- 19 June 2023
- 5 minutes
Design for Good (DfG) is a non-profit alliance of leading global organisations, initiated to directly harness the creative talent of thousands of designers to improve lives through human-centred design.
The Royal College of Art is a founding member of DfG, alongside other industry-leading companies and institutions from across the private sector, academia and social sectors, including: General Mills, Lixil, Logitech, Nedbank, Nestlé, McKinsey & Company, Microsoft, Pepsico, and Philips.
For 2022-23, DfG focused on the United Nations's Sustainable Development Goal 6: clean water and sanitation. Students from the School of Design joined multidisciplinary teams to work with NGOs on the ground developing products and services with communities.
Here, five students share their experiences.
Empowering women to take charge of sanitation
“Getting the chance to collaborate, work with and learn from these big industry partners definitely added to my knowledge, as well as allowing me to show my skills as a service designer and add to what I was learning from the Royal College of Art.”MA Service Design student
MA Service Design student Sara Alhajri joined a team addressing the lack of safe, sanitary toilet experience for women in India's urban slums. They created Sabal, an end-to-end, product and service solution that empowers women to take charge of their sanitation and health. The 'Make Your Own Toilet’ DIY kit enables women to set up temporary toilets in their homes, or use an existing shared toilet safely.
The team connected with two NGOs and consulted experts to gather feedback and refine their design. Realising that major behaviour and mindset change was needed for the adoption and acceptance of their solution, the team developed a series of services to support the uptake and implementation of the kits, including an awareness raising program, a helpline, training support and business opportunities.
Sara reflected on her experience:
“When Design for Good was announced, I took it as an opportunity to test and challenge myself to apply what I had learned on the Service Design MA so far. It was also an opportunity to use design for a good cause and try to make a positive impact with what I do creatively.
Getting the chance to collaborate, work with and learn from these big industry partners definitely added to my knowledge, as well as allowing me to show my skills as a service designer and add to what I was learning from the Royal College of Art.”
Project team: Kanika Kohli, McKinsey & Company; Sharmina Rae James, Philips; Minseong Kim, Lixil; Sara Alhajri, MA Service Design, RCA.
Improving period education through hero characters and narrative
“Working alongside industry partners has provided us with in depth feedback and professional advice on how to frame and develop our solution and design concepts.”MRes Healthcare & Design alumna
Sophie Richter and Krishan Kandya (both MRes Healthcare & Design, 2022) were part of a team that tackled a brief to redesign period education for young girls near Arusha, Tanzania with Foot Forward Fund.
Working together with the three other DfG teams, they have created a holistic set of deliverables. Sophie and Krishan’s team focused on developing hero characters and storylines to address the embarrassment around discussing menstruation, while delivering the information in a way that is accessible and easier to remember.
The hero characters were decided on as a way to quickly engage and build relationships with the girls, in order to create a safe space for asking questions and sharing concerns. To establish a sense of relatability the heroes are two sisters, have common Tanzanian names, and have the same worries as the girls pertaining to menstrual health and hygiene.
Sophie described taking part in the project:
“Working alongside industry partners has provided us with in depth feedback and professional advice on how to frame and develop our solution and design concepts. Regular meetings, specially with Laura from Foot Forward Fund and Dave Milestone, shaped our approach and guided us in the right direction. We are very grateful for their insights and being able to develop, test and further advance our solution with them.
The project has impacted my practice in the sense that it reconfirmed how important interdisciplinary team work is as well as applying co-design principles with wider stakeholder groups.”
Project team: Roxanne Robins, NedBank; Ferguson Asiam, Nestle; Lynn Heesterbeek, Philips; Krishan Kandya, MRes Healthcare & Design; RCA Sophie Richter, MRes Healthcare & Design, RCA.
