Design without Borders is founded with the conviction that design and designers can contribute to improving lives of people in low and middle-income countries and areas of crisis.
Founded initially as a programme under the Norwegian Foundation for Design and Architecture (Norsk Form) in 2001, the organisation has worked successfully with many leaders in the fields of international development, including the World Food Programme, UNICEF and Norwegian People’s Aid, to design appropriate solutions and services that serve disadvantaged and crisis-affected populations.
Offices in Uganda and Norway
Today, Design without Borders is both an independent non-profit foundation in Norway and a commercial design office in Uganda.
Since 2014, our focus has been in Uganda where we have established a design consultancy that employs local and international designers. Located in Kampala, Design without Borders Uganda Ltd offers services to private and public clients and partners in the East Africa region. The Kampala office was established with the generous support from the Norwegian Development Cooperation (NORAD), FK Norway and Peter Opsvik AS.
All operational activities, both commercial and donor-funded, are implemented by the Kampala office.
The administrative Head Office in Oslo is responsible for fundraising and overseeing the implementation of the donor funded programmes.
What we do
Our goal is to impact the communities where we work by increasing the number of businesses and organisations able to access high-quality design services to grow their economic value and solve social problems. Our programmes share skills and knowledge with our partners and work with them to design scalable solutions to the challenges they face.
Services we provide
- Designing Solutions
We pair designers with local and international partners to develop innovative solutions across the disciplines of industrial, service and systems oriented design
- Design Training
We offer training in the use and management of human-centred design processes for organisations, businesses and individuals working in low and middle-income countries and areas of crisis.
- Scaling Innovations
We help our partners develop strategies and find needed resources to expand the reach of proven innovations. We provide visualizations, models, prototypes, manufacturing specifications and testing requirements needed for developing successful business plans and accessing funding to scale.
Who we work with
- Private sector businesses in East and Central Africa
- National and international NGOs and UN agencies
- Learning institutions
Impact of our work
Since 2001, Design without Borders has worked together with partners to create products and services that impact the lives of thousands of people around the world. Examples of our impact include:
- Assisting Lærdal Medical to develop a birthing simulator used to train hundreds of health workers worldwide in life-saving birthing practices.
- Partnering with UNICEF to develop a solar-powered computer kiosk. The solution is already deployed in over 150 youth centres across Uganda, providing computer access for thousands.
- Designing an automated assembly system for a Ugandan manufacturers, Ugastove, to increase the monthly production capacity of affordable. Energy-efficient charcoal stoves from hundreds to thousands.
- Helping grassroots organisation develop products that improve livelihoods of people in developing countries – read more about the Life jackets for fishermen at Lake Victoria and the customised wheelchair for children in Guatemala.
Awards and nominations
The results of our collaborations have received many prestigious international design awards and nominations including:
- Twice a finalist in the INDEX – Design to Improve Life Award: in 2015 for the “AKI Financial Literacy Kit” and in 2013 for the “Ecological urinal”
- Irish Planning Institute’s International Planning Award – 2014: The Master plan for the network of bicycle routes in Guatemala City won the Irish Planning Award in 2014. The bicycle network was a project collaboration between Design without Borders and the Municipality of Guatemala City.
- The paediatric wheelchair customized to the needs of children in Guatemala, developed together with Transiciones, was a runner up for the Core77 Design Awards in 2013.
We think of design as problem solving. It is a process that operates across disciplines and translates people’s needs and desires into accessible, affordable and viable solutions.
Design without Borders’ philosophy is based on participatory processes and user involvement. In order to contribute to making sustainable and long-lasting impact, Design without Borders is concerned with knowledge transfer and local presence. We seek to work with and not for our partners. Our inclusive design process enables the exchange of ideas between local and international designers.
Creating change through local empowerment
We utilize the power of design to save lives, improve living conditions and lift communities out of poverty
Board of directors for the Foundation Design without Borders (Norway)
- Chairman Ole Christian Kleppe, CEO of Socia trafo AS.
- Andreas Vaa Bermann, Head of Dep. of Area Development, City of Oslo. Former Director – Foundation for Design and Architecture in Norway
- Katinka von der Lippe, Lead designer in Strategic Design & Design Management at Eker Design/Hydrolift
- Helene Bank, Senior advisor on Trade, Globalization and the Environment in the labour union based “Campaign for the Welfare State
- Anna Kirah, Chief Experience Officer at Making Waves, Oslo (working board member)
- Tor Opsvik, Ph.D. candidate in History at University of Santiago de Chile.
Board of Directors for Design without Borders Uganda Ltd
- Anna Kirah, Design Anthropologist and Psychologist, Kirah Co. (working board member)
- Abigail Turinayo, Acting Managing Director of Design without Borders Uganda Ltd
- Andreas Vaa Bermann, Head of Dep. of Area Development, City of Oslo