I care passionately about empowering people to solve their own problems, and that is one of the reasons why I find the ITP community so inspiring. At ITP, I think people understand the importance of getting designers and engineers out in the field — you don’t know until you go! Designers should aim to understand the social, political, and cultural context of the specific need or problem by going to the site and considering the local environment, infrastructure, and cultural norms. I believe that teams who practice user-centered design and ethnographic research to develop tools for human interaction, and who delight in experimentation as a means to discover emerging requirements and explore innovative approaches are on the right path to creating innovative, sustainable, and affordable solutions.

ITP offers a class called “Design for UNICEF”, where students examine some of the design challenges UNICEF faces, and work in groups to research and prototype new solutions or additions to existing efforts. The class includes site visits and project critiques from UNICEF technologists and field workers, and culminates in final presentations to members of the UNICEF staff. I would love to see more classes offered like this one at design schools, such as Stanford’s d.school.

Engineering For Change has a great article about these design principles in the developing world. I really like the last principle – Design for DIY. Co-creating products with the end user is a great way to ensure that the solution is relevant and affordable.

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