Public Architecture

Posted: 7 Feb 2012

See all articles by Lakshmi Ramarajan

Lakshmi Ramarajan

Harvard Business School

Christopher Marquis

Cornell University; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Robert Thomason

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: September 16, 2010


Public Architecture is a non-profit architecture company dedicated to creating social and professional change through design for the public good. Public has focused on three strategies to create change: 1) promoting the design community's commitment to pro bono work 2) inspiring action through creating design with a social mission and 3) disseminating knowledge created by socially relevant design throughout the profession. As a central actor and change agent in the profession, Public Architecture created The 1% program, a national network of architecture and design firms that have publicly pledged to donate 1% of their billable hours to the public good. However, the organization has been struggling to keep both The 1% program and its own design initiatives integrated and reinforcing each other in creating social and professional change. Should Public split into two organizations? Would keeping the diverse elements within Public Architecture together force the entire organization to the least common denominator or would it provide them with a flexible platform for creating social change? These questions had important implications for Public's growth strategy, their funding and resource allocation decisions.

Learning Objective: To examine how a firm can be socially innovative and still focus on its core capabilities, and discuss how a company struggles to integrate different strategies for creating social change.

Suggested Citation

Ramarajan, Lakshmi and Marquis, Christopher and Thomason, Robert, Public Architecture (September 16, 2010). Harvard Business School Organizational Behavior Unit case no. 411-030. Available at SSRN:

Lakshmi Ramarajan (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Christopher Marquis

Cornell University ( email )

363 Sage Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States


Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Robert Thomason

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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