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An approach for understanding the lives of users in a different culture, specifically for design projects in developing regions

 
 
 

what is capability driven design

The Capability Driven Design (CDD) approach is created to guide product design teams to efficiently and comprehensively explore the user context in what is called ‘Design for Development’ projects. By using the approach, the design team is supported to develop more appropriate products and services and to make deliberate design decisions throughout the process. Moreover, the obtained insights provide a source of inspiration.

The Capability Driven Design Approach provides conversation topics and questions to help in comprehensively getting to know potential users and their context in a limited amount of time. It includes a step-by-step approach, several methods, techniques and tools in order to rigorously obtain comprehensive insight. Prerequisites and guidelines for conducting fieldwork are also provided.

why use capability driven design?

It is important to understand potential users and their context to be able to create products and services that will be accepted and adopted, and which support the potential users in the things they want to be and do. Although significant efforts have been made, there are many examples of products specifically designed for development that failed in their purpose (see the figures below), such as mosquito nets being used as fishing nets (Duflo 2010) or as goal post nets, toilets which are being used as a kitchen or to store cow-dung cakes or agricultural products (Gupta 2011), and playpumps which have been abandoned, due to its complex design requiring expensive and / or unavailable parts, its dependency on children’s’ play, and safety issues (Nhlema 2015; Borland 2011; Unicef 2007).

 
A mosquito net being used as a goal post net in Zambia (Photo by Moisés Mwape, AP 2014)

A mosquito net being used as a goal post net in Zambia (Photo by Moisés Mwape, AP 2014)

 
Toilet building used for storing cow dung cakes in India (Photo by Shantanu Gupta 2011)

Toilet building used for storing cow dung cakes in India (Photo by Shantanu Gupta 2011)

 
Abandoned playpumps in Malawi (Photo by Mhruti Nhlema 2015)

Abandoned playpumps in Malawi (Photo by Mhruti Nhlema 2015)

Therefore, CDD offers an efficient, rigorous approach in order to help designers to obtain comprehensive user insights. These insights can be used to inspire designers to develop products and services, together with end-users, that anticipate most unintended consequences, truly contribute to people’s valued beings and doings, and improve their well-being.

 

 

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our story

 
 

It all started from...

   a design project of an Industrial Design Engineering student at Delft University of Technology (Annemarie Mink). In 2004 Annemarie took up the challenge to re-design a silk reeling machine in Deoghar, Jharkhand, India, to economically empower disadvantaged and marginalized rural women. Four years later, in 2008, the Anna Tasar Reeling Machine was patented and marketed, being a small, easy-to-carry machine for home use, improving the reelers’ income, working conditions and safety. A classic success story.

Anna Tasar Reeling Machine

Anna Tasar Reeling Machine

However, in 2010 when looking back, it became clear that the project had not fully captured the wickedness of the design challenge and the end-users true desires and preferences. It turned out that the smaller size of the new machine, which enables the reelers to work from home, resulted in the women being forced to work from home, whereas most prefer working together with others in a reeling centre. Thereby, some reelers indicated to prefer the previous, bigger machine for the status it provided them. Moreover, the easy-to-use new machine encourages child-labour, which represents an issue if it stops girls from going to school.

Development of the Anna Tasar Reeling Machine

Development of the Anna Tasar Reeling Machine

 

If spending 18 months with potential users and working on the design for four years did not lead to a deep enough understanding, then how can these challenges be addressed when time and resources are much more limited, which usually is the case in design projects? That is how CDD started. Annemarie Mink started her PhD research in 2010 and successfully defended her work on 11 November 2016 (see: ‘references’ for her thesis work). She conducted the research under guidance of prof. Prabhu Kandachar and Dr. JC Diehl.

 

The CDD approach presented on this website is the result of this PhD project. With the assumption that a well-informed design process results in better product acceptance, the aim has been to develop an approach for product designers to guide them to quickly gain comprehensive, rigorous user insights, beyond the ‘usual’ investigation of product-user interaction. A comprehensive understanding of life, lifestyle, behaviour, values, habits, needs, desires and aspirations allows designers to develop products and services that truly improve well-being and fit the potential users, the local culture and the local circumstances.

 

 

Design approach

Capability Driven Design is a designer-friendly approach to efficiently guide product designers to comprehensively explore the lives of potential users in Design for Development projects. The approach consists of four steps, which are visualised in the figure below.

To develop this systemic approach analytic guidance is derived from Sen’s ‘Capability Approach’ (CA), and practical guidance is derived from the domains of product design (more specifically user-centred design), and rapid ethnography.

