Samuel Simon
Author - Samuel Simon

Today's #SDsanta is talking about design for welfare with an important call to balance profit and purpose.

Today's #SDsanta is Tommaso Martucci, member of the SDN Germany Chapter. He has written an interesting piece on The Impact Week in Jordan, an innovation and entrepreneurship program in collaboration with various international practitioners.

Non-profit program VS commercial projects: Impact Week

The Global recession is a serious danger in 2020, which means that the world economy sees the crisis in both advanced and developing countries. So far only global giants like Uber, Google and Ikea have made their way to those markets which are seen only for cheap human labour manufacturing. Thus by empowering the developing countries, we would reinforce the global economy. While service designers are experts in driving top-notch companies, now, even more, we should focus on those left behind.


Why should service designers be the ones to react?

Many studies during the recent years (from Stanford to the NY Times) show a rise of the so-called Service Economy, especially during a time range of 1960-2010.

What can we do -as individual designers- to contribute?

I’m just back from this amazing experience in Jordan: the Impact Week is a non-profit organisation which aims to help local communities of developing countries, to kick-off real businesses. We did that by running a full week of Design Thinking workshop with students from different universities and regions of the country. Prior that, our team of senior coaches has trained junior coaches during an intense Train the Trainer program of three days.


"We do not design for improving an already acceptable situation, but we first design to reach that level of decency."

What are the main differences of working on a commercial project and working on a non-profit program for developing countries?

The main point is: you do not design for growth or innovation, you design for welfare.  Meaning, we do not design for improving an already acceptable situation, but we first design to reach that level of decency. While nailing it down, I might have found some points that are easier to define and break down:

  • usually, commercial projects have an end, while non-profit projects are part of one main purpose, which goes on anyway.
  • commercial projects are usually activated to initiate something in the immediate present, while non-profit programs aim to plant a seed, and the results are mostly about the shift of mindset in the long term.
  • usually, the number of people from clients is around 10-15, but on a non-profit program, you usually work with an average of 150 to 250 people.
  • when working for clients you must deliver, while with locals even if the results are not viable, you still focus on them.
  • clients are focused on you as per their interest, but locals may leave at the second or third day, and probably come back.
  • also, while clients pay for those services, locals cope with emotions, and it’s crucial to motivate them, to keep their mood high.

"As we are moving towards a human-business, it’s important to find a way to balance purpose and profit."

What are the main differences when it comes to tools and methods?

Mostly, it’s about freestyle improvisation, then about how to use the tools and how to modify them:

  • Business Model Canvas.
    On top of the traditional 9 blocks, we’ve added a 10th block: the social impact. It’s crucial to let the students connect the dots with the reason of us being with them.
  • Personas.
    For us means ‘designing for underserved users’, for them means ‘designing for themselves’.
    While designing for the commercial world, we explore those who live a different lifestyle than us. For instance, those who commute by car or by public transportation or biking, have different profiles and needs but are still part of a familiar world.
    But when it comes to developing countries, the basics are different, you might encounter questions like “what’s your political status here?”.
    Moreover, the students would focus on those around them, the same people that they meet every day.
  • Business plan.
    It’s a way to sustain themselves and the values proposition.
    While the main objective in the commercial world is to beat competitors, or generating more revenues, for developing countries the main goal is to make an idea survive.
  • Co-creation.
    The feeling that often comes out while working on a client’s project is stress, because of all the pressure that we feel in our society. But when co-working with people who feel those pains in their daily life, the feeling is pain mixed with joy, it feels like you’d fight until your last piece of energy to bring those values forward.

How to tackle the multiple challenges of developing countries?

While we are witnessing new economic reality, beyond the immediate risks of the crisis, there are a series of macrostructural challenges that predate the global financial crisis, and those are the ones that we’ve approached, clustered in these tracks:

  • Digital Economy
  • Public Health
  • Eco-tourism / sustainable tourism
  • Food Quality and security
  • Sustainable water & energy
  • Refugee integration

As a designer, I finally found a way to fulfil that need to contribute as an individual. Most importantly, working on a non-commercial project opened up my eyes to approach the commercial ones differently. I’ve learnt how to focus more on the emotions of my clients, how to perceive them even during a call-meeting.
Especially, how to connect the dots, how to see each business related to the tracks mentioned above. How each business can impact climate change and pollution, and so how to consult them on the best choices.

Taking part in such a non-profit program moves you out of the assumption that we help others to improve their status, and it makes you realise that we have to focus on the entire world. By cooperating with underserved communities, we understand how to improve own systems, so as to avoid leading the whole economical and environmental system to insufficient levels.

As we are moving towards a human-business, it’s important to find a way to balance purpose and profit.



Thank you, Tommaso, for sharing!


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