This session looks at social design in emerging economies, especially for marginalized communities that often get overlooked in times of fast growth and development. We present 3 case studies, from Egypt, India and Mexico, each unique in its approach, yet tied by the common thread of social design and community-led innovation. It is ‘design where everybody designs’, focusing on participatory approaches and social entrepreneurship, helping communities transition to new, sustainable models of growth and development.
Social sustainability endorses social value, well-being, quality of life and satisfaction of residents, both present and future. In this paper we attempt to map design opportunities for livelihood generation in remote villages of Uttarakhand, India with design students through social entrepreneurship. Village communities are reeling from scanty means of livelihood and arduous subsistence on tough to harvest local resources. In the past, community based participatory research has yielded ideas for sustainable interventions in primary education and public health. We worked in a Himalayan village as part of a month long design education module, exploring the viability of using it to identify areas for effective design intervention. An iterative model of exploration, analysis, design proposition and refinement was followed to identify opportunities for design intervention and entrepreneurial ventures. Finally, the study proposes a model for collaborative social entrepreneurship that can help ameliorate issues of migration due to lack of employment opportunities.
For quite a long time and it could be argued that still to this day, design in Egypt has been viewed in a shallow manner. It was always seen, if recognised at all, either as art or a flashy profession represented in fashion or graphic design. This makes design a highly commercial profession, purely driven by capitalism, just making the clients’ or companies’ wishes come true. While that is still true, there has been a shift in the role of design lately. The past few years, have further included design at a higher level driven by the great increase of start-ups and innovation in the region as well as initiatives started by global entities like the UN to bring in some economical support for the underprivileged. An example of such an initiative is the Nilfurat project. The Nilfurat project is a project created to support Syrian and African refugees in Egypt as well as internally displaced women, created in 2015 with the support of Yadawee and UNHCR and in collaboration with a number of designers. It aims at providing economic engagement for the participants as well as cultivating cultural diversity through teaching them about certain crafts as well as providing sessions in design and marketing to help them come up with different products to be sold in the local market. (Nilfurat Project, 2018) (Nilfurat Project, 2016) There are numerous examples of start-ups or enterprises arising in Egypt that tackle social aspect one way or another, particularly crafts and craftsmanship combined with the founders’ expertise in design. A good example of a start-up with a social cause would be Kiliim. They describe themselves as “Egyptian social enterprise/lifestyle brand that aims to revive & sustain the art of handwoven kilim by introducing modern designs to a time-honored technique.” (Kiliim, n.d.). Founded by Noha El Taher and Ibrahim Shams in 2016, after noticing how the design aspect is severely lacking in the kilim industry, driven by a personal need for high quality kilim. (The story of Kiliim, 2016) They introduced the design aspect into the process and started working with craftsmen from Fowwa, a small town in the governate of Kafr El-Shaikh which is considered the hub of the craft of kilim-making. They aim to provide high quality products to their customers while trying to save this dying craft and providing a better livelihood for the craftsmen. (Kiliim, 2018) The two kinds presented above, whether they are projects created under organisations like the UN or start-ups founded by Egyptian youth, bring to our attention how the modern design-craft scene is in accordance with some of the UN’s SDGs like Decent Work and Economic Growth and others whether intentionally or unintentionally. (Envision 2030, n.d.) It also brings to light a number of Arturo Escobar’s concepts under the umbrella of design for the pluriverse like transition design, design for social innovation and others and how the relationship between the designer and craftsman is essential for better economic and social conditions, how the craftsman is not only treated as the executor but as an “expert”. (Clarke, 2018) (Escobar, 2017)