As the weather begins to cool here in New York City, it's hard not to consider the challenges the weather presents for our city's growing homeless population.  For this reason, we're particularly heartened by the success of The Empowerment Plan, a nonprofit with a brilliant model that addresses both the immediate, urgent needs of the homeless and, at the same time, the root causes of homelessness.

At the core of The Empowerment Plan is a winter coat specially designed for the needs of someone sleeping outside; it can be unfolded into a sleeping bag, or rolled tightly for easy transport when it's warm out. The project hires single parents living in shelters to make the coats, providing employment that can break the generational cycle of homelessness.

What we like about this program is that it leverages smart design that is based on real-life user research – research that leads not only to the development of an effective product, but to a deeper understanding of the long-term needs of the user. 

Check out The Empowerment Plan - and donate a coat! - here.