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We at CivicDataLab are an enthusiastic bunch, who try to learn and adapt to new ideas and processes at every possible step. Having a multidisciplinary team that works on the intersection of data, tech, design and social science brings in a need to not only have expertise in your own domain but to cultivate a language and associated knowledge base to be able to communicate with other fields.

And it is precisely here, where “CDL Baithak” comes in.

traditionally has been a form of semi-formal gathering where people come together to discuss all matters under the sky. The very essence of the word baithak lies in the idea of collaboration and participation. We decided to invite guest speakers from across the fields and discipline to share their experience with us. This knowledge helps embed our work in a wider context as well as provide our interdisciplinary team a way to understand each other’s world better.

The Inaugural Baithak

For the first ever Baithak at CivicDataLab, we invited Kankana Narayan Dev, an Architect and Researcher who is currently engaging as a Doctorant at IIT, Guwahati. She hails from Assam, a state we have worked with over the last 3 years to make their fiscal data more accessible.

In the past Kankana has worked as Project Architect for Assam State Disaster Management Training Program at TISS till 2014 and thereafter shifted to academic research while also initiating her social enterprise DARRANG ECO WORKS, designing and constructing sustainable houses and furniture using Bamboo. Currently, she is researching “Post-Disaster Shelter and Settlement for the flood-affected people of the Brahmaputra Valley”. Her work is inspired by intrinsic personal transcultural heritage and identity. She is passionate about socially responsive architecture and has led teaching and learning in inclusive and inter-professional design that is concerned with creating accessible environments and widening community participation.

In the Session

The Baithak started with Kankana setting up the context of Assam with respect to its geography and demography, and the challenges faced by the state around flooding. We discussed the erratic nature and causes of flooding, ranging from the topographical factors to the role of international relations.

The talk then steered towards the management of floods- various administrative initiatives as well as community tactics, followed by the effect of floods on different regions and the relationship to housing typology. This was further elaborated by the case study of Lakhimpur District

The final leg of the talk tackled in detail the idea of shelter with respect to floods, linking to works that the speaker has done through her entrepreneurial initiative as well as her doctoral research in this space. This section emphasized on the idea that housing is also needed to be seen as a flood relief measure and elaborated on the importance of community participation and co-designing effective solutions.

Going Ahead

We are currently trying to explore possibilities of improving flood response and relief in Assam through public procurement reforms and open public data. After this talk we had a much better understanding of the social, geographical and political backdrop against which our work is embedded. Despite having engaged with the government of Assam for different works over the past few years, the perspective that our speaker provided brings in new ways of understanding the problems to begin with. As such we were able to imagine new possible uses of the works that we were doing and add nuances to it. This session was also able to provide a way to understand the context better and give a sense of different people who play an important role in the process of flood management and response, enabling us to expand our stakeholder map. We hope to have more such interactions from people across disciplines in times to come.


You can access the slides here.

Poster of the event along with speakers details can be seen here.

If you would like to share your thoughts and ideas with us please write to us on



CivicDataLab works with the goal to use data, tech, design and social science to strengthen the course of civic engagements in India. We harness the potential of open-source movement to enable citizens to engage better with public reforms.

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