â€œWhile nearly all of this work is well-intentioned, almost none of it amounts to anything concrete,â€ points out a magazine editor I know, who may be dazed by the number of do-gooder projects pouring into his inbox. â€œWhy is there such a disconnect between the countless schemes of these designers and â€¦ well, to put it bluntly, real results? What has to happen to get the ratio of good intentions to completed projects to a more game-changing one?â€
The roots to these answers are deep and hairy. They depend on the Jesuitical parsing of words like success, which can be defined quite differently depending on whose perspective youâ€™re considering: designer, funder, recipient. Even design takes on semantic complexity in the social-change arena. â€œHalf of success is determined before anybody picks up a pencil to sketch,â€ says Mariana Amatullo, director of Designmatters, a department of Art Center College of Design that undertakes social-change initiatives. Sheâ€™s referring to the network of relationships that must be built for projects launched from outside a community to have a hope in hell.
Socially responsible design, writes Julie Lasky in Metropolis Magazine, is a whole lot harder than it looks.