Social Design in Action – MTS in Nepal
When we talk about humanitarian design and three spheres of action one might wonder how this approach, that sounds promising and abstract at the same time, looks in practice. Being on the ground in Nepal, preparing the project to bring DOMOs as schools and children homes to rural villages that are affected by the earthquakes, the three spheres become very graspable. Right from the beginning all three of them – the ecosystem, the social surrounding and the product requirements – are very present and crucial when forming the project according to local conditions.
The ecosystem the project is located in is due to the situation of crisis a complex post-disaster reality. There is the destruction and people in need of shelters, there is an unstable government trying to hold the power regardless of all the international humanitarian movement in the country, and there are many big organizations doing relief work. Additionally there are local traditions, beliefs and practices that shape the way people deal with the crisis and rebuilding activities.
The first step arriving in Kathmandu was to understand these connections of the mentioned factors, to understand the post-crisis reality, to understand how humanitarian action works here, what the main challenges are and how we can become active in it. Through observing what goes on, through meeting different actors and through conversations with diverse people, a picture of the situation emerges and one begins to understand the context. In the case of our project in Nepal, very practical challenges became obvious as customs handling for the import of relief items and restricted access to far out villages. On another level it also opens up many questions and directs the view to shortcomings and malfunctions of the system.
The social sphere is about the people the project is for. What is the reality of the people we design for and what are the real needs they have? How does the world look through “their eyes”? How can we support them with our product and knowledge?
By meeting the people and talk to them, by observing, asking and feeling the context, a good sense of needs and potential solutions come up. To give a brief example: Sitting in an office in Berlin, it is easy to not think about the need to have shaded area in an emerging camp to sit during the day. Standing in the mountains in Nepal being cooked by the midday sun, it is the first thing coming to your mind. Being on the site where the shelters will be set up also allows detailed spatial planning. In meetings with the community exchange of ideas, possibilities and ways of cooperation emerge. These and many more pieces enable a sensitive forming of the project and lead to a plan of how support from our side can be used best in the community.
With the DOMOs we bring in a product that allows local adjustments and adaptation. Thus the shelter passes through continuous product design. DOMO, once being in the field, becomes a local solution and can, optimally in co-creation processes, be constantly developed according to local resources and needs. We are looking forward to Nepali DOMO versions!