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Ideo designs for good

March 7, 2011, 3:00 PM UTC

How a cutting edge design firm is using its resources to help make the world a better place.

When Fortune 500 companies need an innovation infusion, they often turn to Palo Alto-based IDEO. The design firm helped create successes like Bank of America’s Keep the Change program and the MyFord Touch dashboard.

But IDEO designers are do-gooders too, so in early March, the firm is introducing to serve low-income groups. Beginning in the fall, the new unit will be staffed by designers and other socially minded types on a one-year fellowship. They could work with groups like the Rockefeller and Nike foundations to find solutions to global problems.

Partnering with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Acumen Fund, IDEO is already building awareness in India about the importance of clean drinking water, creating events with music and skits, and inviting villagers to compare their own water with clean water under a microscope. The campaign has led to a sevenfold rise in the number of subscriptions for water purification services.

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