Creative capacity building : enhancing participatory design with rural Cambodian farmers: a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand
The development of technology to address challenges faced by underserved communities in developing countries has become the focus of many engineers and designers in the Western world. However, to date, such technologies have not had the level of positive impact and long-term adoption predicted. Research shows this is due to contextually-driven factors not being taken into account, such as a lack of locally available materials and skills, harsh environmental conditions and a lack of buy-in from the community. Projects which include the community in the process of identifying and prioritizing the challenges they face, generating ideas and building prototypes, have been proven to be more effective at creating solutions that are accepted and maintained. This process, known as Participatory Design (PD), is growing in popularity. However, PD practitioners still struggle to facilitate true collaboration with communities with documented challenges focusing on communities having a lack of understanding of design, problem solving and creativity as well as a lack of confidence and motivation to contribute to a long-term PD project.
This study aims to resolve this challenge by utilizing knowledge from the field of Creative Capacity Building (CCB); an education-focused field that looks to improve an individual’s ability to independently problem solve and innovate through structured, hands-on training sessions. Based on literature, a CCB programme was designed, to be completed at the beginning of a long-term PD project. This aimed to be succinct, engaging and socio-culturally appropriate to the specific community. A six-month, multi-case study was undertaken with several partner organizations in rural Cambodia. The study aimed to collaborate with rural people with disability, to create technology that improved their ability to engage in agricultural practices.
Results showed that the implementation of CCB positively affected the community’s ability to contribute contextual insights to the project as well as their understanding of the design process and motivation to contribute. CCB was not found to improve the community’s ability to critique existing designs or their ability to create prototypes, competencies that were already strong; nor their ability to generate ideas, a competency that was weak. Other findings included a positive relationship between the use of making-style activities and community motivation, an inverse relationship between group size and community ability to express opinions and a new conceptual model to describe the collaborative partnership between designer and community.
Keywords: participatory design; capacity building; agriculture; developing context; humanitarian technology development; humanitarian engineering
Material from the thesis has been published as:
Drain, A., Shekar, A., & Grigg, N. (2017). ‘Involve me and I’ll understand’: creative capacity building for participatory design with rural Cambodian farmers. CoDesign, 15(2), 110-127. https://doi-org.ezproxy.massey.ac.nz/10.1080/15710882.2017.1399147
Drain, A., Shekar, A., & Grigg, N. (2018). Participatory design with people with disability in rural Cambodia: The creativity challenge. The Design Journal, 21(5), 685-706. https://doi-org.ezproxy.massey.ac.nz/10.1080/14606925.2018.1488923
Drain, A., Shekar, A., & Grigg, N. (2018). Insights, solutions and empowerment: a framework for evaluating participatory design. CoDesign, 1-21. https://doi-org.ezproxy.massey.ac.nz/10.1080/15710882.2018.1540641
Drain, A., McCreery, M., Shekar, A., & Grigg, N. (2018). The collaborative design of a low-cost, accessible rice seeder for rural Cambodia: Trade-offs and challenges. IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference Proceedings, 18-21 Oct. 2018. https://ieeexplore-ieee-org.ezproxy.massey.ac.nz/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=8601663