"During the third semester of my Master's, I had the chance of going abroad to do an international project in Nepal.
At the beginning, this experience was presented as an opportunity to solve a real case in collaboration with one of the biggest international NGOs (Practical Action) and to contribute in a project that had a big sustainable impact in the three pillars: environmental, economic and social. In the end, it turned to be one of the best experiences I have ever had in my life.
Challenges and learnings
Becoming part of a well-established team for just three months was very challenging. Especially considering the cultural differences and working approaches. However, this was turned into a point to learn from. Becoming more flexible and proactive when developing the project.
During three months, I had the chance of getting to know local NGOs, stablishing partnerships, and discover rural areas. I would say that the most grateful experience was to meet the end users, get invited to their houses and learn from them. You get involved in a culture that it is completely different to yours; you go to another country to contribute with a community that already has their practices and we lack knowledge about them. Therefore, we, as designers, need to observe, analyse and understand the culture and the people we are going to design with and for.
The importance of “boundary objects”. CREATE FOR AND WITH USERS
Participatory design was our main driver during the project. We developed participatory research and co-designing games in order to co-create solutions for and with the users.
When working in a project abroad, there are many factors to be considered that differ from our daily life. Culture, language, practices… All of these, needed to be understood before trying to make any change on the cooking stoves.
In order to get a better understanding, we used design games. These kinds of tools helped to start conversations and create a “middle ground” where the language was not a strong boundary any longer. Another important factor of our project concerns the need to not only work with the end users, but with all the stakeholders that collaborated, in that way creating a comprehensive analysis and solution.
A life experience
Working in situations where you can see people living under completely different conditions than what we are used to, also bring you the opportunity of having a life experience. During our field trip, we met people affected by the earthquake, we saw kids walking plenty of km to go to school, families living in bad conditions… and all of that made us think about how we can make a positive impact in the world."