Domains which informed the Capability Driven Design approach

Domains which informed the Capability Driven Design approach

The approach has been developed by the researchers when deploying it in the field and discussing the approach with experts. The approach is evaluated by eight design teams using the approach in the field during their design projects and by 52 experts from different countries and backgrounds. The approach as presented on this online platform remains open to critique and modifications and you can contribute to its continuous development by using the approach and sharing your experiences and feedback (see: ‘you’)

 

 

The CDD approach consists of two parts. The first part is its contents (theoretical) consisting of a thinking framework, prerequisites, guidelines a set of conversation topics (themes) and questions. The second part is a procedure (practical) consisting of a four-step procedure, tips and tricks. Both parts of the approach are presented in the manual. The full approach is presented in the figure below.

 

The Capability Driven Design approach and its two components: content (theoretical) and procedure (practical)

The Capability Driven Design approach and its two components: content (theoretical) and procedure (practical)

 

procedure

The procedure consists of a four-step procedure, tips and tricks. When clicking a subheading, you can find more information about each of these CDD procedure elements. For more background on these aspects download the document ‘practical background CDD’ or see chapter 3 of the thesis ‘Design for Well-Being’ under [resources]

 

The CDD approach procedure consists of four steps which guide the design team to conduct rigorous, comprehensive and efficient user-context research.

 

Capability driven design content

The content of the approach consists of a thinking framework, prerequisites, guidelines a set of conversation topics (themes) and questions.. When clicking a subheading, you can find more information about each of these CDD content elements. For more background on these aspects download the document ‘theoretical background CDD’ or see chapter 2 of the thesis ‘Design for Well-Being’ under [resources]

 

thinking framework

This framework guides the designer to think comprehensively about the lives of potential users.

pre-requisites

The prerequisites are guidelines that should be met in order to collect comprehensive user insight in a rigorous, rapid and ethical manner.

guidelines

The CDD guidelines aid designers to collect comprehensive user insight in a rigorous, rapid and ethical manner.

 


 

The CDD themes bring in discussion topics which designers can use to bring out valued beings and doings of their potential users. The themes are clustered in six categories: ‘Person’, ‘Health’, ‘Relationships’, ‘Activities’, ‘Living’ and ‘Possessions’, and each category comprises four sub-themes and several discussion topics.

 

For each theme questions have been developed to guide the conversation. These questions are placed on cards which hold a pictogram on one side and the theme name with questions on the other side.

 

The CDD Content is derived from literature and adjusted during the development and evaluation of the approach. The background of the CDD’s content is explained in this document.

 

Toolkit

These files are meant to be used before, during and after while employing Capability Driven Design approach in your field visit. You can download it and/or print them as per your convenience.

 
 

The Opportunity Detection Kit (ODK) is a toolkit that supports the designer to conduct step 3 of the Capability Driven Design (CDD) approach: obtaining deep insight by means of semi-structured individual interviews (see figure below). The kit consists of steps, guidelines, techniques and tools which guide the design team when conducting semi-structured interviews and aid the design team to obtain rigorous and comprehensive insight in an efficient way. The steps and guidelines can be viewed when clicking the link below, the techniques and tools of the ODK can be downloaded below. For the full ODK manual, click [HERE]

 

When using ODK, the content of the CDD approach should be kept in mind: the thinking framework should be understood, and the prerequisites and guidelines followed. The themes & questions are part of the ODK itself: for each theme a question card is developed which holds a pictogram on one side and the theme with questions on the other side.

 

 

steps

The presented steps need to be executed in order to conduct semi-structured interviews.

guidelines

The presented guidelines provide support to designers for conducting ODK interviews.

techniques

The presented techniques guide designer to start a dialogue.

 

 

 

Tool 1: question cards

A set of twenty-one question cards and an introduction card. Each card contains a pictogram that symbolizes the theme. On the other side, the related questions are printed. The question cards guide the facilitator throughout the ODK interview, but they can also be used to show the progress of the interview and the topic that is being discussed to the participants and the translator. It is recommended – if time allows – that local visualizations be made for the question cards, so that participants can better relate to them. The design team is also recommended to cluster the selected question cards in sets of four, to keep a better overview.

 

tool 2: reminder cards

To further assist the design team in following the prerequisites and steps and remembering the most important behaviour and attitude to stick to, reminder cards have been developed, which can be viewed when clicking the link

 

tool 3: timelines

The ODK toolkit holds three timelines on which the participant or a team member can draw while questioning the participant. They should be used as conversation starters, to identify starting points for dialogue. The three timelines are: a timeline with suns and moons to draw a typical day of the participant, a timeline of the year which can be used additionally to learn more about participants’ activities throughout the year, and a timeline of personal history which can be used to learn more about participants’ personal history  by going back to past experiences. These timelines can be downloaded by clicking the link.

 

tool 4: drawing sheets

The ODK toolkit holds two drawing sheets; one to enable mapping of participants’ housing, surroundings and movement patterns, and one to map participants’ appearance and social life. These drawing sheets can be downloaded by clicking the link.

