Friday, May 23, 2014

Design thinking solutions

Today, we had a first-hand look at using design thinking for challenges facing low income communities, particularly in the realm of accessing clean energy.

This is our group's fifth day together in India, and it is safe to say our experiences in this small amount of time have far exceeded any knowledge supplied in a textbook. For today's lesson, we had a first-hand look at using design thinking for challenges facing low income communities, particularly in the realm of accessing clean energy.

In the morning, we visited the SELCO office, a provider of more than 160,000 solar energy sites throughout India. Our group was impressed by the depth of services provided, from innovating financial solutions to allow lower income households to own their own solar panels, to investigating the ways to increase quality of life by meeting infrastructural, financial, and health needs of the neighborhood's residents.

Our class received a taste of these investigative practices through site visits to various nearby slum communities, where we were able to able to inquire the residents about their daily routines, their reasons for living in the communities, their largest struggles, etc.

This powerful dialogue was later reinforced with a reflection of design thinking. Many of us engineering students have experience discussing the parameters and optimum goals of a given project. Similarly, we were applying this type of "learning by design" to discuss feasible solutions to the health and educational issues these communities faced.

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In the chaos that is Bangalore, it is at times confusing and overwhelming to unpeel the many layers that envelop the fabric of the city.

However, when we stop and listen to the needs of the communities that we are trying to help, we can be reminded of the improvements that subtle design elements can make. Whether it be implementing a shelter that provides lighting fixtures for the residents or windows that allow for air ventilation in slum housing, it seems hands-on engagement creates the largest possibility of being the catalyst of change.

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