Connecting the Dots: a design approach to services for the poor

Priti Rao

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Design thinking is increasingly being promoted as a tool to address social problems. There is little consensus around the term ‘design thinking’ and how if at all it differs from other forms of thinking. Further, evidence for how design can help to tackle social challenges, particularly in resource poor settings is scant. The thesis critiques the notion of ‘design thinking’ as framed in contemporary design practice and literature. It draws out the ontological (pattern), teleological (purpose), and epistemological (process) elements of design, in order to re-articulate ‘design thinking’ as the ‘way of design’ to embody its first principles. Additionally the thesis shows how the ‘way of design’ can help to understand and inform services in resource poor contexts, using the case study of artisan services in India. The study employs mixed methods and bricoleur techniques to carry out design research in a weaving village in India. The study shows how ‘design as pattern’ helps to trace the underlying pattern of services in the artisan weaving ecosystem and highlight touchpoints for interventions. It reveals how ‘design as purpose’ prompts the assessment of: utility, social, emotional and epistemic values that underpin artisan service preferences and choices. It further illustrates how ‘design as process’ guides sense making and evaluation of artisan systems in ‘adaptive’ rather than ‘optimal’ ways. The thesis establishes how a design approach can help fundamentally to reframe the problems and prospects of artisan livelihoods. In redesigning design, the thesis demonstrates the transdisciplinary character of design and the kind of problems it can help to illuminate. In reframing artisan problems, the study shows how the ‘way of design’ can help to connect the dots of policy, practice and research.
Original languageEnglish
  • Guille, Jackie, Supervisor, External person
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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