When Good Intentions Aren’t Enough

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“A team of sighted individuals developing a product for the blind is like a team of men developing a feminine hygiene product.”

In the first episode of Nevertheless we looked at how lack of diversity in teams leads to the development of products that don’t represent the needs of all of its users, and the problems that arise once the user gets their hands on those product. The brilliant quote above comes from Sanskriti Dawle from Project Mudra, an Indian startup whose product, Annie, makes classroom and self-teaching of Braille possible.

Often, it’s not just about diversity of teams that leads to products people don’t want being made. It’s a result of designing products without ever consulting the people they are intended for or even inviting any of them into the design process.

Annie from Project Mudra

In this episode we look at a failed product that excited everyone — except the people who had to use it. We chat to women who are working closely with users and communities and analysing data to ensure their tech solutions solve real problems. And we discuss the difference between forcing change, and encouraging it; between assuming you know what people need and asking them in advance.

We speak to Kanika Bahl CEO of research and modelling NGO Evidence Action. Their approach is simple: before spending huge sums of money on anything, no matter how well-intentioned, assumptions need to be rigorously tested and trialed.

Diana Nucera, the director of the Detroit Community Technology Project who, after moving to Detroit, recognised a lack of internet access in African-American neighbourhoods making it hard for children to study. Despite a lack of infrastructure she did something about.

Sanskriti Dawle

After Sanskriti Dawle, mentioned earlier, we meet Teodora Berkova, Pearson’s Director of Social Innovation who talks to us about working closely with users and co-designing their Space Hero learning app with Syrian refugees in Jordan which helps them improve results and build resilience. She also introduces us to Pearson’s Tomorrow’s Markets Incubator.

Finally we chat to Mariam from Gaza who is a refugee business woman, and a tech founder, whose horizon of her own potential was expanded thanks to Google’s first Startup Weekend event, hosted at Gaza Sky Geeks, the Strip’s first startup incubator space.

People

Kanika Bahl

Sanskriti Dawle

Teodora Berkova

Diana Nucera

Teodora Berkova

Quotes from he episode

“When we think about digital inclusion and diversity it’s often this like “We’ll not include you in what we’re doing” or “we’re just going to add a few people of color to our mix and it will be fine”. It’s so much more complex than that, like if you’re going to foster diversity you really do need diversity at the center of that rather than a sprinkle here and there to fulfil a quota.” Diana Nucera Detroit Community Technology Project

‘I believe also that you can’t change the world before you change your own small world around you. Then when you do it and you succeed in that you can soon change the world of your family the world of your community, the world of your city. And then the world. Like I can’t be Superman but I can be a successful CEO. This is what I believe.” Mariam Refugee tech founder

“We have to be extremely mindful of checking every little tweak of the products with our target user and with our target user being blind and a child, because those two are completely unique perspectives that we do not currently have.” Sanskriti Dawle Project Mudra

Further Reading

Africa’s Not-So-Magic Roundabout

Playpumps — The Painful Acknowledgement of Coming Up Short

Busting the ‘Neuromyths’ About How We Learn

Why Stubborn Myths Like Learning Styles Persist

Dispensers for Safe Water

Deworm The World

Detroit Community Technology Project

Tomorrow’s Markets Incubator

Space Hero

Project Mudra

Effective Altruism

GiveWell

Erase All Kittens — Teaching girls to code in Syria

If you enjoyed this episode of Nevertheless you might want to listen to our previous episode The Right To Learn in which we speak to some remarkable women bringing education solutions to displaced children from conflict zones around the world. Why not subscribe to Nevertheless using your favourite podcast player and whilst you’re there please rate and review us. It really helps people discover the podcast.

Nevertheless is produced by Storythings and supported by Pearson Education. If you’re interested in the kind of work Pearson do read these fascinating predictions about the future of work and skills which came out of their research project with Nesta and the Oxford Martin School.

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