Rolling into the first few weeks of 2018, those of us at DFG sat down to take a look at how 2017 has been for us. 2017 has truly been an amazing and special year for Design For Good. Kickstarting our marketplace in May, we came a long way in showcasing what collaboration looks like between artists, designers and communities-in-need.
Starting from scratch, we experienced many humbling breakthroughs and incredible growth spurts. Here are our 7 most precious:
1. We built relationships
People matter the most to us. Throughout the year, we have had the opportunity to work with the passionate team of Solutions To End Poverty (STEP) to understand the context of SMILE Village in Phnom Penh. A well thought-out venture, community-mapping was one of the primary tools used to design their living space, meeting the needs of each household.
During our trip there, the DFG team also got the chance to meet up with the friendly Krafters and see how we can leverage on their skills in sewing, rug-braiding and wood-crafting to create a sustainable business model.
Following that, we maintained close contact with the team in Phnom Penh to further develop products and ideas from Singapore while sharing information, challenges, improvements and updates with each other regularly.
2. We told our story
After knowing more about them, we used the captured footage from the trip to draft out their story.
We thought about how DFG can play a role in lifting them up. Exploring different channels and strategies, we tried out several channels to get the Krafters’ story out.
We filmed videos, each focusing on differing aspects such as the rug-making process, life in SMILE Village and aspirations behind the Krafters’ perseverance. One challenge we had was the translation from Khmer to English, as we sought help to express the Krafters’ feelings in the most accurate way possible. Setting up our website, www.designforgood.sg, the DFG team went on further to design the user interface that best displays the Krafters’ products and profiles.
Consistent is key in storytelling, so we make it a point to post regularly on our blog, Instagram and Facebook for engagement as well.
3. We developed product ideas
Product ideation was one of the most precious journeys to us. Be it the shade of colour on the rug or the sourcing of raw materials in the local Cambodian market, there are many details to note, experiment and discuss on.
As our rugs are mostly made from the excess fabrics in manufacturing factories, the texture, material and colour of the fabrics are usually predetermined. The Krafters accepted the challenge to use what they can find to produce quality rugs and coasters.
The product cycle doesn’t just end here. We followed up with our customers after their purchase to find out about their user experiences. Was the material and size good for everyday use? Would tote bag users find the length of the straps comfortable? From there, we noted on several details to improve on our next batch of products. For one, our newest tote bags feature pockets on the front, an additional feature included after getting sentiments from the ground.
Of course, it is important for us to take the time to check on the responses that are less than positive. Once, a laptop sleeve had a faulty zip even before our customer used it. We sincerely apologised for our negligence and provided a 1-for-1 item exchange for the customer. This incident has reminded the team to be (1) mindful of the product checking and (2) facilitate prompt and accountable responses for our customers.
4. We explored packaging options
Packaging design has been yet another major breakthrough for us as well.
It is no easy task to look for packaging that (1) creates little waste, (2) has a style complementary to our brand and (3) is within our shoestring budget at the same time.
Due to our relatively diverse range of products in our first collection (think wooden handphone stands and huge, 80cm-wide circular rugs), we sought to have a consistent label that represented Design For Good. Recycling the commonplace charkwayteow wrapping paper, we printed our product description and included a tag of the Krafters’ story.
To us, the final packaging was crucial as it embedded our appreciation for the customer who believed in DFG’s model for sustainable good. Especially during Christmas, we included a free gift card for customers to write in their notes for their loved ones.
5. We held booths
Externally, the Design For Good team has also been actively setting up booths at shopping malls and schools to showcase our products and story.
In the 7 months since our inception, we have set up a total of 9 booths across Singapore. It heartens our hearts to receive encouraging words from people who saw the gold in what we do. Moreover, it is also humbling to see how we are part of a larger community that is striving to rise by lifting others up as well.
Furthermore, DFG also started her first showroom to invite and welcome people to stand with us. The room is designed with a few main highlights, with one of them being a simple showcase of the Krafters’ rug design improving in colour combinations, material choice and braiding skills as the months go by.
Often, we would let our Krafters know of the feedback and support that we have been getting to encourage them in their own journey.
6. We shared on why we do what we do
Other than booths, we have also been involved in events for publicity as well. Ultimately, Design For Good is purposed to be a business solution to help alleviate poverty in the mind, heart and hands.
By helping to leverage on the talents and skills that communities-in-need have, we can celebrate all abilities and grow them into sustainable businesses of their own. More often than not, these changes start from a simple mindset change. By choosing to sieve out the gold in every situation, using frameworks such as the asset-based community development model, social businesses can have their niche and competitive advantage in the marketplace too.
Moving forward, we would love to work with other social service organisations who are looking to transforming receivers into givers.
7. We made new friends
Last but not the least, we have made many new friends within the short time frame. The DFG team is truly thankful to have met several individuals who have supported us in ways more than one. Be it volunteering or helping us to advocate our cause, our friends have been a pillar of strength for us this season.
We look forward to walking the journey together with them in 2018, and we are excited to new doors, roads, rivers and ways that will open for us in the new year. :)