Design beyond 'us vs. them'. How can developing world constraints inspire and drive design innovation at a global scale? Case study: neonatal resuscitation device
Design has a social agenda. It is clear that we have the responsibility to help those who are in need, but it is also vital to redefine what meaningful prosperity is for us. Most of the designers dedicate their time and energy to developing products and systems solely for the wealthy 10% of the world’s population. Nothing less than a paradigm shift is required for design to include the other 90%. What we need more than ever is design inspired by commonality not by difference. There is no reason why designers cannot design for the underserved population while tending the needs of our own communities. Design can create opportunities for bridging markets and creating unexpected partnerships that will result in shared investments, capital, and benefits.
According to the World Health Organization, nearly one million babies die each year due to birth difficulties. With proper training and equipment, many of newborn fatalities due to breathing complications could be avoided. Neonatal resuscitation is commenced to assist the newborn’s first breath. However, because of the lack of proper training, expensive equipment and under staffing, hospitals and communities in developing countries struggle to perform effective resuscitation. Meanwhile, in developed countries, home birth scenarios require midwives to be fully prepared with standard resuscitation equipment. There is a demand for a low-cost, highly portable and reliable resuscitation device globally.
This research project applied user-centred design principles to enhance the experience and effectiveness of neonatal resuscitation for inexperienced rescuers in both the developing and developed world context. The practice acts as a tool to explore the notion of using Third World constraints as innovation drivers for the whole World.
Designing for the Third world often means a ruthless pursue of affordability, accessibility and reliability. Products and systems must be low cost, low maintenance, intuitive to use and highly reliable to meet users’ needs. These constraints forces designers to think outside the box and often lead to highly creative solutions, which largely impact people’s health and well-being.