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Cooper-Hewitt announced publication of white paper on social responsible design, supported by The Lemelson Foundation
February 21, 2013
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The Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum today announced the publication of the white paper Design and Social Impact: A cross-sectoral agenda for design education, research and practice, along with a panel discussion on the paper’s findings and proposals to be held Feb. 21 in New York. The paper is an outgrowth of the 2012 Social Impact Design Summit at The Rockefeller Foundation, which was hosted by Cooper-Hewitt, The Lemelson Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Surdna Foundation to discuss strategies and actions to advance the field of socially responsible design—one term that refers to the practice of design for the public good, especially in disadvantaged communities.

The five key recommendations set forth by the summit participants in the white paper are:

  • Expand networks, as there is much that members of this diverse, global community can learn from one another and from the constituents they serve
  • Emphasize storytelling to more effectively communicate social impact design’s value and how design can play a significant role in creating social change
  • Build a culture of evaluation with better tools to demonstrate the long-term impact of design projects and initiatives
  • Form intelligent coalitions with dedicated social impact design programs within universities as well as informal teaching environments, both physical and online
  • Create alternative funding strategies to enable innovative and ongoing support

“Cooper-Hewitt is committed to advancing the field of socially responsible design, as demonstrated through our groundbreaking ‘Design with the Other 90%’ exhibition series and our early establishment of a curatorial position dedicated to the subject,” said Caroline Baumann, acting director of the museum. “It’s particularly exciting to work on further development of socially responsible design through the white paper and corresponding public program.”

“We are delighted to partner with Cooper-Hewitt and The Lemelson Foundation to release this important report,” said NEA acting chairman Joan Shigekawa. “The NEA has long supported design in its various disciplines from graphic to landscape design and architecture to product design, so it is particularly exciting to see those disciplines coalesce around enhancing the lives of people in the U.S. and around the world.”

The Feb. 21 panel discussion, Intelligent Coalitions: Design and Social Impact, will expand upon the white paper’s recommendations. Moderated by Cynthia E. Smith, Cooper-Hewitt’s Curator of Socially Responsible Design, the panelists include Mariana Amatullo of Art Center College of Design’s Designmatters, Bryan Bell of the SEED (Social/Economic/Environmental/Design) Evaluator, Krista Donaldson of D-Rev and Ezio Manzini of DESIS (Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability) Network.

The conversation will continue with a series of webinars hosted by the National Endowment for the Arts Design Program. Curated and hosted by thought leaders in the field of social impact design, the webinar series will cover topics that further enhance the field’s capacity to design effectively for social impact. To learn more about the webinars, visit

The Social Impact Design Summit and Design and Social Impact: A cross-sectoral agenda for design education, research and practice were made possible by The Lemelson Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Surdna Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation.

“We firmly believe that successful technological inventions require not just great underlying technology, but need to address customers’ needs and bring them real value. Socially responsible design can take great technology to a resulting product that meets needs and brings value,” said Carol Dahl, executive director of The Lemelson Foundation. “The Social Design Summit, resulting white paper and upcoming panel discussion are important milestones in advancing our understanding of this field.”

About the Social Impact Design Summit

The one-day Social Impact Design Summit, held Feb. 27, 2012, brought together individuals who engage in socially responsible design every day: public-interest architects, industrial designers, planners, civil-society designers, landscape architects, engineers and inventors from Australia, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas, working in the private, public and social sectors.

The summit focused on the following key questions: What are the gaps and challenges that hinder growth? What are the successful and sustainable organizational models? How can we effectively prepare current and future designers in this area of design?

About the White Paper

Design and Social Impact: A cross-sectoral agenda for design education, research and practice is published by Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in conjunction with the National Endowment of the Arts and The Lemelson Foundation. To download a copy of the white paper, visit

Program Registration

Intelligent Coalitions: Design and Social Impact will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Jerome L. Greene Performance Space at New York Public Radio, 44 Charlton Street, New York. The program is free with advance registration ( and will be webcast live at

About the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum

Founded in 1897, Cooper-Hewitt is the only museum in the nation devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design. The museum presents compelling perspectives on the impact of design on daily life through active educational programs, exhibitions and publications.

Cooper-Hewitt’s main facility, housed in the Carnegie Mansion, is undergoing renovation as part of a $64 million capital campaign that includes enlarged and enhanced facilities for exhibitions, collections display, education programming and the National Design Library, and an increased endowment. During the renovation, Cooper-Hewitt’s usual schedule of exhibitions, education programs and events will be staged at various off-site locations.