Personal reflections on the remote resilience project (April 2020 – August 2020)

Anonymized quote and photograph of participant by Tazama Media, September 2020

As I prepare to speak on Tuesday morning at a conference being organized online, I was moved by my review of the materials gathered during last year’s rapid remote resilience project to reflect on my personal impressions of the project. Over and above anything else, over the past week I have found myself moved close to tears, yet the emotions are joyous. I had no idea how the experimental project would work out when I started, and I’d encourage the young team of facilitators on the ground by saying we were providing a hot meal with meat and a cash grant and a bucket of cleaning supplies, we couldn’t fail the mamas if our participatory sessions fell flat. The quote above captures it all.

This past week, I’ve been looking over the just completed telephone survey following up with our participants 9 months after the intervention ended last August. I can see the results – they’re not always obvious, and some concepts failed but the sense of joy also came from the lead facilitator informing me that they’d innovated on the ground with the tools I’d provided them when they found that the concept wasn’t gaining traction. They would not have thought to this if I had not devolved agency for planning and executing the implementation of the conceptual project design to them. In the rush of completing the project after the prototype testing and iteration with the team, none had brought this adjustment to the content of the participatory session up with me.

I discovered it in the follow up survey transcripts when I found a significant majority of the participants mentioning the tool’s usefulness in enabling them to plan and to save all through this difficult year. Even those groups whose content stream did not contain the introduction of this tool. It is changing the way I think about the tool and its applicability, if indeed it managed to gain the traction that it did, and was so enthusiastically adopted. I’m also wondering out loud if concepts without a tangible anchor in the real world context of the participants themselves or without a means to relate to their daily practices and mindset are more challenging to grasp and contextualize?

The combination of tool and concept that the facilitator team came up with based on their own experience of running the participatory sessions and their evaluation of how the content was received by the participants is probably something that may not have struck me if I had been present. As Felix, our lead innovation facilitator, remarked when we reflected together on the project last Friday, there were times when the facilitator team was convinced of the value of an approach or new practice but the participants pushed back vociferously that it didn’t make sense or it would not work. They then found a way to convince them by using evidence provided by a micro-experiment conducted together with the participants to show them the beneficial outcome of the activity.

Here though, the team could see that the more established group of traders (B2B) would also benefit from a tool that I’d only introduced in the content stream for the B2C less established trader groups, and that the advanced planning approach intended for them was challenged by worldview and mindset common to them all. I do not share that common worldview with the facilitators and the participants who are all from the same neighbourhoods and communities. It strikes me that I must explore this difference in approach by the facilitators some more. How were they distinguishing the resistance to a novel idea that required empirical evidence to convince the participants to explore adopting it versus when a novel concept failed to gain traction enough to provide any value?

All in all, there is much food for thought here on the role of design methodology and approaches in the context of development, and, I’d argue, how we describe development in the 21st century.


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What is social design?

Social design is an emerging stream of design that is still finding its space and boundaries (Chen et al., 2016; Koskinen, 2016; Markussen, 2017). Markussen (2017) argues against Manzini’s (2015) depiction of the ‘social’ in social design implying that it only applies to situations where people are poor or marginalized or recovering from a natural disaster. He makes that point that social design, based on his analytical framework (Markussen, 2017), is relevant for people regardless of their class or economic circumstances, and that a natural disaster need not have to impact them in order for a small, humble design intention to attempt a decisive qualitative change in their circumstances.

Koskinen and Hush (2016) do not confine the bounds of social design to only the micro or meso level as explicitly as Markussen (2017) has done but approach the analysis of different types of social design from the scale of the way the design intention is scoped, eg. “Utopian”; “Molecular”; and “Sociological” social design. Here, Utopian describes the kinds of massive change visions of societal transformation that would be exemplified by projects such as Massive Change by Bruce Mau or the earlier era’s Fullerine visions. As an outcome of one of these grand social visions, the National Institute of Design whose emergence and design is based on a white paper by Charles and Ray Eames in the 1950s, I am making a note to myself here to come back one day and analyse where NID fits within these frameworks of social design.

