Co-design in Zambia - an examination of design outcomes

DS 87-1 Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED 17) Vol 1: Resource Sensitive Design, Design Research Applications and Case Studies, Vancouver, Canada, 21-25.08.2017

Year: 2017
Editor: Anja Maier, Stanko Škec, Harrison Kim, Michael Kokkolaras, Josef Oehmen, Georges Fadel, Filippo Salustri, Mike Van der Loos
Author: Brubaker, Eric Reynolds; Jensen, Carl; Silungwe, Sunday; Sheppard, Sheri D.; Yang, Maria
Series: ICED
Institution: 1: Stanford University, United States of America; 2: Good Nature Agro, United States of America; 3: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States of America
Section: Resource Sensitive Design, Design Research Applications and Case Studies
Page(s): 259-268
ISBN: 978-1-904670-89-6
ISSN: 2220-4342


After decades of limited success “designing for the developing world”, it is clear that Base of the Pyramid (BoP) markets are complex and face unique challenges, such as large geographical distances between designers and users as well as poor understanding of user/customer needs. Participatory design has emerged as a strategy to improve user/customer understanding in BoP markets in hopes that it may lead to improved design outcomes. This study aims to better understand the relationship between co-design and related participatory design approaches with design outcomes. An experiment was conducted in rural Zambia in partnership with an agricultural enterprise and also at a university in the USA, and the resulting design outcomes compared with the level of end-user/customer participation. Concepts rated with the highest likelihood of adoption were generated by teams composed entirely of end-users/customers, however these were also among the least creative concepts. Teams that employed user-centered design produced concepts with mixed results, and teams that followed a co-design approach produced concepts with the greatest balance of creativity, feasibility, and meeting the need.

Keywords: Design process, User centred design, Participatory design, Social responsibility, Co-design


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