Part architecture firm, part flash mob, The Global Studio is a cooperative of design professionals serving disadvantaged communities around the world. The group has undertaken architecture, planning, and design/build projects in the United States, the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, and India, typically under contract with nonprofit development organizations. “A lot of our current work is with [the Seattle-based nonprofit] Agros International,” founding partner Geoff Piper says, primarily in master planning new villages in Nicaragua. “The focus is on eradication of poverty through land ownership.”

Piper and Stephanie Ingram, both principals at the Seattle-based architecture firm FiveDot Design/Build, take the lead role. “Because we’re self-employed, we have the flexibility to do these projects as they come along,” Piper says. Local colleagues Matthew Sullivan (an architect), Ashley Waldron (assistant project manager for a local builder), and Court Harris (a civil engineer) pitch in as needed.

“We charge about half our going rate, sometimes less, to work for nonprofits,” Piper says. But the effort provides a welcome perspective on market-rate work. “As a design/build company, we can’t just design something pretty and throw it at the contractor. We’re focused on getting things done—in the development work and the design/build work. They reinforce each other.”