The book Design Like You Give a Damn is a fascinating read and really shows the value of thought and design. Most people assume design is about picking a color or making things look nice. This is the most surface level aspect of design.
Design is about choice. This book edited by Architecture for Humanity is about the choices that architects and other designers can have have to improve the world. The books chapters include designing for disaster relieft (think shelters for Tsunami's floods and IDP's (refugees) and the social issues that produce poverty etc.
The constraints and problems posed in these situations are as difficult as the answers and solutions are important. This book is a great read not for people who want to feel good about writing a check for UNICEF, but rather for people who want to understand some of the mechanics of what makes NGO's etc. tick. Like a well edited cook book, it doesn't have a political or preachy agenda per se, but rather offers an interesting presentations of problems and solutions.
Helping out requires thought. The book is extremely well layed out, accessible and dare I say it fun to read. The sections show how architectual choices are made to make a difference. This involves everything from green architecture to homeless shelters in urban areas, site analysis, costs and social impacts of shelter. The book is a great read. You can learn a few things about the origins of Habitat for Humanity and others.
Shelter is a basic human need, meeting that needs in extreme conditions, either environmental or social (war) etc. is a fascinating and worthwhile challenge. Even if you aren't a designer, pick up this book, it is great in terms of lateral thinking. You can always e-mail me to borrow my copy.