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Design For America Holds the Better Alternative Challenge

The Better Alternative Challenge: create a two-minute video presenting an idea that can reduce water waste in some way, by making conserving water easier, more intuitive and/or more appealing.

The prize: Three grand prize winners will be awarded $1,000 each.

The administrators: Northwestern University student group Design for America, an award-winning national design initiative that uses design to make local and social impact.

DfA member Mert Iseri explains:

How did you guys come up with the idea for this challenge?

We wanted to get students involved, and we wanted to get them involved now. When we think of a water crisis, usually what comes to mind is the picture of a remote desert in India. That makes the problem far away and irrelevant to people who live across one of the biggest bodies of fresh water on the planet.

The challenge is changing behavior not simply by talking about the problem, but by introducing the better alternative. More importantly, we want to inspire students across the country to come up with that better alternative. We are not only looking for solutions, we are looking for advocates.

What do you hope to accomplish?

We hope to spread the message of 'democratizing design', where design is taken out of the domain of people wearing black turtlenecks and Prada glasses. Design thinking should be available for everyone, and we believe that the best way to spread this is to invite all to participate.

How does this fit with DfA's goals?

By spreading virally amongst college students, we also want to grow Design for America. Basically, the students who submit their work for this challenge are the types of students who would be perfect for starting a studio in their campuses. We want to inspire that growth, but accompanying it with success.

This is where the challenge intersects with DfA's goals. In our culture, inspiration is not enough; it has to be matched with action. We want to leverage of powerful design with passionate students to stir a movement amongst the country.

Design For America has worked on water sustainability projects for the past few quarters, and although we've come up with a few solutions, when you're trying to tackle a problem as big as water sustainability, a few solutions simply won't be enough. You need thousands of ideas. DFA simply doesn't have that man power ... yet.

This challenge is an attempt to spread DFA principles outside of design circles and beyond the campuses where we currently have initiatives while trying to make a dent in the challenge of water sustainability in what we think is the best way. Not by simply telling people to waste less, but by making conserving easier, more intuitive and more compelling.

How are you advertising the contest, and who do you hope to get submissions from?

We hope to get submissions from college students at universities across the country. Although it isn't explicit in the rules, we will greatly encourage the winners to start initiatives on their own campuses.

The challenge will be judged by:
- Chris Flink, a partner at IDEO
- Elizabeth Gerber, professor of mechanical engineering and of the Segal Design Institute at Northwestern University, founder of Design for America
- Bruce Mau, chief creative officer of Bruce Mau Design
- Don Norman, design expert, professor, and co-director of the Segal Design Institute
- Cindy Tripp, global marketing director at Procter & Gamble

Click here for more information on Better Alternative Challenge.