Posts tagged social change
Pro Bono Futurum

Pro bono publico, for the public good, has a long and noble history. The term (and practice) is usually associated with those working in law. But the idea of doing “good” in the business world is growing beyond the legal profession, and is being picked up by a host of product and service providers. A comprehensive overview of these pro-social business design innovations can be found in verynice’s Models of Impact map.

 “The world is getting better and better, and worse and worse, faster and faster.”
— Tom Atlee

 Tom Atlee’s observation beautifully captures the contradictions, paradoxes, opportunities, and anxieties of change in our times. If you want to find hope for the future, it is easily found. If you dread the looming disaster and civilization-level catastrophes we are facing, they are there, all around us. When we live with such ambiguity, it can confound and paralyze us, or it can challenge and liberate us. Therefore, how we frame the future matters more than ever. The metaphors, references, language, images, and visions we use to make sense of change have real, present, tangible effects on the way we think, how we behave, and the decisions we make.

 Pro bono is a way to both describe a practice and an ethos. It is a big idea. It has enough clarity to be understood broadly, but it is capacious enough to include many variations of how “good” can be done. It has the gravitas (and timelessness?) of Latin! Ultimately pro bono is about giving— of time, services, and other resources— with the manifest goal of improving society in some direct way. It can be more or less formalized, and it can scale from the level of individuals (such as legal representation) to far-reaching  social impact (such as volunteer programs like the Peace Corps).

Relatively recent innovations, such as social entrepreneurship, impact investing, sharing economy, collaborative consumption, and strategic reciprocity are all part of an emerging ‘web of good’ that is attempting to harness business, social, and technological tools to win the race against the forces of greed, corruption, and co-optation. We see good growing faster and faster, but so is desperation and precarity.

 The idea of racing against the devil already leaves me exhausted. The idea of pro bono, however, is built upon values of duty, to be sure, but it also contains notions of abundance, and exuberance. Pro bono can have strategic advantages, but the driving force is the goal for individuals to do right by society by becoming better people. Being “human” in today’s business world remains difficult, but it doesn’t stop people from seeking out ways to do just that. Pro bono feels like a very human act of giving a damn, and doing something about it. Becoming better people may or may not lead directly to better futures, but I’ll take my chances.

 Pro bono futurum is the idea that if we give our time and skills away (at whatever level or capacity we can) to institutions and practices that improve society, that those institutions will thrive and that future generations will benefit from these efforts. Pro bono isn’t free, and it requires more work and sacrifice from practitioners of it. The feedback mechanisms may be noisy, long, or even non-existent for us in the present, but we have to put some measure of trust that our actions will have systemic positive impact.  A commitment to pro bono futurum could very likely pay off for most current and future generations, but one thing has been made certain in my year of giving half of my work away for free: it has definitely paid off for my own personal well-being and work satisfaction. With a side effect like that, pro bono is a medicine we should all be taking.

Welcome to veryniceLA, Josiah!

The verynice team is expanding! We just welcomed our newest member, Josiah Pak— Junior Designer, to the veryniceLA office. We sat down for coffee on Josiah's first day, and he shared everything from his thoughts about design and social change to his prediction for the next big food trend. See below for Josiah's full interview and join us in giving him a verynice welcome!   

Hi, Josiah! Tell us about your new role here at verynice. 

El Júnior Designer

I’ve been very privileged to grow up with parents who positively stress the importance of giving back to society by helping others. So I ventured into the world of design to hopefully one day make some sort of impact to some sort of community in our society. I’m absolutely ecstatic to join the verynice team because I feel they do exactly that. Though 50% of the work we do here is pro-bono, I feel like 100% of the heart and effort lie in the general desire to make an impact in our community. So I’m equally thankful and optimistic about being part of this team. 

Beware of El Júnior Designer.

Sweet. We'll make sure to put El Júnior Designer as the title on your new business cards. So, the desire to enact social change absolutely informs our work here at verynice. Can you tell us your thoughts on how design, specifically, can impact the community? 

Design is a language understood by many, therefore allowing it to reach many. And honestly, I’d rather look, experience, and learn from good design than anything else. So I believe that design is definitely needed to enact change because we need a form of communication that not only reaches many, but also stirs interest. Plus, it’s really nice to look at.

Wow, so your last design gig was with Whole Foods. Would you call yourself a big foodie? 

I don’t think I have enough dough in the bank to consider myself a foodie— being a foodie is quite expensive! However, I do consider myself to be an adventurous eater— there is nothing that stops me from trying out new foods. Just a few weeks ago, a fellow Angelino introduced me to Boat noodles, a Thai beef noodle soup made with cow blood. I know what you’re thinking. That sounds weird, Josiah. But let me tell you, Boat noodles will be the new Pho.

Follow-up question: any LA favorites (food-wise) to share?

There are so many! But I’m going to cheat and say: Boat noodles from Sapp Coffee Shop off of Hollywood and Kingsley in Thai Town. Like many dingy hole-in-the-walls, they’re cash only! They also have a killer Thai tea— the perfect gradient of orange to cream.


Okay, we're definitely going to Sapp Coffee Shop ASAP. Anything else we should know about you? Something quirky? 

Hmm. My right wrist bends slightly less than my left wrist? I once lost most of my front teeth leaving me with a set of killer grills. I don’t know— I guess you’ll have to learn for yourself.


Thanks, Josiah! 

Stay tuned for more updates about Josiah, the verynice design team, and a full review of Thai Boat noodles.