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U.K.-based Cottam, 43, has become one of the most important figures in public service design and innovation. With a PhD in social sciences and a former life as an urban poverty specialist at the World Bank in Washington, she researches the emotional, social, and economic effects of design. Through her current organization, Participle, Cottam looks to tackle some of society's biggest issues—ageing or education—and solve them through design. In 2005 she was named U.K. Designer of the Year by London's Design Museum for her work in public service innovation.