“Molecular” design, as described by Koskinen and Hush (2016) best fits within Markussen’s (2017) analytical framework which in turn serves to help distinguish between social innovation, social entrepreneurship, and social design. I cannot disagree with his point that social design is best attempted at the molecular level, however, over time, the potential exists within the scope of social design outcomes for them to scale, albeit in a manner that diverges from how impact at scale is attempted in social innovation or by social entrepreneurs. For example, if one introduces a custom designed tool for planning expenses that meets the needs and constraints of a selected group of vegetable vendors in Nairobi’s slums, and they find it useful enough to share it with others in their social networks, then it has organically scaled as it demonstrated its value within that social milieu.

What also caught my attention was Koskinen’s (2016) point that the object (of social design) is the social – social structures, processes, and forms of action – rather than a social problem. From my own perspective of evolving and developing both research methodology and protocol as my own understanding of the target audience and their operating conditions increased over the years, Koskinen’s object of social design clearly describes an approach for design research that must inform design of interventions and programmes with social implications in complex societal systems.

That is, if the object of the social in social design is to address design aiming at the social structures, processes, and forms of action, even at the micro level for a confined group or community (Markussen, 2017), some amount of research is required beforehand for effective design. It cannot all be done in a participatory manner at all stages of knowledge generation and development but instead, as one’s point of view moves around the social system being documented one’s methodology changes in response to one’s distance or proximity to the system.

Taking the newly emergent definitions, both broadly scoped and open ended such as offered by Koskinen and Hush (2016) or more narrowly scoped, such as that which fits within Markussen’s (2017) framework, it seems as though this new social design is something I have already been a part of since its inception – mentioned by many as being a result of the financial crisis of 2008 – and must scope my space within its attempts to bound itself.

An easy answer, as always, is “social design for humanitarian purposes” but that is the problem which my own body of work has always addressed as the barrier to good design. Here, because I’m practicing my picky academic worldview, I’d define good design as which is able to lower the barriers to the adoption of its output, minimize the dropout rate if its a programme, and create value for the end-users or the adopters of the design, depending on who is the real end user here.

This post is less than 800 words long, and unlike any previous post I’ve written that’s been based analysing literature, I did not need to refer to any of the journal papers until looking up Koskinen’s (2016) specific words used to describe the object of social design. That’s because it had particularly caught my attention from the way it reflected the work I’ve been doing within informal economic ecosystems. I feel I’ve found my way to connect with my Core77 avatar of long ago.



Chen, D. S., Cheng, L. L., Hummels, C., & Koskinen, I. (2016). Social design: An introduction. International Journal of Design, 10(1), 1-5.

Koskinen, I., & Hush, G. (2016). Utopian, molecular and sociological social design. International Journal of Design, 10(1), 65-71.

Koskinen, I. (2016). The Aesthetics of Action in New Social Design. In Proceedings of DRS 2016 International Conference: Future-Focused Thinking.” Proceedings of DRS (Vol. 1).

Markussen, T. (2017). Disentangling ‘the social’ in social design’s engagement with the public realm. CoDesign, 13(3), 160-174.

Manzini, E. (2015). Design, when everybody designs: An introduction to design for social innovation. MIT Press

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The 5D’s of BoP Marketing: Touchpoints for a holistic, human-centered strategy

Original version published January 2009 in Core77 – as you will note, it requires an overhaul of the details to make it more robust against the passage of time

Progress in the social mobile field will come only when we think more about best practices in the thinking and design of mobile projects and applications, rather than obsessing over the end products themselves. By then most of the damage has usually already been done. In my experience, many social mobile projects fail in the early stages. Lack of basic reality-checking and a tendency to make major assumptions are lead culprits, yet they are relatively easy to avoid. ~ Dominic Basuto

I would argue that this observation can be applied for any product or service meant for the BoP in the developing world, not just for the mobile industry. So how can we apply this understanding in order to design strategies to serve these untapped markets far more successfully?

Buying behaviour and decision-making criteria imply that those in the lower income strata—particularly in the developing world—are not ‘consumers’ but in fact extremely careful ‘money managers’ for whom an expense is often an investment whose return must be maximized.

The tacit mandate for companies interested in the BoP market is that your product or service must either fill an ‘unmet’ need (of which the poor have many), or provide a way for them to enhance their livelihood or quality of life. Why else would they divert their limited and hard-earned cash for your product or service? So the fundamental consideration before design would be to focus on the benefit to the BoP: Is there an opportunity for social or economic development?

