Thursday, May 28, 2015

An encounter with reality in the innovation process

After working with hypothetical situations and developing solutions to problems we think are facing those living in slum settlements, we set out to interact with the local communities. We wanted to find out more about the problems they were facing and see their reaction to our hypothesized solutions.
We set out early in the morning to visit four of the communities that were selected by SELCO, our partner organization for the workshop to develop solutions.

We were given an opportunity to go directly into the communities and talk to people who would be direct consumers of the hypothetical solutions we had developed the previous day and get their feedback.

Our team visited a temporary settlement that was a mix of tents made with plastic sheets and a couple of structures made of bricks and cement.

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We had an opportunity to interact very openly with the local people, and we learned about their way of life, their needs, and their aspirations.

The community we visited was very satisfied with the current situation. The people mentioned that they had access to clean Kaveri river water that was provided by the land owner, whom they really loved. They made enough money to sustain themselves and also send some back home. All the kids went to school. They were happy about their lives in these communities.

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When we pitched the idea to use biogas for cooking as a cleaner and healthier fuel than firewood, which was currently being used, it was immediately rejected by this community. They didn't want us to sell things to them, but rather teach them how to use the technology and provide a solution that did not require many infrastructural changes.

Upon seeing the happiness of this community, we then wanted to explore one more community to see what kind of problems they were facing. This community had better housing conditions and had some of the same luxuries as the previous community.

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Similar reactions were obtained when the biogas solution was proposed to them.

Upon closer observations, we realized that the women cooked indoors and the smoke remained in the house. This means the women and children were exposed to serious health issues.

This is when the idea of creating a chimney-like structure that could suit their needs struck us, and we decided to follow that idea as our solution.

We realized that developing solutions by sitting in a room with hypothetical situations is not the best way to go about innovation and change. Exploring the field and getting the consumers involved in the design process of the solution is the ideal way toward development. This was the take home lesson from the workshop.

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