what we’re all about:

Global network of designers.

We leverage a global network of designers by engaging with the growing freelance economy and enabling remote working through digital technologies.

Diverse teams, diverse coalitions.

Our firms build diverse teams. We work to understand an optimal mix of local and global actors needed to solve a particular problem.

co-design process.

Each of our projects are part of a larger project to create new design knowledge that can be transferred between people and projects. By disseminating what we learn to the public, we will prepare the world to solve complex problems.

Our Value Proposition

Tugboat builds design coalitions.

We connect designers and organizations with local actors to enable them to solve glocal problems through open-ended, co-design processes.

more on this

our history.


Tugboat approaches sustainability from a holistic perspective. We pursue sustainability for both our organization and the coalitions we establish on (3) fronts:


Our efforts should promote the well-being of diverse actors and stakeholders and have sustainable, social impact on the communities in which the coalitions act.


People are our most vital resource. One of our top commitments is to ensuring that our people (and the people we touch) are well – that is, to never exploit people or expect too much of them. Tugboat is about family, conviviality, water and naps.


Through the pursuit of both for-profit and pro bono initiatives (and a 200% output), we seek to fully sustain our direct employees and compensating those designers involved in for-profit tasks. Our minimal overhead allows for flexibility of our resources.

This is our sustainable whale!



being bigger than ourselves

Opportunity Scaling

Opportunity Scaling more or less represents traditional models of firm growth in which we try to conduct more and more work. While our organization benefits from a tight, centralized infrastructure, the firm effectively scales by inviting more partners, expert and diffuse designers, and actors to be a part of our growing network and jump on more opportunities by allowing us to build and facilitate more coalitions.

Idea Scaling

When our coalitions succeed, so to do the ideas that they implement and build. To maximize the impact of these ideas, Tugboat is committed to our social cornucopia, an enabling infrastructure of knowledge mobilization. Our social cornucopia translates all of our stories, success and failures, into an accessible online platform that effectively open-sources our ideas, methods and models. From there, individuals and other organizations are encouraged to build on the work of our coalition’s and implement them glocally.

Tugboat approaches scalability differently than a lot of other organizations. We prioritize both Opportunity & Idea Scaling.

At our core we are an enabling ecosystem – we aim to call attention to opportunities and problems that exist, and enable everyone to design solutions to them with the design knowledge that we facilitate and house in our social cornucopia. 


We are able to stay afloat by relying on the double-half methodology. We do need $ to operate, and this is how we manage that:

nonprofit partners

We have a diverse network of designers dedicated to participating in design coalitions with non-profits or contributing to the success of those coalitions through project-based deliverables. In addition to leveraging these relationship to design and form coalitions for specific initiatives, these partnerships are beneficial to securing funds.


Project teams are encouraged to look for grants that could be applied towards their project budget, an initiative empowered by key organization members and design strategists as they are deployed into various coalitions.

leverage CSR

Many large organizations have corporate social responsibility budgets. Our firm works to connect companies who have a stake or interest in a particular mission or initiative, and are willing to help fund projects.


always giving 200%


We believe in freelancers because we believe in the impact we can make as individuals and the freedom to do the work we truly care about! That’s why we are so keen on working with the freelance economy.

We’ve borrowed the concept of a double-half methodology from our very nice friends and verynice (see what we did there?!).

This methodology is what allows us to 1) make a living and 2) have positive, social impact on the world.

In case you’re unaware of what a double-half methodology is:


Implementing a double-half methodology into our organization will require us to increase our output. That is, we will seek to deliver a workload equal to 200% of an organization that is equal to ours in terms of relative size and capability.

Video by verynice. and available by clicking here.


The feasibility of 200% output is derived from a network of volunteers and designers (both diffuse and expert) who can be pulled into projects in both formal and informal manners to accomplish required tasks for selected projects. Projects teams are formed from the outset, but additional help is brought in to contribute on an ad hoc basis. This additional help is provided by volunteers in our network who can afford to lend their time and resources to a project that can benefit from it.

How it Works

This flexible model of project management applies to both pro bono (socially-oriented) projects and for-profit (economically-oriented) projects. Our expert designers and additional help who contribute to for-profit projects are compensated financially for their contributions to the project. These for-profit endeavours are necessary to sustain the organization by covering overhead. Designers and helpers are invited to participate in both pro bono and for-profit projects and are expected to split their time to accommodate both of those endeavors.

Why Pro Bono

While financial compensation is necessary for us to sustain ourselves, our designers easily reconcile their pro bono contributions by valuing the experience gained and altruism as a form of currency that contributes to their sense of self.