Next, the solution must be well designed—contextually relevant, appropriate, and of course, affordable. But the best designed product or service in the world will not sell if your customer is unable to find it. Since logistics and transportation is as much of an infrastructural challenge in the developing world, distribution becomes critical in ensuring the availability of the product. The entire supply chain might have to be built from scratch.

Once you’ve made the right product and got it out to where its needs to be, are your customers aware of its existence, what benefits it may provide for them, and the reasons why they should think about purchasing it? Is there a demand for this product, or can one be created? Does the value proposition of your offer resonate with the value system and worldview of those at the BoP?

And finally, the whole offering must cohesively hinge upon preserving and ensuring the dignity of your new customers. The poor are not looking for handouts, but rather opportunities; providing them with such products or services through a filter of ‘charity’ or ‘social work’ serves no one.

Our work in the field observing those at the base of the pyramid had led us to conclude that their life of adversity—managing in challenging conditions—evidenced a very different value system and worldview from what is commonly considered mainstream consumer culture. Their buying behaviour and decision-making criteria imply that those in the lower income strata—particularly in the developing world—are not ‘consumers’ but in fact extremely careful ‘money managers’ for whom an expense is often an investment whose return must be maximized. They tend to be risk averse and seek greater value from their purchases.

So an integrated strategy—one that looks beyond the design of the product or service for the other 90% but also takes distribution, demand, development and dignity into account while touching the core values of the BoP customer—could be considered a framework for best practice.

Let us look at each of these elements in turn:

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Time to update the 5D’s framework for inclusive business design after 12 years

Two things have happened since I first published The 5D’s of BoP Marketing: Touchpoints for a holistic, human-centered strategy in Core77 back in January 2009.

One, Core77 overhauled their site design and broke my article rather badly. Its layout and formatting makes it virtually incomprehensible.

On the other hand, the 5Ds framework has apparently held up robustly over the past decade. I just finished working with the Inclusive Business Network (GIZ) to review their incorporation of it in their new online course curriculum.

These two factors, taken together, make it imperative for me to work on an overhaul of the article – surely the examples are outdated by now, and probably makes sense for me now to think of preparing it for journal publication.

Western Kenya, January 2016. Photo by Niti Bhan

I’ve used it before for client company assessments for products targeting the lower income markets in East Africa and it works pretty well, if I say so myself ;p I bring up this point because it strikes me that I have empirical evidence of its viability and feasibility in the field, and only its desirability has been a pleasant surprise.

I will evaluate the parts of it that make sense on the blog. And, I’ll republish the original as well for easier readability.

Posted in African Consumer Market, Base of the Pyramid, Consumer Behaviour, Design, Emerging Markets, Frameworks, Informal & Flexible, Innovation Planning, Marketing, Perspective, Retail in Africa, Strategy, Sub Saharan Africa, User research | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Learning to think about the process instead of the outcome

As a practitioner of long standing, I have been accustomed to emphasizing the focus of my analysis and synthesis on the content generated by my application of the design methods and process rather than on the process and tools themselves beyond the adaptation to better fit for purpose in relatively more complex and challenging contexts such as the informal economic system of East Africa.

That is, while internally the team might indeed spend a lot of time and effort upfront in the preparation and planning of the fieldwork, rarely does the client care about the nuances of the process and its implications. They are purchasing the outcomes.

Now, in academia, I am challenged to think about the process in great depth and detail, and how it relates to the body of literature on methodology.

Today, it feels like a daunting task.

How do I step back from the results of my work and distance myself from the outcomes, accustomed as I am to generating novel knowledge in little known contexts?

How do I distance myself from what I have long been accustomed to immersing myself in – the commercial practices of informal economic systems, for example – and pivot not only away from it in terms of distance but also step back at an angle to reflect on what I did, why I did it, and for what purpose?

Its not a linear pivot but one that must occur on two planes.

I’ve got to step back from the work far enough to see the process and at the same time I have to move away a little to side to discern the reasons for doing what I did to the process to make it work better in contexts it was not designed for in the first place.

The last time I tried a multi-scalar application of the design process was for the Dutch Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Economic Affairs (as it was known back then) in September 2012. I applied the human centered design research approach to map their implicit design process for implementing public private partnerships for sustainable agricultural value chains, and then used the same process as the evaluation metric by which to evaluate the gaps in the current approach in order to improve its human-centeredness (see Bhan and Doorneweert, 2013).

