How to Be a Design Activist Without Getting Fired

If you're working in a traditional corporate environment, it can be tricky to bill yourself as an activist without putting your job in jeopardy. How can you lobby for change without aggravating your boss and coworkers, and still fulfill your core duties?

Luckily, being an activist doesn't mean you have to quit your day job. In fact, a corporate environment or a traditional agency puts you in the thick of things. You're working inside the system to create meaningful change – whether that's developing a greener package or keeping an eye out for harmful stereotypes in campaign messaging or images.

It can be a fine line to walk, but it's a topic Noah Scalin and I addressed in our recent book, The Design Activist's Handbook: How to Change the World With Socially Conscious Design. Here are some tips from the book for gently rocking the boat without getting tossed overboard:

Make the business case. If your company isn't very progressive, frame your case in terms of what they do care about. Will using less material for the annual report save money? Is being involved with local charities a good way to bolster the company's reputation? Target your message to the audience.

Position yourself as a resource. No one likes a complainer. Instead, set yourself up as the go-to person for social and environmental issues. Share case studies, research and success stories with colleagues. Be the person in the office who can explain the benefits of soy inks. Know how and why consumers respond to companies who do social and environmental good.

Pace yourself and set realistic goals. Your employer isn't going to change the way he or she works overnight. Take an honest look at your environment and start off with a few attainable goals. Celebrate small victories.

Avoid ultimatums and sanctimony. Design activism isn't going to seem very sexy if you're constantly judging your coworkers and company. Instead, remember that you're all on the same team and approach this process collaboratively. Look for places where the company mission overlaps with your activist interests.

Create a tribe within the tribe. You're going to need some co-conspirators to start a movement. Look for like-minded folks within the entire company and figure out ways to work together.

What other tips do you have for being a "design activist" within your organization?