7 Projects 7 Years

DI has been bringing design and community together for the past 7 years. Over time, we’ve discovered new approaches, looked at problems in new ways, learned through the process and grown as an organization. This month, to celebrate our 7th anniversary, here’s a look at seven DI projects from the last seven years.

2010: Coalplay

Erikoodu Charcoal Briquette

When Design Impact launched in India, one of our first major projects led us to Organization of Development  Action and Maintenance (ODAM) in Thiruchuli, India to develop an affordable clean-burning cooking fuel.

Outcome: The new design reduced carbon monoxide, indoor smoke, and pollutants; it reduced the dangerous and often fatal effects of indoor air pollution (cooking with wood).

Fun fact: The briquettes were really messy to make: they combined powdered charcoal, water and soil.

What We Learned: You have get your hands dirty and work at the ground level to understand what’s going on.



2011: We Can Ladoo it!


In 2011, we partnered with Deep Griha Society to develop a nutritious food supplement that addressed child malnutrition in Pune, India. The end product was a laddoo, a treat rich source of Vitamin E, an essential vitamin for immune system function.

Outcome: Within the first 6 months of eating one laddoo per day, 54% of children moved out of the “severely malnourished” classification into the safe zone.

Fun fact: If you need a good laugh, watch the “Laddoo Challenge” videos that DI co-founder Ramsey Ford created to promote their Kickstarter fundraiser.

What We Learned: Embedding yourself into a community matters. We were able to understand what kids wanted, what parents expected, what teachers accepted, and what local resources worked by living in the community where we were working. It worked for everyone in every aspect.



2012: Globetrotters

Global Citizens Leaders

Design Impact and the Center for Creative Leadership launched the Global Citizens Leaders (GCL) program in Mumbai, India to develop leadership, innovation, and social engagement with the next generation of business leaders.

In the first year, 260 business school students participated in the program and were challenged to apply their learning through dozens of social innovation projects spanning topics like rural entrepreneurship, clean water, sanitation, education, healthcare, financial inclusion, and more.

Outcome: After completing the program, 87% of participants cited improved ability to apply design thinking principles to their work and 92% had an increased awareness of social issues. Now in its fourth year, GCL has impacted over 1,000 students.

What We Learned: Working with 300 students at the same time taught us a lot about large group facilitation and the nuances of how to empower others with innovation mindsets.


The Pivot

Between 2012 and 2013, Design Impact shifted its focus. Though DI got its start in India, in 2013 we decided to come back home to Cincinnati, Ohio to focus on work in the Midwest, and embrace a new model for change. Want to hear more about DI’s pivot? Ramsey shared our story on Impact Hub: Of Pitfalls And Pivots: How Design Impact Found Its Way Home.



2013: Family Matters

Success By 6: Born Learning Parent Leaders

Born Learning Academy is a United Way program designed to encourage parents to turn everyday moments into learning experiences for young children. We partnered with Success by Six to create a toolkit disguised as fun, educational games and activities to increase family engagement in quality early-childhood education experiences.

Fun Fact: Children take their first steps toward their language before they can talk. Making reading fun by having a baby play with the pages of a book while you point to a cow and say, “moo.” Playful activities with books are building blocks for communicating, reading, and writing.

Outcome: After successfully testing out the program in Middletown and Covington, the program is scaling to other communities.

What We Learned: When community partners can cultivate a positive group dynamic among the small group of parent leaders, they can help inspire and empower them to do something they never thought they could do: talk to strangers about education.  



2014: Booking Studio Time

Studio C, Year 1 

Studio C launched in 2014 as a collaboration between Design Impact and the United Way of Greater Cincinnati as a free 6-month design thinking program for nonprofits. The goal was to give nonprofits in the social sector the same access to innovation tools typically used by corporations to design products and services the community really needs.

After two successful years, Studio C streamlined its offerings into two 12-week programs to meet increasing demand.

Outcome: In the first year of Studio C, a team made up of staff from Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission and the Housing Authority of Covington Ky enrolled to understand why enrollment was low in their Head Start City Heights program. After speaking to parents, the team realized they had been seeking solutions to the wrong problem, and developed several new ideas to test with families. One bubble machine, 75 oz of bubble solution, and a pop-up classroom later, HAC and NKCAC tripled their enrollment in Head Start.

Fun Fact: Studio C has worked with 102 organizations since its launch. 

What We Learned: Having a physical space that was inviting and supportive for teams made a big difference in their ability to think differently and solve tough problems in new ways.



2015: Music to Our Ears: Innovation in Government  

Nashville I2R 

DI traveled to the Music City in 2015 to facilitate an integrated 6-month innovation program in partnership with Living Cities. Through a series of team-based workshops, key government leaders in Nashville developed new problem-solving skills, identified and strengthened cross-department partnerships, and produced innovative approaches to pressing local needs.

Outcome: Nashville I2R participants were empowered as change agents within local government and the community. Nashville is now overhauling their entire budget process, and incorporating community voice and transparency into their decisions.

Fun Fact: During the 6-month period, 28 coffees on the road were consumed.

What We Learned: There is great need for innovation in government; however, the systems can be large and slow to move.


2016: Mom Knows Best

Cincinnati Children Thrive

This year, Design Impact is partnering with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and community partners to more deeply understand families to identify unmet needs – and create innovative solutions – around address patient safety, early childhood education, and chronic medical conditions.

As part of our deep discovery process, we worked with five mothers from Cincinnati’s Avondale and Price Hill neighborhoods as peer researchers to co-interview 22 parents. DI also engaged 9 parents in group interviews; interviewed 12 health, community organizing, and education professionals; and observed at schools, clinics, and community events across the two neighborhoods. 

Outcome: Based on our comprehensive discovery work, CCHMC team and peer researchers created several concepts that address overall family health and wellness. We look forward to selecting specific concepts to prototype in June.

Fun Fact: We took working with moms to heart. During the project, two of our peer researchers gave birth; one had a boy, one had a girl.

What We Learned: Working with peer researchers at every stage of the process is challenging, but keeps our work grounded in community voice and energizes us around the work we do.