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How "A Better World by Design" Inspired Action

A good conference is a heady barrage of ideas, and ours, A Better World by Design, is the same. But we firmly believe that if we're doing things right, even the pie-in-the-sky speaker presentations can lead to real-life effects, and that we can find them if we look hard enough.

A good conference is a heady barrage of ideas, and ours, A Better World by Design, is the same. But we firmly believe that if we're doing things right, even the pie-in-the-sky speaker presentations can lead to real-life effects, and that we can find them if we look hard enough.


We recently set out to confirm that conviction. And it turns out more career changes, new projects, and even new companies happened after our event than we ever expected. We've profiled a few of them on our blog, and below are three of our favorites.

Makeshift Magazine (mkshft.org)
Six years after he first got involved with A Better World by Design, Steve Daniels is helping lead IBM's design transformation while maintaining an interest in grassroots innovation he cultivated at the conference. When he decided to start a magazine documenting creativity in informal economies, he looked to the people who inspired him at Better World.

Speakers Jan Chipchase, Erik Hersman, and Noha El-Ghobashy are now on Makeshift's board of directors and have mentored Steve throughout the publication process and his career. Others, such as Jaime Lerner and Matt Grigsby, have contributed articles. Makeshift, launched at Better World in 2011, has since been featured on BBC World, in Forbes, and at TED, spreading an important conversation born in Providence.

DecaDomes Go To Haiti (decadome.com)
In 2011, Better World hosted an expo on structures for disaster relief. Brown University's Main Green became a sea of odd-looking tents and rapidly assembled buildings meant to one day house refugees and disaster victims. One of them, called the DecaDome, was designed by researchers at the University of Michigan and inspired by Buckminster Fuller to be quickly assembled, easily shippable, and extremely durable.

At the conference, the team connected with members of the general public as well as Haitian leaders and NGO officials who gave them feedback on how their structure could better meet the needs on the ground. Fast-forward two years, and the first domes are about to be sent to LaConcorde School in Haiti, where they can start helping real people in dire need.

Career Change to Harvard GSD
Two years ago, Dasha Mikic was debating what she wanted to do with her life. She had a background in urban policy and sociology, but was becoming increasingly drawn to design. The problem was that the designers she knew of didn't engage with social issues the way she really wanted them to. But that perception changed when she attended the conference and listened to Michale Murphy of MASS Design speak. According to her, "Even if this sounds hyperbolic—it really changed my life. It really shook me." Starting the very next week, she began planning for how she could involve design in to her career plans, and only a few weeks ago she began a masters program in architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

As this year's conference draws closer, we're excited to be thinking even more about how to capture everything that comes out of it and use our networks to support all the connections and ideas that always come about. We hope to see you there on September 27-29.

Image courtesy of Steve Daniels

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