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A better world by design?

I just attended the ' Better World By Design' conference at Brown and RISD.  There was plenty of food for thought on the issues of design and global health.  A lot of the conversation at the conference had to do with questions like 'can design change the world?' and 'what are the credos or approaches that have proved most useful' in trying to do so?'  

I really enjoyed Emeka Okafor's talk on Maker Faire Africa-- he and some of his colleagues put together a Maker Faire that focused on ingenuity in the African context-- in an area of the world where there is no 'culture of machine tools', there is no industrial or product design culture and no 'unified sense that we can put something toegther that is nurturing people on a continual basis.'  And yet, he described the African context this way:

Design is everywhere but hardly seen.

Emily Pilloton of Project H Design was truly inspiring-- her network of designers tackling thorny social issues ranging from a 'quiet room' for a foster care center to a mathematical game for children devised of tires were all the more impressive given the organization's small budget.  The ideas and the slides were filled with colorful, elegant solutions.  The Project H credo follows a line of reasoning that is simple and elegant as well including the two following nuggets:

  • Design is about action
  • We create systems not stuff

And the sheer creative genius of the International Design clinic was evident in their 'guerilla design 'approach.  Their mobile creche was created using guerilla design--and resulted in a school-on-the-back of a rickshaw that could provide informal settlers's children in Mumbai with education and health messages.  While they were at it they devised a  $.99 system to purify water by exposing it in a tarp to the sun's rays for 6-8 hours.  A photo of theirs is posted above.

I'll have to write another post on the two speakers on neonatal innovation as they deserve their own mention.


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