Week 5 — Transition to Generative Phase

We ended last week with an outline of our exploratory research presentation. It took viewers through our redefined territory map, research methods, research synthesis, and research insights, which we had narrowed down to five key takeaways:

  1. Proactice mindset: be proactive so as to not delay and exacerbate a disaster scenario
  2. Network effect: Effective aid requires strong relationships in the affected area.
  3. Identify stress points: understand where the system is most likely to fail.
  4. Organic participation: volunteering starts with an existing interest or affiliation
  5. Business interest: there are growing economic incentives for climate resiliency

We had these insights heading into class on Monday, which we began by conducting our final expert interview with Arthi Krishnaswami, CMU Adjunct of Practice and an expert on design for social innovation. Arthi emphasized to us the scope and breadth of work going on in disaster mitigation efforts. Billions of dollars, thousands of organizations, and innumerable ideas on how to make a better system. International disaster relief is rolled into the broader humanitarian aid sector and tackling any one piece of that system would be a tremendous undertaking, let alone the whole thing. Arthi also made the point that money only appears once a disaster occurs and its usually collected by large multinational organizations, who are the market makers for smaller local aid organizations. There’s never enough money, and it’s only in response to disasters. When we asked Arthi for examples of organizations that defy this trend and work in disaster preparedness, she mentioned one but admitted that there were remarkably few that she could think of.

That conversation got us thinking about how we might frame our problem in response to the lack of disaster preparedness. In class, Peter encouraged us to try start mapping our insights into a diagram, to get at the relationship between our insights. These nudge from Arthi and Peter led us to try add two more research insights:

  1. Reactionary Aid: Large aid organizations aren’t focused on disaster preparedness.
  2. Risk conscious culture: Policy can play a part in cultivating an understanding of personal risk.

We then sought to map our research insights to find the relationship between them. We settled on a version of an infinity diagram, with preparedness on the left and mitigation on the right. The diagram helps to illustrate how the preparedness informs mitigation and how mitigation practices can then inform preparedness for a future disaster situation. At the moment, our disaster management is so heavily weighted toward the preparedness portion, and this is where we see the heavy carbon emissions.

Our idea is to shift this balance, putting more time, effort, and thought into the preparedness portion of the diagram and integrating our research insights into that phase of disaster management. How might relationships between disaster vulnerable people help with the distribution of disaster resources? How might mapping stress points help communities find contingency plans? More broadly, how might we cultivate a culture that is risk conscious to climate change induced disasters?

These were the questions we posed in our presentation. In response, the client representative, Arnold Wasserman, provided a few key pieces of feedback, which fell into a few major buckets:

  • Consider people who feel adversarial toward one another. In a disaster situation, you can’t rely on everyone trusting each other.
  • Consider how racial and other power dynamics impact preparedness and response to disasters. Its the privileged and powerful who have been able to prepare and save themselves from the costs of disasters.
  • How might we leverage existing systems which mobilize people and resources in an efficient way?
  • Are you designing for disasters that are not a result of climate change?\

The feedback helped us start to think about who we might need as design partners and how we might begin to go about creating our solution. It seems important to consider a single type of disaster in order to make a targeted intervention, but also to make sure that we talk to people with different attitudes and backgrounds, as they might react very differently to a disaster.

Moving into next week, we divided up three disaster categories: rising water levels, hurricanes, and wildfires. We’ll each map out a rough journey of an individual experiencing that disaster to look for pain points. Using those points, we’ll narrow down on an area of intervention and what target audience(s) we may be targeting

Onward!

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