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Walk the Walk: Designing a Road to Empowerment

Written by in Profiles

Rule29 & Life In Abundance Collaborate to Help
Bring Opportunity to a Nairobi Slum

AIGA National has placed a lot of energy and time into encouraging members to participate in more social benefit/pro bono projects in their local and world communities. We at Against the Grain enjoy shining light on creative communications projects that make a real difference in the lives of people. Look under the WHY DESIGN tab on the AIGA site (http://www.aiga.org/why-design/). You  will see a wealth of inspiring examples to try on, emulate and admire.

What AIGA Believes

“Designers bring empathy and creativity to social challenges. The first, empathy, helps to understand the human-centered solutions that can make a real difference in real people’s lives. The second, creativity, can defeat habits with innovative approaches to making a measurable difference. A designer’s approach to the process of solving complex problems — particularly his or her willingness to test risky options that transcend the traditional view of problems — is their strategic advantage.”

Friends at Rule29 recently wrapped up large effort with The Konjo Initiative, a new economic development program that teaches shoemaking to unemployed or unskilled men and women living in Kibera, one of the largest slums in Kenya. Konjo instills a sense of empowerment by helping individuals break the cycle of poverty. Rule29 was immersed in all aspects of this economic development mission, from helping to design the shoes (which involved creating templates and designing instructions for the workers that were primarily visual) to developing the name, logo, and e-commerce website.

Said Justin Ahrens of Rule29, “What I’ve been shown through my involvement with the nonprofit Life in Abundance and the Konjo Initiative is that the majority of people living in poverty have tremendous creative skills that can be used to make things that can have some economic opportunity. Where they need empowering is channeling those skills into making products and getting those products into channels where we can see them and buy them.

Rule29 goal was simple: design, and market the Konjo brand to showcase the beauty of the Konjo people and their products. The women and men  Nairobi’s Kibera slum handcraft each pair of sandals. The sandals use recycled tire tread for the sole and local materials for insoles and uppers. Each pair is one-of-a-kind – like the people who make them.

“Our goal  was simple: Provide beautiful shoes for you, while restoring hope for the beautiful people of Africa. We believe that the most vulnerable people in the world deserve our best. That’s why Konjo was born. The shoes are not the end product. Rather, our vision is that Konjo would serve as a catalyst toward economic independence and life in abundance.” — Konjo Website (http://konjo.is/)

“We urge everyone to go to their online store, examine the goods, and, if they like what they see, order a pair and tell your friends and family to do the same,” said Ahrens. “Sure, you can buy a cheap pair of sandals made in a huge factory in China and sold at your favorite local big box retailer. Or, you can own a pair of beautifully made, one-of-a-kind shoes that help improve the lives of some Kenyan shoemakers fighting to rise above poverty. Show something is true through your actions: Walk the walk.”


Hey!? What’s the Big Idea?!

Neenah Paper supports AIGA and its many local chapters in many ways. We are proud to promote Design for Good efforts in your community. Leave us a comment on the blog or TWEET with news and information about any Design for Good project, plans or activities in your community using the hashtag #dgAIGA. . We want to hear from y0u.

The American Design Team
It takes a village to make shoes. And brand a deserving enterprise.
Justin Ahrens, Principal & Creative Director
Tim Damitz, Senior Designer
Kerri Liu, Senior Designer
Kara Ayaram, Designer
Susan Herda, Designer
Dawn Bjork, Production Designer
Bob Davidson, Creative Producer
Katrina Strich, Studio Manager
Andy Kenney (Intern)
Steve Czech (Intern)
Additional Team Members
Client – Justin Narducci  – Life In Abundance
Wonderkind Studios – Video and Photography
Factor 1 Studios – Web Development