Big Buckets of Money

I met with Justin Petro yesterday to do some final logistics planning for the bootcamp, and we were discussing the part of design process – ideation – where ideas start to build and evolve, and new ideas form. He described how important it was to tie these to “a big bucket of money”, even at this early stage, in order to explicitly shift the focus of social innovation from altruism (and likely unsustainable) to profitable (and therefore able to take a long view). I started thinking about what big buckets of money are actually available for social innovators to tie their ideas to, and came up with this list:

  1. Direct sales profit, product. Someone directly pays for an artifact.
  2. Direct sales profit, service. Someone directly pays for a service.
  3. Indirect sales profit, service. Transactional fees are extracted from a third-party exchange.
  4. Venture capital. Private equity, with an expectation of 5-10x return on 3M+ in 3-5 years.
  5. Angel capital. Start-up financing, with an expectation of a 10x return on <2M in 3-5 years.
  6. Foundation grant money. Large grants coming from private foundations, usually spooned off the top of an endowment.
  7. Private-sector grant money. Small grants coming from wealthy individuals, with an implicit expectation of some form of organizational control.
  8. Government grant money. Small to large grants, coming from agencies like NSF or the DOE.
  9. Government contractor money. Small to large contracts, coming from agencies like DOD or DARPA.
  10. Long-tail internet grants. Micro-grants aggregated through a service like Kickstarter, FundableIndieGoGo or ChipIn.

What other big pots of money am I missing?

The Strange Connection between Entitlement, Social Innovation,&IxD

A new post about AC4D is up at Johnny Holland, a magazine focused on interaction design. An excerpt from the post:

Students would contact me and describe how miserable they were with their jobs, asking for advice on new career paths or even entirely new professions. It wasn’t that their bosses were mean, or that their working hours were awful; it wasn’t even the larger issues we’ve all dealt with in the business context, like the misappropriation of designer as stylists, or the prioritization of technologists over designers. Instead, I began to hear how the benefits of ‘flow’ and ‘being creative’ and ‘solving really hard problems’ were being grossly outweighed by feelings of insignificance and irrelevance. My alumni were at the forefront of design, working at major consultancies and the heart of the Fortune 500 – and they didn’t feel like their work was meaningful.

Read the whole post here.

AC4D Q&A with Jon Kolko on core77

A Q&A with director Jon Kolko is posted at core77, the premier design magazine and resource for all things progressive and intellectual about our field.

An excerpt:

Core77: We are excited about the new school you’ve started, the Austin Center for Design. Can you tell us more about it?Jon Kolko: The Austin Center for Design [AC4D] is a school intended to teach interaction design and social entrepreneurship. I have some lofty goals for the school: to transform society through design and design education. My vision is that the hard work and dedication that designers put into making physical products, digital artifacts, and strategy work for the Fortune 500 can be redirected towards large scale social concerns, and that new business models can be created to make this redirection of talent sustainable for all involved.

Check out the whole Q&A here.

Design for Impact Boot Camp – sponsored by AC4D&frog design

frog design and Austin Center for Design are pleased to announce and host a one day Design For Impact Boot Camp. This free event will be held on Saturday, April 24th, 2010.

After taking part in the boot camp participants will have:

  1. Acquired a high level process for approaching large-scale social problems, and understand the challenges associated with these types of problems
  2. Experienced the research, synthesis and ideation processes as related to design for impact
  3. Gained empathy with a target, at-risk population
  4. Acquired the introductory vocabulary to speak about strategic design work, in the context of designing for impact

This aggressively-paced boot camp is intended for designers, technologists, marketers, and other professionals who are interested in extending their skill set into the realm of social innovation and design for impact. All levels of design ability are welcome; the only pre-requisite is passion. There are limited participant seats, which are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Learn more at

Austin Center for Design to host virtual open house

Come join us in a virtual open house on Thursday, April 1st, at 6:00pm central (4:00pm pacific / 5:00pm mountain / 7:00pm eastern). Through a live webcast, Director Jon Kolko will present information about the school, discuss the philosophy of learning, and walk through the curriculum.

We’ll cover an Overview of Austin Center for Design, the Theory, Philosophy, and Pedagogy of the institution, describe the various learning modules, and have plenty of time for Q&A through live-chat.

Please visit to register for the open house.

** Edit: You can watch the recording from the event at