Nubian Vault Building Technique – Association la Voûte Nubienne (AVN)

I was recently contacted by Antoine Horellou and made aware of Association la Voûte Nubienne (AVN). The following is an introduction to the technique and the organization based on information provided on AVN’s website (which is also available in French). Thanks, Antoine, for letting us know.

Nubian vault technique - Association la Voute Nubienne

The Nubian Vault is “an affordable, sustainable, African building technique.” It uses mud bricks and earth mortar, assembling them into arched, vaulted ceilings without the need for timber. Water- and weatherproofing is incorporated into design with plastic sheeting and an additional layer of enriched mud mortar covering the roof and optional additional concrete, lime or tar finishes, depending on need based on local conditions.

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Communication Design: Living Graffiti

For those who might like to use more moss in their messaging:

moss graffiti - how to

This DIY tutorial comes from a book called More Show Me How and you can view larger, clearer graphic and step-by-step instructions from the book here on Popular Mechanics.  One of eight selections from the book, you can also learn how to make a metal detector, a backyard raku kiln, and a pretty labor-intensive, maybe safe and effective bed warmed by hot coals in the wilderness.

Thanks to Street Art in Germany for posting this on Facebook, and Nils Klinkenberg for passing it on.

Design for Social Impact 2.0 [Catapult Design]

Following up on a recent post, Heather Fleming of Catapult Design shares her thoughts as an attendee of the Social Impact Design Summit on February 27.  The following was originally published on Catapult’s blog, reposted here with permission.

Last week Cooper-Hewitt and the National Endowment for the Arts hosted a “Social Impact Design Roundtable” with the gracious support of several foundations.  The premise for the day was defined by three questions:

  1. Where are the gaps in socially responsible design?  What are the biggest challenges?
  2. What are organizational models of successful and sustainable ways of working in socially responsible design?
  3. How can we effectively prepare future generations of designers for this growing area of design?

So what were some of the outputs from the roundtable?  Expect a whitepaper synopsis by Julie Lasky available on the web in the next few months.  But in case your expectations are high, there wasn’t any particularly new information revealed at the session.  In the past four convenings I’ve attended, we’ve identified more or less the same challenges:

Twelve Things You Were Not Taught in School About Creative Thinking

The following post is by Michael Michalko, originally published on Psychology Today.  It has been reposted here with his permission.  You can find past and future posts by Michael in his blog, Creative Thinkering, on Psychology Today.

Twelve Things You Were Not Taught in School About Creative Thinking

Aspects of creative thinking that are not usually taught.

1.  You are creative. The artist is not a special person, each one of us is a special kind of artist. Every one of us is born a creative, spontaneous thinker. The only difference between people who are creative and people who are not is a simple belief. Creative people believe they are creative. People who believe they are not creative, are not. Once you have a particular identity and set of beliefs about yourself, you become interested in seeking out the skills needed to express your identity and beliefs. This is why people who believe they are creative become creative. If you believe you are not creative, then there is no need to learn how to become creative and you don’t. The reality is that believing you are not creative excuses you from trying or attempting anything new. When someone tells you that they are not creative, you are talking to someone who has no interest and will make no effort to be a creative thinker. Continue reading

Social Impact Design Summit

Last week (Feb 27), the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum held an event called the Social Impact Design Summit in New York.  The event was billed as “a chance to broaden the discussion about the current and future state of socially responsible design.  What is it? Who’s doing it well? Why does it matter? What does it mean for the future?”

Bill Moggridge of Cooper-Hewitt describes design and design for social impact this way: “Design is a process that can solve problems, and socially responsible design is design that seeks to solve problems which vex the world’s poor and marginalized communities. Simply put, socially responsible design uses innovation and the tools of design to improve access to services such as healthcare and education and increase social, economic, and environmental sustainability.”

I’m happy to see that this event took place, as it explores the same questions BoP Designer does and it’s a discussion I believe has a lot of potential value to uncover.  My next natural question is, how did it go?  What came out of it?  Cooper-Hewitt says they’ll publish a white paper this spring, which I’m eager to read and I’ll share when it’s released.  But in the meantime, Public Interest Design has created this graphic one-page summary (full post here):

Social Impact Design Summit - Summary by Public Interest Design

(click to enlarge)

I think this is a great starting point for discussion.  What do you think about this assessment of the current state of “design for social impact?”  Is it accurate and it complete?  Does it represent a global reality or just an American or western one so far?  What’s missing?

Were you there?  How did it go?  Who else was there?  What did you learn and what are your ongoing questions?

Please add a comment below, tell us what you think.

Read Cooper-Hewitt’s complete description of the the event or Core77’s brief follow up.

