iDE Global

Designing interventions to context

Good design can change lives when it responds to real needs.

At iDE we operate under the ethos of actually talking to the people we work with. Only then can we work to co-design solutions that meet their particular challenges. Using an approach called human-centered design (HCD), we create products, services and processes that fill gaps in market systems and help solve everyday problems. For example, in Zambia we designed a market intervention that powered entrepreneurial farmers to sell tomatoes at the highest price possible. Previously farmers were forced to package tomatoes in wooden boxes provided by agents, locking them into predetermined wholesale markets and prices. But by using an iDE-trained advisor to rent boxes to farmers, they can now shop their cash-crops around and send their tomatoes to the highest bidder. 

These same HCD principles are used to confront unique challenges faced by the rural poor in different locations across the world. Because one size doesn’t fit all, we examine the user experience in each context, looking at how a solution should be built to how it should be promoted, financed, delivered, and serviced. We then use these insights to iteratively generate, prototype, and refine solutions with the final users themselves. The result is a market-ready product or service that is transformative, maintainable, and affordable to consumers, in addition to being technically feasible and economically viable for manufacturers and other stakeholders in the market system.

By co-designing income-generating solutions with people in the developing world, we can help to facilitate their transformation into rural entrepreneurs, powering them to participate in market ecosystems that are economically competitive, inclusive, and resilient to conflict and changing climates. iDE’s Infinite Model provides a roadmap for how individuals who seek to participate in the market can move through a process of growth. Co-designing solutions with marginalized people is a fundamental part of this process.

Handwashing in Cambodia

Our Cambodian handwashing campaign, Yey Komru (“Role Model Grandmother” in Khmer) campaign features a grandmother telling children to wash their hands with soap before eating and after using the toilet. Going beyond simple communications, Yey Komru also incorporates new services, products, and tools that can be used in a sustainable way by local communities. iDE’s Innovation Lab designed this behavior-change campaign, which was later adopted by the Cambodian government as a national program. At the height of the COVID-19 UNICEF distributed 100,000 flyers, raising awareness about the campaign, coinciding with Global Handwashing Day.

I De Pc Cam Yey Komru 3X2

iDE has worked in Ethiopia’s remote southern pastoral regions, interviewing village elders, women, youth, market players and supporting institutions. Because the region is drought-prone, we wanted to understand constraints and opportunities and support women and youth pastoralists. In particular, we wanted to promote diversified income-generating activities, improving their resilience to climate change. As part of the work, we interviewed a farmer who grew drought-resistant moringa trees and wanted to start processing the vitamin-rich leaves to sell to regional and national markets. He detailed everything he would need, from a business partner to drying equipment. Experiences like these give us key insights into mindsets, behaviours, and motivations of pastoralists toward new business opportunities, allowing us to explore barriers within existing value chains that constrain livelihood diversification.

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Design for developing countries

Establishing a methodology for Human-Centered Design in a challenging context

In 2009, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funded a collaboration that combined experience and wisdom of designers and field staff that eventually coalesced into the HCD Toolkit, a methodology specifically for organizations working with poor communities to create products that are feasible, desirable, and viable.

Read more: How human-centered design was adapted for use in developing contexts