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  • Create academic projects that benefit nonprofits

    Providing actual—not hypothetical—experience in the classroom, especially as organizations want graduates who can hit the ground running, is a good thing. Even better? Taking on real nonprofits who can benefit from the pro-bono advice.

    Setting: Higher Education

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    Organization/people involved

    David Walczyk, professor
    New York University
    New York, New York, U.S.A.

    What they did

    The intent was to give students the experience, as closely as possible, of working within a design shop on information architecture and interaction design projects. Essentially this meant learning to work with clients and their constraints, learning to work within a small team creatively, and producing a complete and implementable design.

    Nonprofits were chosen as clients because they tend not to have the resources to afford high-level design work. In this way, student projects could benefit nonprofits while also introducing students to social good.

    How you can do it

    Though David’s classes were specific to information architecture and information design, the methodology he used can be adapted to any discipline.

    Impact

    Success shouldn’t be measured by client implementation, because there are a thousand reasons why a nonprofit might not implement recommendations as presented. Instead, as David suggests, success can be measured by how many students begin professional work in the discipline, or how the skills and perception of students changes based on what they learned.

    Big takeaways

    Provide feedback to each student group every week. Spend quality time with them. Get to know them. Treat them as a unique group of individuals that have come together for a very short time to create something useful.

    Leave the client needs up to the students. That’s their job. Your job is to provide structure and support.

    Photo credit: kevin.pelrine on Flickr

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