 

tool 5: sorting sheets

The ODK toolkit holds a sorting sheet. The sorting exercise is to understand how people value the different themes. Participants should indicate which sub-themes they value most in their lives. The sub-theme pictograms are available in a smaller size and can be placed on the sorting sheet. The exclamation marks indicate importance. The participants have to sort the sorting cards in six categories from very important (six exclamation marks) to not important (represented by one exclamation mark) (see figure 40). To avoid confusion, this can be done best by providing the sorting cards one by one and let people sort them one by one.

 

For the InDesign file of the above kits, please drop an email

 

references

These files are meant to be used before, during and after while employing Capability Driven Design approach in your field visit. You can download it and/or print them as per your convenience.

 
 
Thesis- design for well being
 

Thesis- design for well being

Annemarie’s thesis on the development and evaluation of the Capability Driven Design approach and the Opportunity Detection Kit

 

Appendices

 

Defense presentation

 

about us

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ANNEMARIE MINK

In 2006 Annemarie Mink (1980) graduated on the re-design of a Tasar silk reeling machine for rural women in eastern India. After graduation she continued working on the development of this machine, on behalf of the Dutch NGO ICCO, and in collaboration with the Indian NGO PRADAN. Then, Annemarie worked 2 years for an engineering and consultancy company before returning to the faculty of Industrial Design Engineering as a PhD candidate. Her interests lie in responsible ‘Design for Development’ and focuses on understanding and involving the end-user from the start of a design project. The work presented on this website is the result of her PhD project. Currently, Annemarie works as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences of Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands on developing small-scale piped water supply systems in India and Bangladesh.

More information can be found at:

www.annemariemink.n

JC Diehl

After finishing his study in Industrial Design Engineering, Johan Carel Diehl (1969) worked several years as consultant in Ecodesign. He currently works at the Design for Sustainability (DfS) research program at Delft University of Technology (DUT) as an assistant professor. Within the DfS program he is managing the international projects on sustainable product innovation especially in emerging markets. Since 2004 the main focus of his research is on ‘Design for the Base of the Pyramid (BoP)’ and has he been involved in over 100 BoP projects mainly in Asia and Africa (i.e. Philips, Procter and Gamble, Microsoft, PeePoople, Tough Stuff, Kiva and Kamworks). Next to his position at DUT he is consultant for UNIDO and UNEP and invited lecturer at universities in amongst others Portugal, Colombia, Mexico, Turkey, Japan and Austria. He is co-author of the UNEP Design for Sustainability manual for Developing Economies (D4S-DE) and the Design for Sustainability Step-by-Step (D4S-SBS) manual. Moreover, he is part of the steering committee of the Delft Global Initiative and collaborates with the LDE Centre for Frugal Innovation in Africa.

More information can be found at:

www.jcdiehl.nl
www.d4s-de.org
www.d4s-sbs.org

Prabhu Kandachar

Prabhu Kandachar is Emeritus Professor of Industrial Design Engineering with focus on Sustainable Materials, Manufacturing Technology and Design for Development. He is born and educated in India, with Masters and PhD degree in Engineering, at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.  Later at Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands, he worked for a period of 5 years at Delft from 1975, on environmentally friendly technologies. Between 1980 and 1995, he worked at Fokker Aerospace, near Amsterdam in various technical & management positions involving aerospace design. Since 1995, he is with the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering (IDE) at Delft University of Technology. Since Jan 2012, he is an emeritus professor at Delft University of Technology. He has been extensively involved in projects involving students and businesses to identify opportunities as well as to design & prototype products and services for the marginalised and disadvantaged. Issues covered include sustainable materials, water, healthcare, energy, housing, etc., in countries like India, Indonesia, China, Brazil, Ghana, Tanzania, Honduras, Philippines, Pakistan, Madagascar, etc.

 

acknowledgements

  • The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). The research leading to the development of the CDD approach was made possible by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) under grant number 2009/06098/GW.
  • Dr. V.S. Parmar of the National Institute of Design, India. Vikram has contributed greatly to the research presented in this thesis.

  • Delft Institute for Values. This institute supported the establishment of this online platform.

  • Delft Global Initiative. This institute supports all Design for Development projects that have been or are executed at Delft University of Technology.

  • Vinay Bhajantri. Vinay took the lead in designing and developing this online platform.

  • Stefan Blonk, Studio Blonk. Stefan developed the step-by-step illustration which visualises the CDD approach on this online platform.

you

 
 

We are always excited to hear about the successes and failures of this Capability Driven Design approach. This helps us to improve the tool further and also reach out to more designers.

Looking forward to your stories!

 
 
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The CDD approach and ODK toolkit will be regularly improved and updated based on the user feedback and experiences. In order to prevent misuse, proliferation, and alienation of the CDD approach, a board will be established consisting of people with different expertise: design, ethnography, philosophy. This board will judge the suggestions for improvements of the approach and its techniques and tools. For the regional insights, a local person from the specific region will be temporarily added to the board. Only if the board approves the suggested changes and the insights, they will be put on the online platform.