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Adobe Brings Design Thinking to Nonprofits in Need

SOURCE: Taproot Foundation


Last month, Adobe's Design and Sustainability & Social Impact teams joined forces to host two design thinking events benefitting nonprofit partners. The goals of these events, called Pro Bono Design Challenge, were threefold: to quickly generate design solutions for nonprofit partners, to spread the core tenets of design thinking internally, and to integrate the aptitudes and perspective of a diverse group of Adobe talent for social impact. And the results? Inspiring.

Adobe brought the power of design thinking to pro bono in a big way. Let’s dig in on the details to see how they did it.

The Basics

  • EVENT #1: Pro Bono Design Challenge Benefitting City Year
    San Francisco, CA | July 25
    Mission: To build democracy through citizen service, civic leadership, and social entrepreneurship.
    Challenge: In this time of federal spending cuts, how do we create and reinforce a culture of national service?
  • EVENT #2: Pro Bono Design Challenge Benefitting Spy Hop  
    Lehi, UT | July 21
    Mission: To mentor young people in the digital media arts to help them affect positive change in their communities.
    Challenge: How do we help young people bridge the gap between high school, college, and career when they have no networks in place?

The Backstory

Adobe’s not new to channeling its business assets to drive social good. The company has a broad philanthropic portfolio and, in particular, has been committed to engaging its people in pro bono service since 2012. 

In 2016, the Adobe Design Team piloted a social good-focused program that was wildly successful. They worked with Oxfam America, using 180 Adobe designers to brainstorm solutions to problems Oxfam grapples with every day. This 1-day event made a significant and lasting impact on Oxfam, and Adobe Design learned that selecting a non-business related design challenge truly encouraged and promoted the real value of design thinking internally. As one designer put it, “people could not stop talking [about the event with Oxfam] and how much it resonated with them. We knew we had struck gold!”

Pro Bono Design Challenge 2017

This year, Adobe took their lessons from the Oxfam pilot and teamed up with the Taproot Foundation to bring this innovative model of corporate pro bono to new nonprofit beneficiaries through the “Pro Bono Design Challenge” events held in San Francisco and Lehi, Utah. These events leveraged the talent of 100+ Adobe employees from across the business, connecting Adobe talent in cross-functional teams led by an Adobe who specialized in design thinking.  

Over the course of one very full day, teams designed and iterated on creative solutions that address key organizational and sector-wide challenges. Adobe participants delivered impressive and varied solutions at both events. For example, one team suggested City Year address their challenge around reinforcing a culture of service through a visual analytics dashboard to share the impact each Corps Member contributes during their year and how that lives on long after their service. Another team suggested City Year focus on corporate partnerships in order to remove barriers to service like free housing, transportation, and general cost of living expenses.

Both events included four key features that set it apart as an innovative take on the typical 1-day pro bono experience:

  • 1. Expert insights: A cross-sector panel of leaders that helped prepare Adobe talent for the day by providing crucial context about the challenge and its broader social implications.
  • 2. Design thinking focus: A day designed around bringing the best of design thinking to the social sector – to make sure that Adobe participants were aligned on their design thinking approach, a design thinking training for all participating Adobe talent was conducted before the pro bono sessions began.
  • 3. Cross-department collaboration: An event open to all employees, Adobe strategically built teams that brought colleagues from diverse departments to encourage creative thinking. 
  • 4. Opportunities to shine: Every team presented on their solution to the challenge at the end of the day.

For the nonprofit participants, the event was an opportunity to get fresh and innovative insights on trenchant issues. And for Adobe participants, the experience highlighted the complexity of real-world challenges that nonprofits face and demonstrated how their professional expertise can make a positive difference on society.

All in all, both nonprofits and Adobe pro bono volunteers found this summer’s Design Events an inspiring, exciting, and exhausting (in the best possible way!) day of creativity and problem solving. Cheers to Adobe for finding new and impactful ways to apply their talent to drive positive social change!

About the Taproot Foundation
Taproot Foundation, a U.S. based nonprofit, connects nonprofits and social change organizations with passionate, skilled volunteers who share their expertise pro bono. Taproot is creating a world where organizations dedicated to social change have full access—through pro bono service—to the marketing, strategy, HR, and IT resources they need to be most effective. Since 2001, Taproot’s skilled volunteers have served 4,600 social change organizations providing 1.5 million hours of work worth over $160 million in value. Taproot is located in New York City, San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Chicago and is leading a network of global pro bono providers in over 30 countries around the world. @taprootfound

Tweet me: .@Adobe brings design thinking to #nonprofits in need through latest #probono program @Taprootfound @Taprootfound

Contact Info:

Advisory Services
Taproot Foundation

KEYWORDS: Social Impact & Volunteering, Non-Profits, Adobe, Taproot Foundation

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