness of society. Charity is often factored into their business as a cost item to provide a steady stream of funds for non-profits. Through their product catalogs, for example, they invite customers to be partners in programs such as the Felissimo Forest Fund, which is funded by $1-a-month donations and has helped to plant six million trees, and their Earth Village Fund, which provides emergency food and medical care worldwide. Felissimo also subsidizes manufacturing programs in underdeveloped countries and sells their products in their catalogs.

The partnership between Felissimo and UNESCO began in 1995 with the DESIGN 21 Award, an international design competition created to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. DESIGN 21 grew into a biannual event that brought together the work of young designers and students alongside established names and exhibited the results around the world.

In 1997 Felissimo established the Tribute 21 Plate program with UNESCO, which brings artists, designers and celebrities together to create decorative plates, the proceeds of which are donated to charity. Celebrities such as Julia Roberts and Cindy Crawford and world renowned designers such as David Rockwell and Christian Lacroix have designed plates for this project. To date, Tribute 21 has raised over $800,000 for charities worldwide. A portion of funds is also donated to UNESCO to help fund the construction of DREAM Centers in post-conflict regions with artistic programs (DREAM stands for Dance, Read, Express, Art, Music) that allow children to express themselves in a protected environment. Established locations include Kabul, Phnom Penh, Port-au-Prince and Monrovia, Liberia with a center in East Jerusalem underway.

UNESCO’s mission is to provide educational opportunities to people worldwide, to make scientific and technical knowledge available to developing countries and to promote cultural understanding among different people. Felissimo wanted to address this effort through a shared online platform and to do it through the medium of design. So the collaboration between Felissimo and UNESCO began anew, and this site, DESIGN 21: Social Design Network, was born.

United Social Themes

Partnering with UNESCO means being an active contributor to the goals of the United Nations. To help us do that, we’ve adopted UNESCO’s social themes to better define areas we can aid through social design. Think about how your causes or your projects fit into the following:

EDUCATION: literacy, educational resources, education for all

AID: emergency relief, medical and humanitarian aid

POVERTY: extreme poverty, urban poverty, homeless

COMMUNITY: gender and race equality, community development and welfare, sports

ENVIRONMENT: habitats, sustainable development, biodiversity, water, climate change, natural disaster reduction

COMMUNICATION: freedom of expression, access and understanding of media and the internet, media development

ARTS & CULTURE: protection of cultural diversity, art as empowerment

PEACE: human rights, genocide, conflict resolution

WELL-BEING: health, disease, disability

How can we do it? Together

In the end, good design is the result of good decisions. Fueling informed choices by fostering relationships and conversation is what the Social Design Network is all about. So engage with the power of design and connect to create change.