Designing for Social Impact

The beginnings of a workshop conducted at Civilla in Detroit, MI.

DevMynd’s Journey with Civilla

We all want to make the world a better place by [insert what you’re thinking here].

If you’ve seen the TV show Silicon Valley, you know which scene I’m referring to when you read the sentence above. If you know people in startups, you may have heard them say this verbatim. Actually, I’m pretty sure someone at DevMynd has thought or said this at one point or another. I’m pretty sure I’ve uttered this before as well.

I often wonder about this statement, though, and how valid it is in the work that we do. Design and technology fields have a range of services that I’m confident to say help to improve processes and everyday tasks for people. We’re proud of that and it feels like there is a direct line between us and helping others (a.k.a. the world). But we’re not blind to the idea that we’re not building homes for the poor, rewriting government policies, etc. and that our time is spent well within the scope of solving solve first world problems…we have to pay the bills too.

That said, we’re too stubborn to give into corporate policy norms when it comes to work culture, vacation time, and the environment we surround ourselves with for forty hours a week. We are versed in problem-solving and have excelled in it to the point that we’ve become consultants. Challenging ourselves with the wide array of problems that exist out there in different business ecosystems is actually incredibly rewarding to us. We know that it’s a privilege to be in the position we are in and we don’t take that for granted, but we’ll be the first to tell you that we worked hard to get here and are willing to help anyone else who wants to try.


A few years ago, there was a movement of people who rejected the very idea that design could impact the world. If you’ve ever seen this image floating around the internet, you’ll know why and how it gained popularity and disdain. There’s a reason why this was circulated around so many times: it’s somewhat true. But, if we think on this message for a while, maybe we’d see that it could impact a population of designers and thinkers who actually are trying to change the world without the judgment of others clouding their vision. Those that use design to better our society.

Ok, I’ll stop ranting.

All this to say that we just started a project with a little group that is literally trying to poke the universe. I met this group out in Detroit last year and immediately knew that they had the heart and gumption to not only dream big, but to actually get stuff done. They’ve abandoned the very definition of the word “comfort,” and left their 9 to 5 jobs to move across the country to start a non-profit organization for social innovation. This isn’t just a passion project. This is a committed lifestyle. And guess what? They’re using the human-centered design process to execute every bit of it.

Meet Civilla, a center for social innovation based in Detroit, Michigan. They launched in September 2015 and have tackled three projects during their experimentation phase. One of those projects has since gained the attention of the state of Michigan and we’re happy to announce that we’ll be working with this team to help it come to fruition. There will be an extensive blog post describing the project, but what’s important to know right now is this: one design project doesn’t change the world, but several design interventions could very well initiate larger change.

What We’re Doing

DevMynd is designing just such an intervention alongside Civilla to train our minds to think positively throughout its process. Having worked with nonprofit organizations before, we know the bureaucracy that comes with working with government organizations and can share in Civilla’s current experiences. It will be tough and we anticipate that there are layers of things to apply design thinking to while trying to solve one piece of this puzzle.

Our mission at DevMynd(custom software development company) has always been to work on meaningful things, whenever we can. We’re not going to say that we’re changing the world through this effort, but we’d like to believe that we’re collectively participating with all those out there who are trying to make an impact. Stay tuned!

Janice leads the design discipline at DevMynd. She has been with the company since 2016.