Lee Davis

Lee Davis


Co-Director, Center for Social Design, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA)
San Francisco, California

Lee Davis is an author, designer and social entrepreneur, and currently Co-Director of MICA’s Center for Social Design and Faculty and Interim Director of the MA in Social Design (MASD), focused on demonstrating the value of design in addressing complex social problems and on preparing the next generation of creative changemakers.

Lee is a Co-Founder of NESsT with Nicole Etchart. He served for 15 years as NESsT’s co-CEO (1997-2011) and as Chief Innovation Officer (2012-2013), and curator of the Social Enterprise World Forum, hosted by NESsT in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in October 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

In 2010, Lee was appointed as a Social Enterprise Fellow at the Yale School of Management’s Program on Social Enterprise, supporting Yale scholars, students, alumni, and practitioners interested in exploring the ways in which business skills and market disciplines can be harnessed to most effectively and efficiently achieve social objectives.
Lee has written and co-authored several books on social enterprise and venture philanthropy, including: Profits for Nonprofits, All in the Same Boat: An Introduction to Engaged Philanthropy, and End of the Rainbow: Increasing the Sustainability of LGBT organizations through social enterprise. From 1996-97, Lee was a Research Fellow in the “New Directions in Grassroots Development” initiative of the Johns Hopkins University, Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), where he authored The NGO-Business Hybrid, an international study of social enterprise cases in 13 countries. He also served as a Professorial Lecturer in the graduate Program on Social Change and Development at SAIS where he developed and co-taught the first graduate-level course on social enterprise.

Prior to founding NESsT, Lee worked as a Program Officer in the Public Participation Program of the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe (REC) in Budapest, coordinating projects with partners across 15 CEE countries in 1996-97. He started his career as a designer with firms in New York, Connecticut, and Osaka, Japan, and was the first in-house designer in international relief and development agency CARE in its New York headquarters, responsible for art direction, design and production of publications promoting CARE’s programs across Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Lee was a recipient of the prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to undertake an independent ethnology of design in Japan and Switzerland from 1988-1989. He holds an MA in Policy Studies from the Johns Hopkins University and a BA from Connecticut College.