The term “do-gooder” has been a pejorative since the 1650s, when a British doctor coined it to refer to misguided idealists. Yet it’s tough to be blasé about do-gooders in 2012, a year in which we saw social innovation blossoming across creative fields.
For example, even the most world-weary will find it difficult to deny the brilliance of GiraDora, a foot-powered washing and drying machine co-created by a group of designers and citizens in a slum near Lima. Or the design student who created a disaster-preparedness kit inspired by his mother’s work as a volunteer after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
A common misconception is that social innovation deals only with design for developing countries. Yet many of these objects are relevant across the board. For example, after Hurricane Sandy left Manhattan in the dark, the makers of the biomass-to-electricity stove BioLite set up tables on street corners in the Lower East Side, offering free USB phone charging to stranded residents.
Here or abroad, each of these 10 objects defies cynicism. Enjoy.