A recent project brought us to India to understand its design sensibility and its future evolution for a telecommunications client. India is a country where inequality thrives. High rises for the wealthy side by side with hutments for blue collar workers; 4 generations under one roof, modern beside traditional and so on. No other country has this level of inequality in the world.
However, since we wanted to understand the future of India we needed to go beyond current day understanding of inequality. Some preliminary desk research led us to a social enterprise in Mumbai.
Tucked away in an old warehouse, working with one old PC, a Wi-Fi connection and an old telephone; are the offices where people work tirelessly in the humid weather of Mumbai.
They work to collect clothes, stationery, toys that people from the cities may have no use of. These are slowly sorted and eventually made available to people in villages. And this is where the organization presented us a new outlook. Rather than work on an age old ‘giver-taker’ unequal relationship; the organization tries to equalize the relationship. So villagers have to identify a common social issue e.g. building bridges and work to build it in exchange for what is collected from the city.
The social enterprise gave us a completely different view of inequality in India, how its nature is changing and what the future interpretation of equality/inequality in India can be.
Too often in research projects, we tend to take a narrow and focused view on the specific target audience or issue at hand. We forget about how research can be structured to bring about a more inspirational and forward looking perspective to the issue.
New perspectives do not emerge serendipitously. They have to be carefully built in. They can be found in many different ways. Here are a few:
There are many different ways to enable inspirational learning during the research journey. We just need to plan and let go of our tunnel vision. That is when change begins.
“The unexamined life is not worth living.”