7 Worst International Aid Ideas

The following is a post by Richard Stupart, originally published on Matador Network, and reposted here with permission.   You can view the original post here >>

I think it’s a great discussion of the importance of thinking through consequences, even remote ones, when working toward improving lives and conditions around the world.  We should all keep trying, keep thinking, keep learning and keep striving to do better.

Like my energy drink or the kids starve. Image via Africa is a country

Maybe their hearts were in the right place. Maybe not. Either way, these are solid contenders for the title of “worst attempts at helping others since colonialism.”

1. One million t-shirts for Africa

Aid circles employ the cynical acronym SWEDOW (stuff we don’t want) to describe initiatives like Jason Sadler’s 1 Million T-Shirts project. Sadler had admittedly never been to Africa, and had never worked in an aid or development environment before. But he cared a great deal, and came up with the idea to send a million free shirts to Africa in order to help the people there.

Like some sort of lightning rod for the combined venom of the humanitarian aid world, Jason found himself pilloried across the web in a matter of weeks. Everyone from armchair bloggers to senior economists spat fire on his dream until it eventually ground to a halt. In July 2010, Jason threw in the towel and abandoned his scheme. And somewhere in Africa, an economy sighed in relief.

Why was the idea so bad? Continue reading

Poor Economics: The Family

Story time. The following is an excerpt I found particularly interesting today from Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo’s book, Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty (Chapter 5). Yes, it’s a book about economics and data, but what it does very well is tell very human stories about how we behave, in different places around the world under different circumstances. I highly recommend it. In addition, Banerjee and Duflo have created a rich accompanying website full of additional data, photos, graphics and stories, studies, teachings and resources.

The Family

For the sake of their models, economists often ignore the inconvenient fact that the family is not the same as just one person. We treat the family as one “unit,” assuming that the family makes decisions as if it were just one individual. The paterfamilias, the head of the dynasty, decides on behalf of his spouse and his children what the family consumes, who gets educated and for how long, who gets what kind of bequest, and so on. He may be altruistic, but he is clearly omnipotent. But as anybody who has been part of a family knows, this isn’t quite how families work. This simplification is misleading, and there are important policy consequences from ignoring the complicated dynamics within the family. We already saw, for example, that giving women access to a formal property title is important for fertility choices [how many children to have], not because it changes her view on how many children she wants but because it makes her views count more.

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“Jugaad” – Design & Innovation Inspiration from India

I recently learned about the word “jugaad” from my friend Rikta Krishnaswamy at Quicksand Design. The way I understand it, it means to jury rig, or to create makeshift solutions however you need to in order to make something work. The word has a long history in India, where innovations often come about by necessity. The quality of said solutions may not be high, but they may be cheap and accessible, and sometimes that’s exactly what’s needed.

– A vehicle actually called a “jugaad”, it is made from accessible scrap parts and transports people short distances in India (source)

It’s a widely talked-about term online, especially catching the interests of non-Indian innovators, with a healthy back-and-forth about its pros and cons in different contexts by Indians and non-Indians alike. This article in HBR, “Use Jugaad to Innovate Faster, Cheaper, Better”, explores jugaad as a useful inspiration and state of mind for entrepreneurs in any situation. It’s a good read, sparking good thought and pointing to examples of innovations by Embrace with its low-cost baby incubating wrap, YES Bank and mobile payments, SELCO and its lighting offerings, and GE Health. From the post:

The jugaad mindset — and its associated principles and practices — is increasingly relevant for companies worldwide who are seeking to grow in an increasingly complex and resource-constrained business environment. Unlike traditional, structured innovation methods that rely on time-consuming and expensive R&D processes, the more fluid jugaad approach delivers speed, agility, and cost efficiencies. Jugaad is a “bottom up” innovation approach that provides organizations in both emerging and developed economies the key capabilities they need to succeed in a hypercompetitive and fast-moving world: frugality, inclusivity, collaboration, and adaptability.

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Anupam Mishra: The ancient ingenuity of water harvesting

“With wisdom and wit, Anupam Mishra talks about the amazing feats of engineering built centuries ago by the people of India’s Golden Desert to harvest water. These structures are still used today — and are often superior to modern water megaprojects.

“To promote smart water management, Anupam Mishra works to preserve rural India’s traditional rainwater harvesting techniques.”  (TED)

Peter Haas: Haiti’s disaster of engineering

“‘Haiti was not a natural disaster,’ says TED Fellow Peter Haas, ‘It was a disaster of engineering.’ As the country rebuilds after January’s deadly quake, are bad old building practices creating another ticking time bomb? Haas’s group, AIDG, is helping Haiti’s builders learn modern building and engineering practices, to assemble a strong country brick by brick.

“Inveterate tinkerer Peter Haas is the co-founder of AIDG, the Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group, which connect people to electricity, sanitation and clean water through a combination of business incubation, education, and outreach.” (TED)