Un Techo Para Chile reaches finals of global design contest

The Chilean charitable organization was one of only seven short-listed entries in the first World Design Impact Prize.

When design brilliance comes together with social responsibility, great things can happen – and the lives of the poor or disadvantaged can get just a little bit easier.

This is the ethos behind the new World Design Impact Prize, created by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID) to honor projects that use industrial design to make a positive impact on our social, economic, cultural, or environmental quality of life.

And in the results announced last Thursday, February 2, a charitable innovation group from Un Techo Para Chile (A Roof For Chile) placed in the top seven finalists – the only Latin American entry to do so.

Un Techo Para Chile’s innovation center defines itself as a “laboratory for social innovation” that develops products to improve the lives of people living in extreme poverty. Un Techo Para Chile in turn is part of the multi-national network of charities Un Techo Para Mi País (A Roof For My Country).

The center’s unique approach views disadvantaged people as consumers in a niche market, and works to pinpoint their specific needs. It then challenges students, community citizens, companies and technology centers to develop products and services to donate or loan to these vulnerable sectors.

“We focus on generating an impact at the base of the social pyramid – the four billion people who earn less than US$4 per day,” said Julián Ugarte, director of the center.

The Chilean non-profit was selected as a finalist from among 22 nominations, and was beaten to the prize by eventual winner Community Cooker, a sustainable community kitchen in Kenya.

“Although we didn’t win, it’s an honor to be a finalist in this important global accolade,” said Ugarte. “And it gives us a tremendous responsibility to keep working towards a more equal society.”

This was exactly the ICSID’s aim in creating the awards: “With this prize, we hope to attract investors so that the projects can grow,” said ICSID president Soon-in Lee.

For a full list of the finalists and information about the prize and nominees, click here.