Category Archives: Work in Progress

Linking Recognition to Resilience: Cognitive Justice and the Informal Economy

Soon enough, at some point this year, I’ll have to take a decision about whether to situate my vegetable vendors and informal traders as ‘livelihood’ actors, ekeing out a living by the side of the road, or continue bypassing the literature of poverty as I strive to reinforce their status and role as professional traders […]

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Reflections on my doctoral study: A midpoint review

Earlier this week, I submitted reports and work plans to the doctoral committee, a compulsory requirement – it is a Go/No Go stage where one’s progress on the journey to the PhD is evaluated from the perspective of viability and feasibility of my candidacy, as it stands now. If asked to prepare this work plan […]

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A Synthesis of Sensemaking, from a social design perspective

Vanderlinden and colleagues, (Vanderlinden et al., 2020) –  a globally distributed team of climate scientists – link sensemaking’s capacity to clarify ambiguities for communities facing socio-environmental changes to fostering their agency for adaptation, and consider this transdisciplinary and knowledge-based activity to be a place-based and community-centric exercise. In light of this, and before I proceed […]

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Designed to matter: Social design of the participatory approach to enhance innovation capacity

Chew et al. 2015 introduce their blending of the psychological concept of ‘mattering’ with the theoretical aspects of agency and empowerment, in their paper looking at ICT4D and women micro-entrepreneurs in India. Mattering is an empirically verified and validated concept from the field of social psychology 1. It is defined as the perception that people […]

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Revisiting Design Thinking: Pondering the process and principles

I have not written on design thinking in more than a decade. The era when I’d be cited in Fast Company or Rita Sue Siegel’s handbook on Industrial Design careers is long gone. Which one of these definitions should I use going forward? “Design thinking in business takes this problem solving aspect one step further […]

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A change of perspective and a whole new set of metaphors (Czarniawska, 2008)

“…each excursion into another field of knowledge brings with it things that were embedded in a different type of soil, and it is inevitable that particles of that soil are still clinging to the roots, practically invisible to the new owner. Additionally, a re-embedding into the new soil could produce deviations and hybrids that are […]

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Is it still design that we’re doing or is it simply using the designer’s toolkit?

It was sometime in the Spring of 2002 that I was looking for a metaphorical space that would accommodate me – an engineer, an MBA, with graduate product design education and the sensibilities and eye of a designer. I’d spent the year on a Heinz Foundation Fellowship after my MBA to train with Dr Chris […]

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Understanding Delegation

Less than 10 days ago, I was faced with an unusual problem, one of those which they say are good problems to have.  I found I’d reached the point in my process of development where I had to choose between the perspective held over from a past life along with the skills honed therein, where […]

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One year anniversary of experimenting with design and innovation tools for vegetable vendors in Nairobi’s slums

Felix Omondi, our lead innovation facilitator, reminds me today that its the one year anniversary of the first participatory design workshop held with mama mbogas in Mathare, one of Nairobi’s informal settlements. Categorized by us as the “tomato group” of B2C (business to consumer) vegetable vendors (mama mboga in colloquial swahili), these 8 ladies were […]

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Resilience of informal urban food systems: Does a systems thinking approach make a difference?

Sterk, van de Leemput, and Peeters (2017) help me start off this sensemaking exercise by clearly distinguishing the difference between engineering resilience and ecological resilience with respect to a system. This was useful to establish the direction of exploration for informal urban food systems. Specifically, Sterk et al (2017) state that ‘engineering’ resilience  focuses on […]

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