Designing for social impact
How can lessons from international development projects help us to achieve social impact through architecture in a domestic context? The aim of this paper is to articulate a generalised framework for designing for social impact that draws on real-world experiences.
Since the 1970s, spatial theorists have been increasingly concerned with the mutually constitutive relationship between space and social outcomes. More recently, humanitarian architecture has emerged as an area concerned with social impact within architectural practice and discourse.
The framework presented here, informed by interviews with architects and project leads with experience in government-funded development projects in the Pacific, aims to translate reflections on specific humanitarian or development projects into a generalised approach to designing for social impact. The framework is made up of five components: investigate, advocate, communicate, innovate and evaluate; and is tested through a live project case study.
The case study brief required the exploration of collaborative possibilities between a Catholic Māori rōpū, a social housing trust and the Archdiocese of Wellington at the site of a pan-tribal marae in Kilbirnie. Reflections on the implementation of the framework through the case study reveal that a community-focused design process can have social impact, even in the absence of built outputs.