In today’s rapidly changing world, we face a diverse set of challenges for which the solutions we create are often ineffective. We usually forget that solutions need not be disruptive in order to solve prevalent problems, and that answers are often found in the smallest change through insights. The idea that insights and observations have the power to change people's' perspectives and thus, change how we approach our challenges, is at the core of Toru and IDEO.org’s event - Social Innovation Design Week (SIDW).
In April 2017, Social Innovation Design Week - a co-design workshop – was conducted by Toru - Institute of Inclusive Innovation in partnership with IDEO.org and Mohammadi Group, with the support of Levi Strauss Foundation. SIDW was conducted with the aim to create an engaging and empathetic lens which can open the possibility to developing human centered solutions through design and collaboration.
This year, SIDW hosted a week-long workshop with Mohammadi Group, introducing Human-Centered Design (HCD) to a multidisciplinary group of 20 Fellows. With a focus on improving the work and life experience of RMG workers, the Fellows were immersed into the RMG community at the Mohammadi Group’s factory. The workshop immersed Fellows into the everyday experiences of those workers, making them put the theories to test and see how solutions could be curated to their needs.
“People often sit in rooms and offices to design innovations and that is a core reason why many fail to create a desired impact. Being immersed can help us empathise, and critically analyse through the eyes of the user. This builds real solutions that have higher possibility to scale and create an impact that can become sustainable in the long run,” says Saif Kamal, founder of Toru.
The workshop was led by Rob Gradoville, the Portfolio Manager for IDEO.org’s Amplify program who possesses expertise in implementing design challenges and teaching human-centric design tools. It became an engaging space for design and collaboration with five teams working in developing day care systems, improving living facilities, worker’s happiness, creating a staff shop and improving health and hygiene in the RMG community. The SIDW Fellows made for a diverse gathering of 20 individuals from multidisciplinary backgrounds. From artists, engineers and architects to health workers and entrepreneurs, they all came together to co-design solutions through HCD. Throughout the five days, Fellows were taken through the intensive process of HCD. In the beginning of the week, they went in with specific ideas and assumptions that, along the week, were disintegrated and reassembled into ideas that they had not even been considered before coming in.
“The immersive experience of learning to design a human-centered solution gave us a chance to see why standardised solutions often don’t work and a more user centric approach is necessary if we want to build sustainable processes,” said Nabeera Rahman, an SIDW Fellow and a consultant of Bangladesh Textile Competitiveness at IFC. The Fellows reflected that spending time at the Mohammadi Group factory and understanding its processes became an essential part of the workshop - broadening their understanding of how local RMG factories operate and breaking long held stereotypes in the process.
SIDW sprung from Toru’s belief that people are at the core of every innovation. Solving today’s problems requires skills that are currently absent in the ecosystem. There remains a dire need to cultivate empathy and a collaborative spirit in order to build ourselves to be responsive to problems in communities and to be able to design for positive social impact.