GREATER GOOD STUDIO, GRAND RAPIDS MI
Greater Good Studio is a strategic design firm focused on advancing equity. We do this by co-creating human-centered programs, tools and strategies, and by teaching design to changemakers in organizations and communities. We have a team of nine full-time Pissed-Off Optimists, split between Research, Design and Operations. Our backgrounds are varied pulling from fields like public health, graphic design, engineering, fine arts, architecture and business. We believe in the capacity of all people to create solutions that improve society. We envision a world where there is opportunity to do so regardless of race, gender, income, age or zip code.
HOW AND WHY DID YOU COME TO USE DESIGN TO ADVANCE SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE AND/OR SUSTAINABLE PROJECTS, CLIENTS AND CAUSES?
Both my co-founder and I had careers working in design consulting before starting the studio. During that time, we saw how, as designers, we have enormous influence over behavior, but our clients at the time were only asking for help in response to complex business problems. So in 2011, we founded Greater Good Studio to serve leading change makers in the social sector who were looking to work on complex problems in new ways. Since then, we’ve completed over 90 engagements with over 50 clients ranging in issue from public education, criminal justice, and healthcare. For example, we just published our final report for a recent project for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation called, Raising Places. Our team worked in six communities (a mix of tribal, rural, and urban settings), in an effort to build child-centered communities across the US.
ARE THERE ANY SPECIAL CHALLENGES, OPPORTUNITIES, URGENCIES IN 2018?
It’s a very exciting time to be working in social innovation. Just in the last few years, we’ve seen an enormous growth in the number of organizations bringing human-centered design to the social sector. We’ve also seen a growing appetite from social sector change makers who are specifically seeking out design methods as source of insight and innovation which was not apparent even just a few year ago.
Despite these two trends, we believe that there still a large number of designers who are technically proficient in their skillsets but lack an understanding of power and privilege. This gap in their training can becomes a liability when working on complex social issues like affordable housing, immigrant rights and maternal health. We think the best way to bridge this gap is to learn from our peers in anthropology, social work and community organizing. These disciplines and others, understand power and privilege intimately and our ability to work alongside them that may prove to be the new frontier for this field.