Aside

Design from Within

14 Jul

But should we take a moment now that the movement is gathering speed to ask whether or not American and European designers are collaborating with the right partners, learning from the best local people, and being as sensitive as they might to the colonial legacies of the countries they want to do good in. Do designers need to better see themselves through the eyes of the local professional and business classes who believe their countries are rising as the U.S. and Europe fall and wonder who, in the end, has the right answers? Might Indian, Brazilian and African designers have important design lessons to teach Western designers?

From the controversial article “Is Humanitarian Design Imperialism?” the New by Bruce Nussbaum. An interesting point to ponder as I, too, have intentions to work in the developing world. In this interconnected global world, I don’t think North American and European aid and design interventions should be dismissed. However, the flow of input and solutions often come from outside the culture they are intended to help. Utilizing processes that allow recipients of help to dictate what the help is is essential to both generating an effective solution and empowering people to help themselves.

What is the ultimate goal of these type of projects? Ideally, the vision would be to build towards a scenario that outside aid is not required. As revealed on this fascinating Haiti follow-up on This American Life, this involves putting the tools in the hands of locals, standing back, and allowing people to make and learn from mistakes.

Ultimately, any design or aid project is a very individual and specific intervention that needs to be approached from within the culture and place. No one likes to be told what to do by an outsider and any negative responses to that approach are understandable.

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