20090410-social-design-awardsNominations for The Tech Awards 2009 close today! Build Change represented the United States among the 2008 Laureates.

Awards programs like these are crucial to world-changing designers. The recognition from a university, nonprofit, or corporate award program can give a design startup the endorsement they need to win grant funding or justify government aid that helps distribute the new design to folks who cannot afford it.

Here’s a quick summary of development-related awards programs:

Program Tagline Dates Past winners
The Tech Awards Technology Benefitting Humanity Nominations due 4/10 Build Change
Google 10 to the 100th May those who help the most win Voting period coming soon; request reminder First annual, but Hippo Roller is featured in the YouTube animated video!
Microsoft Imagine Cup The world’s premier student technology competition Round 1 winners announced 4/20 to advance to Round 2. Team SOAK achieving sustainable agriculture with software and hardware.
$100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability Improving Lives through Sustainable Invention Submit nominations by October for the January 2010 award. Amy Smith was the first female winner of the Student prize in 2000
MIT IDEAS Competition Develop and implement projects that make a positive change in the world Final submissions due 4/15; Judging session at MIT 4/27.

If you know of others, please comment and let us know!

This post dedicated to Marc, who has encouraged me every day for the past six weeks to make time for blogging!

20081227-the-goals4MIT senior lecturer Amy Smith’s TED talk begins with the best thing a design presentation can share: failures along the path to successful solutions.

Smith wanted to design a locally producible fuel that would eliminate Haitian preference for wood-based fires. Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, is 97% deforested but families continue to rely on wood fires in the home for cooking. Smith saw that these families would eventually have to buy imported fuels, which would likely be unaffordable. In addition, wood-burning produces smoke inhalation in the home, which Smith discovered is the #1 cause of death among children under five years old in the developing world.

She reveals that the first version of locally producible charcoal briquettes did not actually burn, nor were they produced from locally available materials!

When you compare her 2006 TED talk to the 2004 DIY charcoal production manual, it’s clear that Smith has also learned to change how she presents the problem she solves. Rather than focus on the environmental issue (deforestation), which local families don’t have the luxury to consider, she opens her talk with the impact on childhood mortality – a much more compelling reason to switch to her fuel.

This is a great example of design-for-DIY: rather than create an invention that you intend to manufacture then sell to the developing world, create a way to teach the local communities to make and possibly sell the solution themselves. Design-for-DIY solves two needs: the original problem, and the economic challenge. Smith’s instruction manual is written such that anybody with access to agricultural waste and an empty oil drum can become an entrepreneur, producing and selling home-safe charcoal to the local community.

Imagine how powerful this could be if someone from the MIT Sloan School of Management teamed up with her?