I felt the same way I am doing now. Daunted by the challenge. What had I gone and promised? On paper?

By jeroen meijer of jam visueldenken amsterdam

It took Jeroen Meijer, who had studied Industrial Design at TU Delft and now practiced as a visual sensemaker, to point out to me in the throes of anxious panic that what I was experiencing was normal to every designer who ever took up a new and challenging project. Of course we had no idea what we were doing, it was innovation, goddammit!

He taught me to trust the process. And the process, I have now learnt, if its going right, includes a momentary attack of panic stricken self flagellation – “what was I thinking?” “what am I doing?” “I have no idea what I’m doing here and how I’m going to get from A to B?” “Oh god, I’m lost, I’ve promised B and I’m lost between A and some dark and dangerous forest of inexperienced ignorance.”

I’m writing this out to remind myself that even if I have no idea what I’m doing, I’ll work it out somehow and then blog triumphantly from point B, going “Oh look at what we managed to do when we had no idea how on earth we were going to do it somewhere in the middle of the process”.

Trusting the process can be more important in the experience of the moment that remaining focused only on the outcome. This is one situation where keeping an eye on the goalposts while your feet are fumbling to dribble the ball can trip you up. This is counter-intuitive to the most popular bits of advice on never losing sight of your goals.

If you’re experienced in the process and the outcomes of the process are each and every time very different from each other, then trust your muscle memory of your hands on practical knowledge of implementing the process and the tools so familiar in your grasp that you barely acknowledge their existence.


Schon, D. A. (1984). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action (Vol. 5126). Basic books.

Bhan, N., & Doorneweert, R.B. (2013, December). Using the methods designers use as aids to thinking: The case of public-private partnerships in sustainable agricultural value chain development. In 2013 IEEE Tsinghua International Design Management Symposium (pp. 277-283). IEEE.

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“The craftsman not only owns the creation but owns the entire process”

The title is a mild adaptation from Samim’s blogpost. Which, in turn, is a snippet taken from a tweet. We pass our words around the world when they capture our imagination. This is the beauty of the interwebz we mustn’t forget whilst navigating the messes made in recent years through the proliferation of profit seeking attention hijacks.

I’d once spent an entire day looking for the perfect quote on craftsmanship, only to give up empty handed. Discovering this today on Samim’s blog was an unexpected gift, and far far better than any conceptualization of craftsmanship my imagination could conceive.

The key to creative ownership lies in owning the process, not just the outcomes. It is that which empowers you with the knowledge that you can create again and again and again, and make something beautiful emerge out of nothing. That the process by which to do so is within your experienced grasp. That all it takes is to initiate the process and creation starts.

How joyful to know that the seed lies within you. You are never afraid to walk away. You do not fear your errors. You can throw it all out and start over. Owning the entire process means owning all of creation. For someone could steal your creation but they cannot steal your ownership of your process from you. Voila! infinity is in the palm of your hand.

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Preparing the ground for the next steps

Artist @mavis_prplx

I’ve been working on a paper, as I’m sure any regular readers still left after all my literature reviews, would have noted. And the meat of it is written out, it will just require more writing and rewriting to get it into shape. For the past couple of weeks or so, I’ve found myself slipping back to the daily habits from last year – more twitter, less blogging, and when I do write, its only work related. Far too many silent interludes, and not enough poetry. A red flag.

Mind you, I’ve begun a parallel journal where I use pencil or pen on paper but its not quite the same thing as the music of the keyboard is missing in that space. After all the efforts invested in this personal journey since March, I’d hate to let the threads slip out of my hands simply because I’d allowed myself to mindlessly fall back into old habits and the daily patterns of the past. Neither do I want to craft a piece of formal writing such as a literature review simply to keep the blog flowing.

This morning I feel as though I’m on a threshold but not quite a liminal space.

If I don’t make the efforts now to recognize and pause and reorient and then move forward with purpose, I fear that I’ll wake up at the end of the year and find myself back in the soundless silence of old. After the momentum of change in March when I picked up the blog again, and the pace set in exploring thinking and writing in April, these past few days of increasing silence are concerning.

