Pro-bono program

Are you a non-profit, startup or enterprise working on social impact? Our passionate team wants to partner with you! Launched in the spring of 2020, Designit’s pro-bono program teams up with local organizations and applies human-centered design methodologies to tackle some of the biggest social issues affecting our communities.

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How it works

  • Every year, Designit partners with an organization in need of strategic design support. Ou teams are passionate about helping organizations use design to boost their impact, on a pro-bono basis. This includes, but is not limited to: design research, service and business design, branding and experience design, product design, or strategic opportunities.
  • The program is open to organizations no matter their size or stage. The partner organization will participate in a dedicated workshop to introduce team members to the processes and tools of design thinking, so they can learn how to apply these to their work.
  • Following the course, a dedicated Designit team will work closely with the partner organization to identify current challenges and define the scope of the pro-bono project. Both teams will then work together over six to eight weeks to tackle the organization’s biggest challenge and co-create solutions, increasing the impact and effectiveness of its work.
  • In addition, after the project is over, two members of the partner organization will have the option to receive three follow-up coaching one-hour support sessions over 3 months to address any questions as needed.

Any questions? Check out our FAQ section below, or send them to [email protected].

For Service Design Day, our team in New York partnered with Service Design Network and a local nonprofit, the Center for NYC Neighborhoods, for a day of co-creation and service design education.

Time commitment from partner

  • A two-hour in-person kickoff meeting with key stakeholders
  • Stakeholder 1:1 interviews with key people from the organization
  • Weekly one hour check-ins with core group (can be remote)
  • Potentially help with coordination of field research (if we need you to make introductions or facilitate access to a target group for research interviews)
  • One or two workshops as needed (half to full days, in-person with key stakeholders)
  • Final presentation (roughly two hours)

‘There’s nothing like getting insight about homeownership programs directly from the people we’re trying to serve. Between this, and the process visualisations that now adorn our office, I'm impressed with the work Designit has done for us – and on a pro-bono basis!’

Joseph Sant

Deputy General Counsel, The Center for NYC Neighborhoods


What is Designit’s annual pro-bono program?
It's an initiative supporting Designit’s efforts to empower local non-profits, startups and social enterprises with the design tools they need to increase their impact. Through a dedicated design thinking course for up to 25 people, a six- to eight-week collaborative pro-bono project, and further ongoing support, we will help a local organization get the hands-on experience they need to make the human-centered design process central to the way they operate.

What is human-centered design?
Human-centered design (HCD), is an approach to problem solving that’s centered on building empathy for the people you’re designing for. The approach consists of three phases: 1) Discovery, in which you seek to understand the users, their needs and pain points. 2) Ideation, in which you identify opportunities and come up with creative solutions. 3) Prototyping and Implementation: During this phase, you build quick prototypes of the concepts, test them and define which ones are the best options.

How long is the program?
The complete program lasts from May to November. There are three main components of the program:

  • Two-day dedicated design thinking Immersive course. Up to 25 members of the organization will be invited to join the course
  • Six- to eight-week collaborative design project

Do you need to be a nonprofit to apply?
You don’t have to be a nonprofit, but you do need to be a social enterprise or an organization that operates in the social impact space.

Who is your ideal candidate/partner?
Our ideal partner is serving their community, has an agile team that can make decisions quickly, and has a specific challenge that can be tackled in six to eight weeks.

We’re open to collaborating with organizations in a wide range of industries and social impact areas, including sustainability, food waste and food systems, justice and inequality, poverty, homelessness, healthcare, education, accessibility, arts and culture, smart city/IoT, civics, and more.

What’s the catch?
There’s no catch! We want to engage with the larger social impact community and collaborate on how we can make a difference together.

What will you expect from the partner organization?
As a Designit pro-bono partner, you must agree to the following:

  • Participating in a two-day design thinking course. Open to up to 25 people in your organization
  • Designate a team of up to four core members to work with our designers for the duration of the six- to eight-week project. The two- to four-member core team must be able to dedicate up to four hours per week to the project.
  • By participating in the program, you must also allow Designit to use your organization’s name as well as photos and video recordings of the project in marketing communications, including but not limited to our website, social media pages, newsletters, and conferences. You must also authorize Designit to publish a case study of the project. You can refer to our work page to familiarize yourself with our case study format.

What kind of teams will we work with?
You will be working with a team of three to five Designit designers from different disciplines. (design research, UX design, business design, etc)

How will you select the pro-bono partner? What's the selection criteria?
Once our pro-bono team screens all organizations through the application requirements, our designers will review all applications and invite up to five shortlisted organizations to meet with us in person and tell us more about the project they need help with. Selection will be based on the following:

  • Organization needs vs. Designit capabilities match: Is the challenge something Designit can tackle?
  • Length of project/need: Can we complete the project within eight weeks? What value can we provide in that timeframe?