It’s the beginning of the third and final week with the Design Abroad program. Three words come to mind: exciting, scary, and stressful. We have been faced with numerous challenges along the way. The biggest, and initial one being: how can we just enter a community we know nothing about and expect to find out what they need?
There have been some obvious barriers (low speed wi-fi, anyone?) but joking aside, more prominently language and cultural barriers are at their strongest. Very few speak English and there are so many cultural norms different to ours. Religion is very engrained into the lifestyle. This is something that is not practiced to that extent in the place that I grew up and where I live. It is difficult for me to grasp.
Additionally, ethnographic research has proven to be able to show us what we (a western group of people) might think of as a problem. However, it takes asking, conversation and involvement with the locals to find out where our place is to help through design.
Through many interviews we also found out that the answer won’t just be served to you on a golden platter, but rather in fragments that have to be pieced together over time. Participatory design is a process and it takes a team of great minds and great leaders to work with along the way. There is no creative brief to tell you who your target is or what you need to answer to. There isn’t a formula, and that has been a hurdle I have faced. We must segregate ourselves from the organized, western way of thought, and enter each day with a neutral lens.
This morning we began defining what our goals and objectives over the next five days will be as we wrap up the program. The next four days will be busy and chaotic for everyone, but it will be well worth it. I’m excited and curious to see what will come of our time in India.