It is not enough to simply seek the rhythm and the music of the words anymore, as those pieces of writing now feel like embroidered borders tacked on to renew an aging silk sari. Let me put my mind to this and see what I can do.

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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.

Sterk, M., van de Leemput, I. A., & Peeters, E. T. (2017). How to conceptualize and operationalize resilience in socio-ecological systems?. Current opinion in environmental sustainability, 28, 108-113

Specifically, Sterk et al (2017) state that ‘engineering’ resilience  focuses on efficiency, constancy and predictability, and considers spatial and temporal system dynamics as perturbations to an otherwise stable system. Whereas, ‘ecological’ resilience focuses on persistence, change and unpredictability and, considers system dynamics in time and space as inherent properties of ecosystems.

Clearly, then, the informal urban fresh produce ecosystem is an adaptive, management system (Sterk et al, 2017) and its resilience strategies focuses on managing the effects of unpredictability and change, with persistence. Its practices fit within the definition of ‘ecological’ resilience as opposed to ‘engineering’ resilience. This makes sense since the informal economic system is an organic human one rather than an artificial engineered one. Also from Sterk et al (2017), the below quote applies,

In the context of social–ecological systems, resilience is related to the degree to which the system is capable of self-organization, learning and adaptation (Cummings and Peterson, 2017).

since food systems are intextricably linked to ecological systems, and thus, the human interaction makes the informal food system a social-ecological system given the lack of institutions and industrialization of more formal food systems of the global North.

“[Thus]… resilience is defined as the capacity of a social-ecological system to deal with change and meanwhile continue to develop. This broader view of the concept moves beyond viewing humans as external drivers of ecosystem dynamics but it rather looks at how humans are part of, and interact with the Earth system (Cumming and Peterson, 2017; Kates et al, 2001).” (Sterk et al, 2017)

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On the other hand

Enough time has passed that I must remind myself not to forget to continue my search for magic in the rhythm of my word craft, nor the music of the keyboard. On one hand, I cannot deny that writing and thinking deeply and analytically have begun to flow easily in a manner that I have not experienced with any degree of pleasure in quite a few number of years.

On the other hand, when I look back at the recent writing on the blog and the walls of academic text, I’m moved to recall my own internal journey of discovery that I’d begun a couple of months ago. I should not lose myself in scientific writing to the point where I’ve forgotten how to ponder and reflect as a human being.

In terms of progress, I feel that my vocabulary is still lacking and it might not return on its own. I’ll probably have to refresh my own memory through addition of vocabulary dense material. Right now, its Dorothy Sayer’s Gaudy Night, which is full of grammatical constructions I’d forgotten and word choices unused by the simplified English of globalized internet content.

On the other hand, more and more of my ability to stare into space and idly reflect upon things is returning, although a certain degree of disruption still remains. It feels as though the internet is settling back down again after the upheavals of the past year or so. Staying up late reading a book is also something that I hadn’t done in a long time, it feels like.

What this tells me is that I still need to work on disrupting the rhythm of my days and reconfiguring my daily habits – screen time, for example – towards creating more idle bandwidth for thoughts to expand and fill the space so created. Only then will I be able to arrive at a sense that I’ve recovered my lost self.

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Contextualizing design of remote interventions for local food systems resilience strategies in literature

I began my academic explorations on this blog a couple of months ago with a post on the power of sensemaking to transform the context and frame of reference, and thus provide a means for empowering one to make decisions for a decidedly unknown near future, where increased uncertainty and volatility have become the norm.

I came across a very interesting paper by Bednar and Welch (2014) who touch upon this aspect, although approaching it from a different disciplinary lens and focus. I thought to read and reflect upon it anyway, to see what I could learn.

