As a young organization, The Designer Fund continues to refine and iterate how we execute our mission: investing in designers who build companies with positive social impact. One component of our mission we get questions about is “positive social impact.” Our current thinking is that the companies and entrepreneurial designers we invest in should have positive social impact baked into the very mission of their company. This means that their success, in and of itself, creates meaningful positive social impact. This, like profit, should be a success metric of the products and services we build. A great example that illustrates this is Neighborland, one of the most recent additions to our community.
Come Together, Right Now
Neighborland gives people a way to organize themselves and improve their neighborhoods. In their New Orleans pilot they helped set up a night market filled with great local food, opened up New Orleans transit data to app developers, and even helped the local transit agency compete for expanded streetcar routes into new neighborhoods. What’s even more fantastic is that all this change was made possible by people acting in their communities online and offline. There’s enough win there to make even the late John Wooden jealous.
Not about non-profits vs. for profits
Think of all the globalmegacorps that have created foundations or dot orgs to help their public image. From Shell to Oracle, companies pour millions of dollars to associate their brands with positive social change. They create these entities because they are at best tangentially focused on social impact and at worst trying to overcome a negative social impact created by their core business.
Neighborland does not need to supplement their mission. The positive social impact that might result once Neighborland is available to every city and community in the world is tremendous. Quite simply, it is baked right into their mission. This is the reason Obvious Corp, True Ventures, and others recently invested in them as well.
For the Designer Fund then, this is our litmus test. The designers and companies that inspire us, the ones we invest in, should inherently create positive social impact. For all you future entrepreneurial designers out there, this is your bar. For those designer entrepreneurs already creating companies like this, please reach out to us. Together, let’s create the next generation of profitable, socially impactful companies.