On Repairing the World, Four Hours at a Time


Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has - Margaret Mead


A few years back I was sitting at a conference in Melbourne, it was a three-day affair so there had been no shortage of great ideas thrown around for us to chew on, but I remember sitting and listening to this one particular guy and being totally enthralled.

It was a design conference and most speakers and been talking about their creative work, their process, the cool clients they’d been working for, but this guy? He was going down a different track.

His name was David Berman, and he was talking all about how good design can change the world when it’s used for the right reasons. One thing in particular that jumped out at me, and what I want to share with you today is his 'Do Good Design Pledge’.

Now, it could seem that this post is aimed at designers and what they can do to make a difference, but really this post is much broader than that: It’s about what any professional can do to prioritise making a positive difference. Take a look at the three key points of the pledge below, and you’ll see that the concept can easily be applied across virtually any field, profession or skill set:


“The time to commit is now."

1. “I will be true to my profession."

2. “I will be true to myself."

3. “I will spend at least 10 percent of my professional time helping repair the world."

Generally, as professionals (designers or otherwise) we tend to spend most of our 40+ hour week in what you could broadly call the 'commercial space’. We’re putting our time towards selling a product or service, or making it easier for someone else to sell a product or service, with the end game being a commercial profit. Of course, this is all well and good, because the world wouldn’t get very far if no-one was turning a profit! However, just because the projects we put our time towards might be turning a profit, doesn’t always mean that on a grassroots level they’re using that profit to do actual, tangible good in the world.

The aim of the DGDP is to pledge 10% of your work hours towards doing work that, as Berman puts it will ‘help repair the world’, so that in a standard 40 hour week, 4 hours would be set aside to do wonderful things. The term ‘world' is used broadly - it could be your local neighbourhood, a community group that you're part of, something for your country or something on an international scale - any of those are great.

You get bonus points too for using your own skill set to do good, rather than something unrelated to your profession because it's all about combining together and bringing our own unique strengths to the challenge of making the world a better place. Also, while this kind of mission lends itself to a pro-bono arrangement, it’s by no means a definite and there’s nothing to say that you can’t be paid for these pledged hours. So don’t feel locked-in to that.

How you go about filling your pledged hours is up to you, but I would suggest that you begin by making a list of businesses, organisations or community groups who are doing ‘world repairing’ work that you feel passionate about and inspired by. You can then reach out to them to see if they could find your knowledge/skill set useful, and how that might work. This could be anything from your local footy club, to a community centre, to a budding social enterprise.

Personally, I must admit over the years I have turned my 4-hour pledge into more of a 40-hour business-pillar philosophy. I try to work exclusively with clients who are ‘mission positive’ and making awesome waves in their local or broader community and I find this extremely rewarding. That’s the beauty of the Do Good Design Pledge, once you get going, you can take it wherever you want.


Imagine what would happen if every one of Australia's 12 million employees took this pledge? We'd have about 48 million hours of world repairing Every. Single. Week. 


I really encourage you to take the pledge, even if you're not a designer, because can you imagine what would happen if every one of Australia's 12 million employees took this pledge? We'd have about 48 million hours of world repairing Every. Single. Week. Pretty mind blowing, hey? So on that note, you can sign the online pledge here: www.davidberman.com/social/dogood

If you’d like a paper version to remind you of your good work in 3D, I’ve made a little paper pledge you can print off and pin up above your desk or wherever you like. Just grab it here

I’d love to hear how you go with this- what is your pledge and what does it mean for you - plus a pic of your printed pledge!


Till next time, Louise