IDDS Culture

IDDS is made up of many different cultures and IDDS has its own culture of shared values, views, and traditions.

IDDS Spirit + Values

If you talk to anyone that has attended IDDS, they may refer to the “IDDS Spirit.”  This is a hard thing to quantify and means different things to different people. It can be summed up best by the Adikra symbol (on the top left) and our philosophical motto — “Boa me na me mmoa wo” — a Ghanaian proverb that roughly translates to “help me and I will help you.”  

Here are some of the qualities that encapsulate the IDDS spirit: 


We believe in working together to solve tough problems.  We aim to design with community members, not for them.  We believe everyone has a valuable perspective to bring to the design table.  We teach designers the how to work with diverse users and we teach users the basics of design. 

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with the group.” — African Proverb

Empathetic & Resilient

We value what other people think and how they feel. We are comfortable living in rough conditions that most of the world’s population live in—perhaps with irregular access to water and electricity, and where relationships are valued more than time. We believe each person has something to teach and each has something to learn.

“You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” — Harper Lee, “To Kill a Mockingbird”

Diverse & Inclusive

We not only respect diversity, but celebrate it. We are inclusive of all ideas and ways of thinking and actively seek to cultivate communities where diversity of thought, background, gender, age, religion, and nationality are brought together to tackle tough challenges.


We appreciate everything around us as a resource and potential provision to the problem at hand. We seek ways to engage and connect those people and pieces together to create a comprehensive solution.

“A necessidade é a mãe da invenção." — Portuguese proverb meaning “necessity is the mother of invention.”

Hands-On & Fun!

We are adults that learn experientially. We believe in working hard on challenging problems together and having fun along the way.

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” —Confucius


IDDS Views


We believe in gender equality.  We aim for a 50/50 split among participants and organizers.  While we work in cultures that are typically male dominated, we value bringing women to the design table and inviting them to do the same hands-on technical activities as men. Likewise, we invite men to participate in the same domestic work that is typically handled by females (such as cooking, washing dishes, washing clothes, etc.). 

IDDS does not tolerate any form of sexual harassment or discrimination. 


IDDS as an organization is apolitical.  We do not support any political party or specific group.  We want to create a space where people can feel safe to share their own opinions and have conversations with each other, but also not at the expense of another person’s freedom or safety.

Religion + Spirituality

Just like politics, IDDS as an organization is areligious and aspirtuial.  We do not subscribe to any particular religion or spirituality.  We want to create a space where people can feel safe to practice their own beliefs and have conversations with each other, but also not at the expense of another person’s freedom or safety.

We respect all participants and organizers beliefs. If it is a person’s practice to attend mosque, temple, church, or other place of worship we try to create time for them to do so. 

Timeliness + Flexibility

IDDS as an organization values relationships and time.  At the summit, we start the schedule on time and we create space in the schedule for people to interact leisurely with each other.

Alcohol + Drugs

IDDS recognizes participants and organizers are adults coming from various cultural norms and backgrounds. To create a safe and legal space for all, IDDS abides by the local law of the country and venue where the summit is being hosted.  If drinking and/or substance usage is illegal in a particular host country or venue, IDDS does not permit it either.  Some summits choose not to permit drinking or drug usage and encourage use other mechanisms and activities for relaxation.  For all summits, we aim to create healthy alternative gathering spaces for organizers and participants to relax together in the evenings.  Organizing teams will notify participants before they arrive what the country-specific policy is.


IDDS Traditions

Morning Cirlces

Community Visits

Skill Builders

Talent Shows

International Potlucks

Participant Presenations

IDDS Photo

Closing Ceremony