Emily Pilloton

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By Dwell
With the offices of her upstart nonprofit, Project H, located in the same space as Cameron Sinclair’s Architecture for Humanity, Emily Pilloton’s everyday life is steeped in a desire to make design matter. Design, she believes, can help to improve the lives of others—and Project H was set up to help make it happen.

Of course, Pilloton is not alone in her quest to "design for the other 90 percent," as the saying goes—referring to designers who put their services to work for the global poor—but the speed of Project H’s rise from mere idea to field leader has been astonishing. Pilloton, a self-described humanitarian design entrepreneur, decided that Project H should solve what she calls "a different equation," with an altogether different bottom line.

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For instance, Project H’s most well-known initiative is its delivery, in late 2007, of "Hippo Rollers" to communities in rural South Africa (below). Hippo Rollers are durable and easy-to-transport plastic barrels that make it immeasurably less stressful for people to store clean water. Project H’s interests extend beyond health and hygiene, however, to encompass youth education. They will soon embark on the design and production of toy beads that double as mathematical counting devices. The retail sale of these will then fund the construction of much-needed schools in the region.

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"I know that there is a huge network of individual designers out there, with human-focused values, wanting to do great work," Pilloton says. "I’m just trying to provide a conduit, and a place, for us to figure it out together."