The Indian Railway System is one of the largest in the world, averaging 21 million passengers per day1. At every station, along with railway passengers, are innumerable children, many of whom appear to be homeless. And it is this appearance of homelessness that attracts organisations to come forward to rescue the children, and restore them to their families.
However, many organisations working with children, have observed that the children so rescued—as high as 50% of them—run away from their homes again. In this episode of Design Talks, Dunu Roy, founder & director of Hazards Centre, explains why this is the case.
When you hear the word Design Thinking, your mind hears Design and you talk about design and you think that it only a designer’s job; while had that been a different word, you would have thought differently – the meanings that I attached to it would not have happened.
13 year old Priyanka* looked around in wonder as she entered Delhi’s International Airport Terminal 3, with her three schoolmates in tow. Teach for India Fellow Manyata, accompanied them through customs and security to board a flight to Poland for the month-long Brave Festival, an international cultural exchange program.
“Their excitement was palpable,” exclaims Manyata every single time she reminisces the awe and wonder with which the teenagers soaked in their very first flying experience. “From the time we entered the Terminal building, all the way through to Poland and their stay with local families, interacting with their ilk from across the world, performing pieces of India’s rich dances, collaborative choreography, et al, it was an experience few of their lot can even begin to imagine. These kids live in urban slums adjoining the most affluent neighbourhoods and yet may never have visited the local shopping mall. Could all the other 400 kids at Nai Disha—the foundation that runs their school—have an experience “nearly” the same as Priyanka and her friends had.”
Very often, in this corner of the world, we have freewheeling conversations surrounding design. So why not share it with the world? Enter Design Talks. A podcast series on design. In this pilot episode, I interview Sunil Malhotra, CEO of Ideafarms about Design in Tech for the social space. The conversation kicks off with Design-in-Tech and Design Entrepreneurship for Social impact (DESi), followed by Sunil’s talk for fellows of Aspire Circle and his take on the challenges facing the social sector in India.
The social sector currently lacks awareness of technology exists and how they can use design thinking as a power tool for their own benefit.
If all organisations could come together to radically collaborate, it would likely get rid of all the challenges that the social sector is facing today — raising funds, getting solutions out in the market quicker, governmental support etc.
You don’t need the whole of design thinking, to be implemented in one go; and similarly you don’t need technology to be implemented in one go. Just by changing the orientation of the way you have been thinking and being open to divergent thinking as well as exploration of possibilities instead of starting with constraints, can show a tremendous amount of difference.
Earlier this year, Amit Gulati, who runs Incubis Consultants, invited me to participate in an interactive session to think through design ideas for a low-cost washing machine. The workshop brought out some very interesting and fascinating ‘ways of seeing’ that completely overturned the engineering / tech / product way of approaching design problems. Did we need to redesign the washing machine (Product) under stricter constraints [this is the way most people think – start with an existing product, strip it of features, use cheaper materials and processes, reduce quality and make it low-cost], or did we need to go up a level and reframe the problem itself.
Image Courtesy: Incubis Consultants 2013.
* * *
In the old days — as recently as the dying years of the last century — technology was trying to keep up with our needs. But instead of playing catch up, its pace overtook our needs. In the end, technology, especially those products that were powered by the silicon chip, won the race. Today we have more technology than we need and yet, rather than using what already exists to solve societal problems, we still go after creating more and more technology for the narrowest part of the pyramid — the top. Continue reading Become rich by designing products for the poor?