Research, Design, and Strategy

We research and design projects, businesses, tools, structures and partnerships to make sense of context. We consistently work via research and design to develop the best programs and strategies that understand context and lead to scalable impact and positive change.

We work with big and small organizations, social enterprises, and academia. We act as consultants and collaborators, augmenting existing projects and steering new ones to have the highest impact and sustainability.  

Engaging informal systems enables more sensitive, successful and impactful projects and programs. We research and understand local contexts and partner with communities and networks. We design systems that understand that context is unique but networks exist everywhere.

What is Informality?

The majority of the world’s population either lives inside informal systems, or has to interact with them in daily life. For the global poor, informal systems are productive social and economic mechanisms that lack explicit organizational principles. For others, informal systems with similar properties contribute to innovation, self-organization and adaptability--values that are held dear in 21st century economies.

In the field of development, the informal is often defined in opposition to the formal. Some say that the informal is inferior to the formal. A more accurate view is that there are inherent benefits to the formal and the informal, and they both work best when they incorporate the other.

In purely practical terms, the formal depends on trust in governance, whereas the informal operates on trust amongst people. Informal systems also tend to have a high incidence of self-organization, improvisation and vitality. They appear across all kinds of social systems, from developing societies to innovation clusters.

For example, with global urbanization people are moving en masse into informal urban systems. Urbanization is coming to resemble informalization. If cities are meant to provide a stable environment for personal and social mobility, they need to understand the interplay between people who live in informality and governance that functions with formality.