Series 6/14: Grass Route Social Innovation – Understanding the road towards integrating genuine grassroots social innovation into sustainable development.
Mini Series 1/3: Sustainability in Practice – The series researches the values and practices which lead to grass route social innovation.
Photo by urbanmkr
The principles of Human Centred Design starts with reflection; in order to design well you need to be aware of your identity and purpose as a designer. Over the last couple of years I have consciously set time apart to reflect on who I am as a designer, and the reason we need to create space to reflect is to listen. Listening is the second principle of Human Centred Design; it enables us to connect and empathise, understanding the end user in order to design solution which work for the community. Meeting with the different community led initiatives was a great opportunity to apply these principles. The first reason I was there was to reflect and learn from the people who were making a difference in their community. I was there to tell their story and to understand what could be applied into strategic planning and engineering to create solutions which empower the wider community. These Individuals where inspiring; meeting with the Zero Baht community I was humbled, they had built up a design solution which works for the community. They had derived a solution which creates shared benefit and leads to an equal and sustainable growth. This was ground-breaking innovation!
Zero Baht shop is a shop which does not use Baht; the currency of Thailand. Instead the Zero Baht shop has an alternative currency; recycling. This offers a lifeline for the community; a life line which does much more than recycling product. The Zero Baht shop is designed based on collective power, the shop sorts and manages large quantities of recycling, this can then be sold on to a recycling plant and secure a higher revenue stream. Community members can therefore make a living from collecting recyclable goods; this leads to a much cleaner environment and empowers individuals. The Zero Baht shop has also developed health insurance and built up a community centre in which products are crafted from upcycled recycling providing an extra source of income to the community. The Zero Baht shop has also developed a self-sustained organic farm in order to grow its own produce. In doing this the Zero Baht shop has been designed as a community hub; building up the connectors and breaking down dividers. The Zero Baht shop therefore creates a long term sustainable development, creating a wider sense of wellbeing and purpose within the community as well as securing opportunities for future generations.
The Zero Baht shop is an example of the limitation of strategic planning; the recycling plant is a great resource to effectively manage waste, it is however not designed to empower the local community; it creates a sustainable future for the few not the many. The Zero Baht shop provides the missing link it enables the positive impact of the recycling plant to reach the poorest communities within Bangkok. This combination of strategic planning and organic development is a great example of processes which can lead to a smart city; where sustainable growth is combined with equal opportunity. Throughout this process the recycling plant can achieve a higher economic impact; recycling more waste, social impact; providing a livelihood for the community, environmental impact; reducing the amount of waste left on the streets. If we could capture organic development within the strategic development then we could achieve more community led initiatives and considerably impact on the sustainable future of our cities. Using the process of Human Centred Design in the strategic framework of the recycling plant we could achieve this. Designing with ground-breaking innovation and genuinely designing smart cities, cities which grow sustainably and offer equal opportunity.