Global development and design – An exploration

19/03/2013 at 10:20 pm 2 comments

Over the next two weeks, we in Dóchas will be curating the Pivot Dublin blog, to explore how “Global Development” and “Design” interact.

Many people might not readily think of development NGOs as ‘designers’. Many people working in NGOs may not see themselves as designers either.

Designer and design historian Jorge Frascara once said that there are “four kinds of design: design to support life, design to facilitate life, and design to improve life. And then, there is inconsequential design.”


If this is true, then at least the first three kinds of design are activities that development NGOs do, even without knowing it.

Looking out from the NGO space, it seems clear that designers are seeing their role in innovatively solving problems faced by the world’s poor people and by our creaking environment. ‘Development workers’ are increasingly seeing this, too. And design in NGO work has, in recent decades, been introduced in less tangible ways, too.

A lot of reflection and work has been going into redesigning how projects and programmes can be better designed to achieve better social outcomes. One way, recently, has been to shift from focusing on the money going in to the actual change in people’s lives and working back. Another has been the strengthening of genuine ‘bottom up’ project design, involving communities in a participatory way.

Thought has also been going into how NGOs ‘talk about development’ because, as research is showing, a more sceptical and sophisticated audience in developed countries is forcing NGOs to think again about how they represent the developing world in their communications.

For the next two weeks, Dóchas will be looking at these questions and more, bringing some interesting NGO stories and questions to PIVOT readers.

Visit the Pivot Dublin blog here

Also read:


Entry filed under: NGOs. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

From Charity to Justice: Volunteering and Development Education Margaret Thatcher and International Development

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. R Storey  |  30/03/2013 at 10:41 am

    Would suggest that the poor themselves know and understand their problems and that innovative design is not what the poor are calling for.
    No need to keep going back to the drawing board for the relief of poverty when it largely involves the basics of life such as water and sanitation, food and nutrition, shelter and education.

    • 2. Dóchas  |  04/04/2013 at 1:02 pm

      Rob, we think the article is making the point that good development programmes are about listening and responding to the real needs of poor people and that good programmes do not come about by chance, but require investment in design (understood to mean that they should be based on research and with the benefits to the end user in mind).


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