Can Design with a Purpose Inspire the Underserved?

talk – 20 min | Feb 4 – 13:00

Educating rural adults in design sensibilities, using handicrafts as a contextually relevant medium. Leveraging the power of crafts and aesthetics to bridge the design divide among homebound skill-constrained women.

A design based social entrepreneurial venture focused on educating adults in rural India in design sensibilities, using handicrafts as a contextually relevant medium. That design driven innovation can be a prerogative of everyone regardless of formal education, was an interesting outcome of this initiative.

Applied design education was the vehicle used to achieve the purpose and end goal of creating home-based employment opportunities for rural women. The educational focus was also to help preserve dying craft traditions and propagating organic-handmade products while generating profit for these makers. The underlying philosophy was leveraging the power of crafts and aesthetics to bridge the design divide among homebound women with low skill and education levels. This also demonstrated the power of design education in a rural setting to drive inclusion and empowerment.

A people centered design approach was applied in a threefold manner: - design of simple everyday products with a perceived functional gap - design for ease of making by unskilled makers - bringing these together through the use of organic materials and traditional crafts

While this initiative is a work-in-progress, this unique applied education approach has changed lives by opening windows in minds that otherwise had no creative avenues. With their work being marketed globally, it is generating pride in the fact that it is being viewed and valued across the globe. It also serves as a ‘mental bridge’ across nations for them.

This initiative has proven yet again that design can be a great tool to generate inclusion and that anybody can indeed become a designer.

Jhumkee Iyengar

Jhumkee Iyengar
Principal Consultant, User in Design and Founder, Ohrna

About the speaker

Jhumkee Iyengar

Jhumkee Iyengar

Principal Consultant, User in Design and Founder, Ohrna
Jhumkee is an independent consultant, mentor, teacher, presenter and writer. Her 27 years in corporations in the US and India have covered technical, consulting, research and project leadership roles. She conceptualized and teaches People Centered Design in corporate, academic and rural settings. Jhumkee has degrees in Human Factors Engineering, Industrial Design and Mechanical Engineering and has 3 awards and several publications and articles to her credit. Jhumkee is a Lead Instructor at LUMA Institute, and an Adjunct Faculty at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. She has recently launched a design-based social enterprise focused on generating employment among homebound women.

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