I had a great experience as a judge for the 2010 Sappi Ideas That Matter program last summer. Along with my fellow jurists, Casey Caplowe, Armin Vit, Jessica Helfand and Matt Rollins, I reviewed 170 proposals for design-driven social change ideas vying for grant awards between $5,000-50,000 out of a total pot of $400,000 pledged from Sappi for the North American ITM program. The ideas ranged from simple but impactful communication design concepts like informational materials about a Pit Bull rescue program (submitted by Jessi MacNamara), to wide-ranging global ecology programs like the BP oil spill program undertaken by the Ocean Conservancy (submitted by Imaginary Office). Some of the ideas were, quite frankly, underwhelming, but a staggering number were very strong and our panel struggled mightily to select 27 recipients. Click here to view the 2010 recipient proposals.

The application deadline for the 2011 ITM program is July 15. The application process is remarkably simple and streamlined, hence it’s a great opportunity for designers new to social change space to test the waters. One of the requirements of the program is that designers partner with an established non-profit organization on their proposal.

Here’s a link to a “behind the scenes” video from the 2010 judging, produced by Arvi Raquel-Santos of Weymouth Design.