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This is a logo. It says Design for Social Impact. There are five illustrated Black and Brown figures in the illustration, wearing brightly coloured clothes

A little bit about our mission

community design nonprofits socialimpact systemicchange Feb 07, 2024



There's a glaring truth as we navigate through eye-watering statistics—5.6% of the US GDP, a whopping $1.4 trillion contribution in 2022, and the UK's £58.7 billion  non profit industry. The individuals most affected by systemic inequities, remain on the fringes of influence and decision-making.

Here at Design for Social Impact Lab (DFSI), we don't just observe this inequity; we challenge it. We call for a systemic transformation in the social impact sector, one where we have programs, policies and research designed not only to address immediate needs but also to dismantle oppressive structures, foster solidarity, and champion equity. We want people with the closest proximity to the issue at the forefront of social impact design.

The social impact sector encompasses organizations and initiatives dedicated to addressing societal challenges. At DFSI, when we talk about the social impact sector, we include non-profits/NGOs, social enterprises, academia, progressive philanthropy and civil society organisations working collaboratively to enhance social well-being.

Reimagining social impact design education is a key way to shift power across the social impact sector. We have an ecosystem approach to change — collaborating with public and community institutions, community leaders, alliances, and civil society partners to create an environment where transformative learning thrives, and the next generation of social impact designers emerge equipped with the skills and perspectives needed for true, lasting change.

Our approach

Because oppression is often systemic, the efforts to dismantle and replace those systems must also be systemic. Systems change operates across multiple levels, each playing a distinct yet interconnected role in the overall process.

We have four main approaches towards transforming the social impact space. 

  •  We provide 1:1 strategic guidance, social impact design consultations, and conduct equity audits for organisations seeking to set up or improve their social impact projects. To date, we’ve worked with small to large non-profit organisations, local government, universities and community associations. Our partners commit to diversifying the sector and by funding DFSI training and strategic organisational support, we are able to offer free courses to underrepresented groups.
We started working with Save the Children in 2021, supporting their education in emergencies team to think about what diversity, equity and inclusion would look like in their organisation. We supported them to think through some of their core approaches to education programming in crisis contexts, and consider how to design, implement and monitor their work in a way that directly addressed racism and discrimination. As one member reflected “ DFSI has provided thoughtful, practical, and sometimes challenging-in the best possible way- guidance and expertise and have been a pleasure to collaborate with. We cannot recommend them more!"
  • We offer practical, quality assured and inclusive social impact design online courses to non-profit organisations and practitioners. If your role involves designing programs, policies or monitoring, evaluation and research, we have a course for you. Our signature programmes are Design for Social Impact, Equity X Education and Rebellious Research for Social Action. 
  • Our courses stand out by offering a distinctive feature: when learners enrol to co-learn with us, they engage in hands-on experiences with real-life briefs. This immersive approach enables them to actively address and contribute solutions to authentic social issues, leveraging our extensive network of partners for meaningful impact.
DFSI has partnered with the University of East London and University of Bristol to deliver a bespoke version of our Rebellious Research to Social Action course to five civil society organisations in the UK over the next two years.  These courses are fully funded and target organisations that work with ‘global majority’, and students from groups who are underrepresented in research careers. After taking our course, learners have opportunities to continue onto MRes Social Justice Courses at the University of East London.
  •  We capacity-mobilise  and co-create with people from historically underserved backgrounds. We do this in two ways. Firstly, we offer funded places for our courses.  We do this  as a commitment to the importance of lived experience and inclusion in social impact design education. 
  • We also want to create a pipeline of Equity-Centred facilitators to deliver our courses and have set ourselves the commitment that by the end of 2024, at least 80% of our facilitators will have lived experience of structural disadvantage, including first-hand experience of being recipients of government or non-profit aid.
We facilitated a Digital Storytelling for Action Research course with forcibly displaced young people in South Sudan, Jordan and the UK. From April 2024, we will be offering fully-funded places to groups underrepresented in the non-profit sector on our Rebellious Research for Social Action, Equity X Education and Design for Social Impact courses. Upon completion, some of the learners will have the option of taking part in a facilitation training module, and come on as facilitators from October 2024.
  • With the revenue from our online courses, we will redistribute at least 10 percent in 2024 to youth-led and community-led groups, who are traditionally excluded from grant-making bodies. We recognise the importance of supporting grassroots organisations and movements that typically struggle to access funding due to unjust philanthropic practices. 
  • We’ll explore working with participatory grant mechanisms to facilitate this, so watch this space!
We are all about systemic change.  We recognise that there are many brilliant organisations working on social impact issues. As a way to build solidarity and accompany, learn from and connect with activists and other movement partners working for systemic change, we pledge a minimum of 10 percent of our revenue in 2024 to support local, youth and community-led initiatives.

What do we mean by systemic transformation? 

We see these four actions as contributors towards systemic change. When we talk about systemic change, we mean confronting some of the root causes of issues by transforming structures, customs, power dynamics, and policies, and strengthening collective power through the active collaboration of diverse people and organisations. We recognize there is a whole ecosystem out there, and thousands of networks and alliances doing work to radically reimagine the social landscape. As we engage in this collective effort, we aim to amplify these initiatives, foster connections, and contribute to a transformative movement that reshapes the very fabric of our society.

Our framework

  • Our work is rooted in our foundational values of anti-oppression, intersectionality, and justice. We are inspired by  a growing design justice movement that seeks to ensure that the design of products, services, and spaces is equitable and inclusive. 
  • The DFSI framework is guided by 8 core principles. We work with our partners and social impact design course learners to integrate these principles across program development, policy and research processes. 


Design for Social Impact Design Principles. Intersectional, Co-design, Pedagogies of Care and Solidarity, Iterative and foster Mutual Learning, Environmental and Economic Justice, Structural Change and Action; Anti Racist approaches and system thinki

Our courses delve into why these principles matter in social impact design. When we apply them to our design processes, they lead to shifting power and transformative programs, policies and research.

And to give you a taste, we’ve designed these initial prompts to help you start reflecting on your work and determine where there might be equity gaps.

  • Intersectional: Does your program/policy/research design acknowledge and address the intersecting identities and experiences of the communities you aim to impact?
  • Environmental Justice: Does your program/policy/research contribute to environmental justice and sustainability, considering both direct and indirect impacts on communities and ecosystems?
  • Pedagogies of Care and Solidarity: Does your program/policy/research prioritise empathy, inclusivity, and emotional well-being in its design process and delivery?
  • Co-Design: To what extent are the intended stakeholders actively involved in shaping the goals, strategies, and outcomes of your program/policy/research?
  • Anti-Racist and Decolonial-informed approaches: Does your program/policy/research actively confront and dismantle systems of racism and colonialism, both in its content and implementation?
  • Systems Thinking: How does your program/policy/research acknowledge and navigate the interconnected web of social, economic, and environmental factors influencing the issue it addresses?
  • Iterative and mutual learning: Does your program/policy/research embrace a culture of continuous learning, adaptation, and improvement based on feedback from participants, communities, and other stakeholders?
  • Structural Change and Action: Does your program/policy/research contribute to structural change rather than maintaining or perpetuating existing power dynamics and inequalities?

So, do you have equity gaps in the work that you do? If its a yes, then we got you! 

Check out our website where you can find more information about our courses, strategic guidance and coaching offerings.

We also want your problems! As part of our courses, our learners hone their social impact design skills by working on real-life case studies. If you are grappling with a social impact challenge, it will take you about five minutes to submit a brief, and you will have some brilliant minds working on a solution- for free! 


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