Design Public III: Why We Focus on Trust, Participation and Innovation

Design Public began as a conversation around the question of how design thinking and innovation can be used by organizations and actors outside the private sector, specifically government organizations and social sector agencies. As we enter this third edition of the Design Public Conclave, we see not only that our questions and deliberations have become so much more sophisticated, layered and granular, but also that there is a clear need to move beyond mere conversation, to the actual establishment of diverse consortia, partnerships and alliances that will bring this agenda to practical realization.

At our first conclave in Delhi, we focused on the question of Governance Innovation: Can or should government agencies use user-centered design solutions to develop and deploy better solutions? The easy answer is yes, but the question remains, where can we find the special expertise that allows them to do this? Out of this question was born the concept of what we call the Bihar Innovation Lab. [Read more…]

Design!publiC Panel Discussion 5: Planning and Policy for Innovation

18:26 Reto: I feel that there is a need for an international consensus and forum for innovation so that we can learn from each other.

18:19 Dilini: Most countries talk about GDP, but in Bhutan the premise of government is promote happiness (Gross National Happiness). What about making societies happier? Can we design and innovate to make people happier?

[Read more…]

Interested in Design Research?

We have an opportunity for you.

As part of the Design!Public conclave, the Center for Knowledge Societies (CKS) is organising field experiences in and around Bangalore on the 11th and 12th of October. We are looking for intelligent, talented, or just plain interested volunteers who want first-hand experience at ethnography and design research.

Together we want to understand some of the grand challenges that face our economy and society. These are

A: Online Higher Education
B: Quality Maternal and Child Healthcare
C: Toilet-training for All!

Findings from the field experiences will be shared at the Design!Public Conclave on the 14th of October at the NGMA. It’s your chance to be a part of the cycle of innovation.


Neha Ahlawat: +91 8095081400
Namrata Mehta: +91 9818073434

Read more about the Conclave here, and see the draft agenda.

A Parable on Innovation

By Aditya Dev Sood

You are tasked with finding ways to design new kind of toilets, ones which will actually be used by those who have no experience using them. The challenge is complex because it is underdefined. Do you change the people or do you change the design? What kind of new design might work? It boggles your mind, just as it has defeated the minds of so many social workers and bureaucrats over the many years since Gandhi made toilet design an integral part of his program for the upliftment of India.

To try to bound the problem you agree to do fieldwork in rural India. Participant observation, to be precise. Early in the morning, you rise from your bedding with your host and take a walk out towards the fields. The light is still soft, the birds are singing, and the leaves rustle in the gentle breeze. You have your bottle of mineral water clutched firmly in your right hand. Your host points out a spot. It is secluded, partially hidden, and with a faint grimace you settle down to the act. It is necessary to understand the point of view that you are trying to change.

On the third morning you are walking back from the fields with a faint smile of contentment trying to remember why you are here. Toilets? Why on earth would anyone want to give up the simple and elemental pleasure of crapping in the fields? We are human mammals, evolved in riverine deltas and migrated to savannas, why do we need toilets? This is the natural way, the only way to betake oneself.

You return from the field shaken in your understandings down to your very inner core and sense of self. Everything you knew about the problem is out the window. Now you are ready to design, not one toilet, but an array of propositions and possibilities, that collectively transform the very way in which we think about what toilets are and what they are supposed to do. Innovation has begun to be possible.

The grand challenges facing our society remain unsolved because they represent an intersection between competing needs and desires for which no solution has yet been found. Once a solution is found, the challenge will become trivial, for an off-the-shelf solution for the problem will already exist: a ‘best practice.’ Until then, we will need the application of design in thought and innovation in action to discover possible, incremental solutions to these socio-technical problems.

To identify those grand challenges facing us, and to explore and articulate how innovation approaches can help us grapple with them is one of the key goals of the upcoming Design Public Conclave.