Babel is one of the member organizations of the Social Design Network: DESIGN 21

Better design for the greater good

In partnership with UNESCO

Our Mission

DESIGN 21: Social Design Network’s mission is to inspire social consciousness through design. We connect people who want to explore ways that design can positively impact our communities – ways that are thoughtful, informed, creative and responsible.

What do we want? Social Design!

Q: What is Social Design?
A: It’s design for the greater good.

We want to use the power of good design for greater purpose.

We believe the real beauty of design lies in its potential to improve life. That potential first manifests itself as a series of decisions that result in a series of consequences. The practice of social design considers these decisions on a greater scale, understanding that each step in the design process is a choice that ripples out into our communities, our world and our lives. These choices are the result of informed ideas, greater awareness, larger conversations and, most importantly, the desire to do good. Social design is design for everyone’s sake.

When do we want it? NOW!

We believe that change happens when we design better, together. DESIGN 21 is a resource to make that collaborative change happen: a freelance designer shares ideas with a green business, an arts non-profit connects with a governmental outreach program, a researcher in England brainstorms with an industrial designer in India. It all starts here. And it starts now.

Our Roots

DESIGN 21: Social Design Network is itself a collaborative project undertaken by the global design and merchandise company Felissimo and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, better known as UNESCO.

Felissimo believes that the ultimate goal of any business should be to contribute to the happiness of society. Charity is often factored into their business as a cost item to provide a steady stream of funds for non-profits. Through their product catalogs, for example, they invite customers to be partners in programs such as the Felissimo Forest Fund, which is funded by $1-a-month donations and has helped to plant six million trees, and their Earth Village Fund, which provides emergency food and medical care worldwide. Felissimo also subsidizes manufacturing programs in underdeveloped countries and sells their products in their catalogs.

The partnership between Felissimo and UNESCO began in 1995 with the DESIGN 21 Award, an international design competition created to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. DESIGN 21 grew into a biannual event that brought together the work of young designers and students alongside established names and exhibited the results around the world.

In 1997 Felissimo established the Tribute 21 Plate program with UNESCO, which brings artists, designers and celebrities together to create decorative plates, the proceeds of which are donated to charity. Celebrities such as Julia Roberts and Cindy Crawford and world renowned designers such as David Rockwell and Christian Lacroix have designed plates for this project. To date, Tribute 21 has raised over $800,000 for charities worldwide. A portion of funds is also donated to UNESCO to help fund the construction of DREAM Centers in post-conflict regions with artistic programs (DREAM stands for Dance, Read, Express, Art, Music) that allow children to express themselves in a protected environment. Established locations include Kabul, Phnom Penh, Port-au-Prince and Monrovia, Liberia with a center in East Jerusalem underway.

UNESCO’s mission is to provide educational opportunities to people worldwide, to make scientific and technical knowledge available to developing countries and to promote cultural understanding among different people. Felissimo wanted to address this effort through a shared online platform and to do it through the medium of design. So the collaboration between Felissimo and UNESCO began anew, and this site, DESIGN 21: Social Design Network, was born.

United Social Themes

Partnering with UNESCO means being an active contributor to the goals of the United Nations. To help us do that, we’ve adopted UNESCO’s social themes to better define areas we can aid through social design. Think about how your causes or your projects fit into the following:

EDUCATION: literacy, educational resources, education for all

AID: emergency relief, medical and humanitarian aid

POVERTY: extreme poverty, urban poverty, homeless

COMMUNITY: gender and race equality, community development and welfare, sports

ENVIRONMENT: habitats, sustainable development, biodiversity, water, climate change, natural disaster reduction

COMMUNICATION: freedom of expression, access and understanding of media and the internet, media development

ARTS & CULTURE: protection of cultural diversity, art as empowerment

PEACE: human rights, genocide, conflict resolution

WELL-BEING: health, disease, disability

How can we do it? Together

In the end, good design is the result of good decisions. Fueling informed choices by fostering relationships and conversation is what the Social Design Network is all about. So engage with the power of design and connect to create change.

A Leg To Stand On

Academy for Eating Disorders (AED)

All Stars Project (ASP)

Also-Known-As, Inc.

AmberWatch Foundation

American Cancer Society of Manhattan


amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research


Art with Heart


Arts to Grow

Asha for Education

Asian American Federation of New York

Asian Artists & Concerts Inc.

Aveda Corporation

Babel: The multilingual, multicultural online journal and community of arts and ideas

Business Council For Peace

Buy a Meter



Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation

Cinema Verite Institute




Connected Productions (for Cinema Verite Institute)

Deliver Darfur

DESIGN 21: Social Design Network

Design Gossip

Design that Matters

Design without Borders

DKMS Where Leukemia Meets its Match

Domes for the World

Earth Pledge

Echoing Green

Everyone’s Closet

Fashion Delivers Charitable Foundation Inc.

Feed The Children

Friends Without A Border

From Chrysalis to Wings Psychotherapy and Research Center

Genocide Intervention Network

Girls International Forum


Global Action Foundation (GAF)

Good Design Ideas

GOOD Global Organization for Organ Donation

Green Business Leaders

Green Map System

Green Mountain Coffee


Heart Gallery NYC

Hope Equity

Horizon Theatre Rep

I Heart Allumonde

In Plain English

Industrial Design Club

Institute of International Social Development

International Neuroscience Foundation

Inventive Reception

Investors’ Circle

Japan Society

Japanese American Association of New York

Jordan Carlson’s 720 Mission to Cure Breast Cancer

Leave Out ViolencE (LOVE)

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Love Heals

Luova Group

Malaria No More

Mali Multimedia

Mano a Mano: Mexican Culture Without Borders

Materials for the Arts, Friends of

Media Communications Association International, New York Chapter

Millennium Promise

MoMA, The Museum of Modern Art

National Dance Institute (NDI)

National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF)

Network for Good

New York Opportunity Network (NYON)

New York Restoration Project

North Shore Animal League America

NY de Volunteer



Open Forum for Design Enthusiasts

Operation Smile

Other Worlds

Panos London


Procter & Gamble

Project Harmony


Public Architecture

Public Design Center



Rian Design


Search for Common Ground

Seeds of Peace

Six Degrees

Smith Barney

Socially Conscious Graphic Design

Stages of Learning

Sulha Peace Project

Sustainable Web

The Climate Project

The Juan Pablo Duarte Foundation (JPD Foundation)

The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA)


The Robin Hood

The Sallan Foundation Inc.

The September Concert

The Steven Vincent Foundation

The Triple Bottom Line

Think Differently


UNESCO/ Tribute 21 D.R.E.A.M. Centers

United Way of New York City


Urban Permaculture Guild

Verdant Power


Vortex Theater Company


William Raveis Charitable Fund, Inc.

Work Worth Doing