Thursday, May 28, 2015

A good answer is hard to find

Today we wrapped up our two-day workshop on how to design solutions for the challenges experienced in Bangalore's slum communities. We reflected on our morning visits to some of Bangalore's slum communities and re-evaluated our proposed projects.
After the entire class reflected on our morning visits to some of Bangalore's slum communities, my team of five headed to the rooftop of SELCO's building for a beautiful view of the surrounding city while we re-evaluated our proposed project.

Our goal was not to create a perfect solution to the challenge - which, in our case, is to make education more engaging and accessible for children living in slums - but rather to learn about the process of designing a solution.

Rooftop view over Bangalore's J. P. Nagar area.

Speaking with the women, children, and men of a temporary housing community near a construction site in the city helped us realize first-hand the importance of going out into the field early in the design process.

Respectfully learning from people living in slums both inspired us and helped us to ask critical questions about our initial proposals: What are we assuming about our audience and our solution? Are the problems that we perceive the same as those that the people perceive? How does our proposed solution fit in with their current lifestyles and behaviors? Has our proposal already been implemented, or would it be rejected by the community? Would our solution be sustainable in this particular situation?

Brainstorming revisions for our proposed project.

Most importantly for implementing change and expanding upon solutions, interacting with the community showed us how to build relationships with them based on empathy and trust.

Enjoying the breeze!

Through skits, storyboards, and chalk talks, the four teams in our class all presented their revised solutions to each other and to SELCO Foundation members.

A team presenting a design for a water collection system during rainstorms.

A storyboard of an approach to financially and socially empower women.

Group discussions and constructive feedback from SELCO Foundation members.

As one of our professors summed it up, "good ideas are hard." SELCO guided us through their innovative workflow and taught us how to integrate a solution into the specific circumstances of a particular community with a mutual exchange of ideas and respect.

We will carry forward this new understanding of the solution design process and the communities we wish to impact as we continue to explore the challenges facing Bangalore.