Too often design education funnels bright, imaginative minds towards places where they are the least useful – into the corporate design teams of commercial companies, or the rarefied world of galleries and one-off production. The best people trained in solving problems are rarely connected to the people who have problems to solve.

But a new scheme by designers Daniel Charny and James Carrigan is tackling this, by linking the people with practical knowhow to everyday problems.

“The idea behind Fixperts is to connect designers with people who could do with a little help in their lives, from disabled people to the elderly,” says Carrigan, who is also co-founder of Sugru, a self-setting rubber product that lets you fix, modify and improve things. “It’s interesting to think what kind of impact a designer can make on somebody’s life in about an hour and a half.”

Design solutions so far have included a device to help an MS sufferer put in her earrings and fixing the broken joystick on an electric wheelchair.

The project links Fixpert designers to Fixpartners, with the aim of developing a solution in no more than three weeks. The process is filmed and uploaded to their website, so the lessons learned can be transferred.

Fixperts is part of a wider return to fixing or “hacking” products, rather than replacing them – a trend that is slowly beginning to counter the commercial culture of obsolescence.

“People aren’t in the habit of fixing any more,” says Carrigan. “They just don’t think of it as an option. How can designers help people to learn to fix again?”

Fixperts are currently looking for individuals, groups and schools to get involved in the project – you can download the brief here. “We’re hoping to get to secondary schools,” says Charny. “Not to teach technology and design, but to teach imagination and skills.”

The Guardian