I was recently invited to participate as an external advisor, from here in New Zealand, on an extensive research project currently being conducted in India. The exploration is focused on sanitation in low-income urban India and has been dubbed The Potty Project.
The study entails a user-centered examination of behaviours, experiences and attitudes to existing modes of sanitation in a variety of selected slums across India. This is expected to highlight specific opportunities for innovation which might include business model, design, technology and/or communication interventions.
The comprehensive research endeavor is being conducted by the dynamic bunch over at the multidisciplinary Delhi-based innovation consultancy Quicksand. Their focus on user-centered design principles has attracted assignments from Google, IDEO, and the United Nations Development Programme. They’re big on participatory methods and the use of visual aids for research. And best of all for me (being so far way from the action) they are smooth users of Tumblr, Vimeo, Flickr and Twitter – to share images, video, methodological musings, interim analysis and anecdotal interludes – both from the field and back in the office. Much of this flows through The Potty Project blog and occasionally we talk more detailed sh*t (literally) between the Quicksand team and various global advisors via Skype. I get the short straw being out on a limb in terms of time zones – sorry guys if I get incoherent by 4am in the morning!
While rigorous research is being done to summarise the key impact parameters, sanitation spectrum and slum topologies – as always there are some peripheral wee gems that are observed along the way. The images above highlight an informal solution for soap dispensing.
Quicksand’s services span research, film-making, product development, exhibition/experience design, education and beyond – but here’s a quick taste from a couple of their other projects in the sanitation sector:
User Experience Research for Safe Water Strategies in Base of the Pyramid Markets.
The Ripple Effect Film. Quicksand’s documentation became an important medium for IDEO and Acumen Fund to demonstrate the value of design thinking in driving issues pertaining to social development and impact.
[All images via Quicksand and The Potty Project]