Encouraging water conservation through behaviour change
“Building relationships with the rest of the team felt fulfilling enough, but the new skills I developed in animation and social media content creation, as well as the valuable experience and insights gained from working alongside external clients, are elements that I will take forward into my practice.”MA Design Products student
MA Design Products student Sam Jones, contributed to the design of a social media campaign in collaboration with NGO WaterWise. The team focused on the fact that while people might try to reduce wasteful water consumption, they often struggle to understand what matters the most and how they are expected to behave. The project harnessed the potential of social media to encourage water conservation through behaviour change.
The campaign aired successfully in May, reaching over 3.5 million individuals with call to actions that aimed to help people reduce water usage by focusing on reducing wastage, improving efficiency and exploring alternative water sources.
Sam reflected on the experience:
“I saw DfG as a valuable opportunity to try something new. It presented the perfect timing to explore how I could make a difference beyond my ‘usual’ practice.
Ultimately, the project became something different for the whole team. We brought all our skillsets together, and learnt collectively. Collaborating with an NGO propelled us towards creating something fun and enjoyable, but rooted in design principles.
Building relationships with the rest of the team felt fulfilling enough, but the new skills I developed in animation and social media content creation, as well as the valuable experience and insights gained from working alongside external clients, are elements that I will take forward into my practice.”
Project team: Malin Orebäck, McKinsey & Company; Tomasz Skocylas, McKinsey & Company; Samuel Jones, MA Design Products, RCA; Aditya Bhushan, McKinsey & Company; Stefania Tibilett, Nestle.
Regenerating peatlands through community empowerment
MA/MSc Innovation Design Engineering (IDE) student Henry Parkin, was part of a team which designed a solution to regenerate degraded peatlands by co-designing with local communities.
Peatlands occur in almost every country on the globe and have an enormous potential to store carbon. They are also fragile ecosystems that are under threat from activities such as mining, logging, palm oil plantations and sand dredging.
RE:PEAT Livinglab is an open-source platform for co-designing and connecting local communities to foster wet crop use for peatland regeneration and sustainable livelihoods. The platform aims to secure local communities as stewards of their land, positioning them as expert knowledge keepers, raising their voices in the conversation around regeneration using wet crops.
Discussing taking part in the project Henry commented:
“I’ve been fascinated by water treatment technology, particularly with a view to mitigating pollution in urban and natural landscapes. When I learned about DfG and its focus on water I was really excited to get involved!
Working with Cecilia and Irem has been inspiring, and I hope to emulate their rigorous approaches to research and design thinking as I enter the workplace after graduation.”
Project team: Henry Parkin, MA/MSc Innovation Design Engineering, RCA; Cecilia Brenner, Philips; Irem Undeger, McKinsey & Company.
Appreciating wetlands and wildlife through gamification
“This experience enabled me to pool my passion and to appreciate the value of cross disciplinary collaboration.”MA Service Design student
MA Service Design student Amruta Supate was part of a team exploring ways to promote the conservation of wetlands. They developed We-Act, a platform that helps appreciate wildlife in urban wetlands through simple games, engaging users with action-oriented conservation, and empowering them to safeguard wetlands through adoption.
We-Act makes citizens in urban areas aware of the immediate wetland bodies that surround their neighbourhood encouraging them to visit and pay close attention to the diverse wildlife inhabiting these unique environments. Through playful engagement, the platform helps to shift the perception of wetlands from wastelands to an asset, facilitating the longevity of these fragile ecosystems for future generations.
Reflecting on the project, Amruta commented:
“The topic of Wetland Conservation has been close to my heart as my father has worked as a scientific expert in the field. I was elated that I had found an avenue for design to meet environmental innovation.
I found myself to be more confident as an emerging professional in the field by the end of this journey. The fact that each individual was an equal contributor and team member, meant I was able to find my voice while learning from the industry partners’ wealth of experience.
I am in the process of developing my own signature methodology as a Service Designer. This experience enabled me to pool my passion and to appreciate the value of cross disciplinary collaboration.”
Team Members: Amrutaa Supate, MA Service Design, RCA; Elisabeth Ramel-Währberg, McKinsey.
Other Contributors: Luke Van Meter, McKinsey; Jeroen De Bruin, Philips.