Community-based design with the Humanitarian Design Internship in India

A group of 16 undergraduate students travelled to the Indian city Vijayawada in January to take part in the Humanitarian Design Internship.

Students Erica Orfanos, Alexandra Weller and Jessica Edmeads at a rock-cut cave temple in Undavalli. Photo by Annie Howard.

During two weeks of hands-on work experience and village visits, the students undertook team design projects in conjunction with local community partners.

Bachelor of Environments student Erica Orfanos teamed up with fellow students Thomas Huntingford and Brigit Skilbeck to design a project focused on the Tarakarama Nagar community on the banks of the Krishna River.

“We learned that during the monsoon season members of the community were evacuated from their homes and unable to work for an extended period of time,” Ms Orfanos says.

“We saw that many locals used pushcarts to sell products to support themselves and their families. Our group adapted the standard pushcart and created a design that provided temporary housing during the monsoon season, however could be adaptable enough to also support livelihood during this season.”

The group named the design ‘Illubandi’ (‘homecart’ in Telugu) and donated the prototype to a local community member, following consultation with World Vision India, who helped facilitate the internship’s village visits.

The group's Illubandi design project. Photo by Thomas Huntingford.

Ms Orfanos says participating in the internship reinforced the importance of removing biases and prejudices during the design process, which will help inform her future projects.

“I learned three main things from the experience. Firstly, to keep an open mind to a new culture and system. I learned how to be critical during the design process, and finally, to be flexible and adapt a design to be appropriate to the community,” she says.

The collaborative effort to build the prototype on the final night of the internship was one of the highlights, she says, with locals stopping by to give feedback on the design.

“This was a wonderful experience and the highlight of my trip – not to mention the delicious curries, colourful streets and the welcoming people.”

Bachelor of Environments students can learn more about participating in the Humanitarian Design Internship for 2018/2019 at an upcoming information session:

Wednesday 9 May
Room 237, MSD Building