Background: 1000 Dollar from a benefactor enabled a team of university students and slum dwellers to manufacture a water heater that addressed the needs of the community and that they were able to manufacture themselves using (mostly) recycled materials and human centered design. This project took 18 month in total and failed in sustainable implementing the technology into the community because of our ineptitude to grasp the informal power relations within the target community. However, the group was able to learn how to use human centered design within a target community.
Using the crude manual of human centered design by the Ideo design team and learning from various volunteers and the institutions we involved, we researched the needs and community stakeholders and visualized our findings.
After several month and more patience then ever can be asked of university students we created a design space within one of the MIT Uni campus buildings testing and prototyping there as well as out in the community itself.
Identifying one of the few electricians on the main road of the slum, a young and open minded jack of all trades, we involved him heavily in the design process giving him space to fix our mistakes and as a consequence of that take ownership.
Having tested the product with the informal support of the local team of a world leading product testing and product safety agency, we all felt confident to strive for the distribution of the product. However, here is where the project failed. Unable to retain a clear cause for this we think that the informal economy did not like the competition and used informal powerful stakeholders (the family) to repress the future production and distribution out of the community itself.