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Title: Designers in international development : a reflection on designing Gambian energy futures
Author: Schiffer, Anne
ISNI:       0000 0004 6060 0366
Awarding Body: Queen's University Belfast
Current Institution: Queen's University Belfast
Date of Award: 2016
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In recent years there has been an increase in designers working in international development. Whilst a shift away from consumer oriented design to supporting 'the other 90%’ is morally commendable, it has also been criticised as a new form of colonialism. Specifically focusing on issues of power and representation, this research aims to critique the role of designers in international development to help answer how designers can appropriately engage in this context. Design literature provides many examples to inspire others to participate in international development, however, an honest self-critique, that confronts personal shortcomings and design failures, is largely missing (e.g. Smith, 2007 & 2011; Pilloton, 2009; AfH, 2006). As such, valuable lessons are not shared, leaving designers to learn by trial and error as they engage with potentially vulnerable communities for the first time. The critique of designers working in international development is based on designing energy strategies in the Gambian settlement of Kartong. The research employs an action research framework that combines phases of action described as immersion, mapping and co-design with corresponding phases of reflection. The latter borrows concepts from development literature, including reflexivity and positionality, to reflect on issues of power and representation. The research demonstrates the potential for Western designers to contribute to local development, including sustainable energy systems, if they are willing to engage with communities as experts on tap, not on top. This requires human-centred design to bring synthesis to outward focused action (design) and inward focused reflexion (reflection). In the specific geographical context of The Gambia, the research’s original contributions include anthropological knowledge about Kartong’s energy culture, methods for mapping the local energy metabolism, a reflexive approach to mapping, the addition of positionality by association in factors that influence social status, and the inclusion of expatriates in discussions on development brokerage.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available