“… it is important for actors to take ownership and control over their own change process (see e.g. Friis, 1995). A system that will be perceived as meaningful to particular people requires their input as co-creators in design, and consequently cannot be designed for them by anyone else, however, expert. Thus, the paper takes a critical systemic perspective: one which seeks to support emancipation of individuals to control their own analyses in a context of dynamic complexity (Klein, 2007; Bednar and Welch, 2008)”. ~ Bednar and Welch (2014)

Yes, this is so. My only challenge, as compared to theirs, was to remotely facilitate this analyses in a context of dynamic complexity, through third parties on the ground. The rest of the task I faced is as they articulate it here. My problem framing, when designing the intervention for actors in the last mile of urban food systems last year, was as follows:

If indeed the informal urban food system’s last mile actors supplying the flow of fresh vegetables into the informal settlements of Nairobi were to grasp the nature of their challenges after the impact of Covid and distinguish internal from external ones, along with some introduced tools to facilitate their sensemaking and planning, they could craft their own roadmaps to enhance their own resilience and recovery as the pandemic played out over time. (Bhan, forthcoming)

Bednar and Welch (2014) take a sociotechnical perspective in this paper, as they argue and illustrate below:

If the business practice itself is the activity, the analysis is undertaken to improve understanding of that domain of practice. Change-related inquiry is about developing two new understandings – of the activity (domain of practitioners) and of the analysis (domain of professional analyst or “change magician”). This could be described as facilitated socio-technical analysis (see Figure 1).

The informal wholesalers (B2B), in particular, were in Problem space 1, per the diagram by Bednar and Welch (2014) above. However, instead of ‘change magicians’ or analysts (problem space 2) I worked with ‘innovation facilitators’ to support participants with their exploration of their tacit knowledge. Because we’d applied the principles of participatory design in the Scandinavian tradition, we considered the business practitioners (the informal wholesalers, and vegetable vendors) as their own change magicians, imbuing them with the agency to navigate their own sensemaking and change making. Our task was simply to introduce tools for sensemaking and to facilitate their process. The only role for expert analysis was in the design of the sensemaking tools based on deep knowledge of the operating environment and commercial practices prevalent in the informal trade system in East Africa.

Bednar and Welch (2014) go on to review (from a cybernetic perspective) the need for a socio-technical toolbox to support development of these understandings, and discuss issues relating to use of such a toolbox in a context of dynamic complexity in the balance of their paper. They state:

Change is a reflection of organizational choice, and the only unique asset an organization owns is the know-how embodied in its members (Prusak and Davenport, 1998; Nonaka, 1991). These issues concern complexity, ambiguity and uncertainty in organizational living and therefore require to be examined through a lens of contextual inquiry. This means that an approach of “change management” would be inadequate to the task and instead what is required is a change magician to facilitate a design process. […] any suggestion that organizational change can be planned and managed according to entirely rational principles must be open to question, as has long been recognized by, e.g. Simon (1947, 1991), Lindblom (1959) and Vickers (1965). All of these writers disqualified the idea of rational choices and described instead much messier heuristic approaches. (Bednar and Welch, 2014)

This describes our context and situation on the ground last year, where due to the pandemic, the complexity, ambiguity and uncertainty increased. The sequential workshops were designed as a form of facilitated contextual inquiry, beginning with a session on “let’s identify all the challenges and impacts we’ve faced since Covid began” through to exploring the role of digitalization and scenarios looking at 3 month, 6 month, and 2 year horizons. The high level aim was to facilitate participants sense of agency to create their own roadmaps of development.

As I read through their conceptual paper, I can see how Bednar and Welch (2014) have done some of the heavy lifting to help me situate the work I completed last year, albeit in a very different context, with perhaps greater uncertainty and complexity, and a measure of volatility and vulnerability.

“…actors need to create for themselves a productive, learning spiral to inform the process of change. This might be achieved by adoption of complex methods of inquiry, making use of a variety of tools. […] These tools lend power to analysis in emancipating individual stakeholders and groups to explore and surface their contextually dependent perspectives. These exercises and interactions can help individuals to explore their own sense-making (Weick, 1995) and surface their tacit understandings of contextual dependencies in work contexts.” (Bednar and Welch, 2014)

These issues of surfacing contextually dependent perspectives and exploring them become even more important in wholly undocumented contexts like the commercial operating environment of informal economy market actors. Here, the ‘change magician’ or expert analyst, to use Bednar and Welch’s term, must become an expert facilitator of sensemaking, building tools to support the actors’ need to create their own learning spiral and process of change, in a manner that fits the constraints of the actors educational and literacy levels.

It is here that I’m rapidly coming to recognize that the tool alone, or the expert toolmaker themselves, might not make the best facilitator, and that intermediaries to bridge the gap between expert knowledge and local context may be required for more efficacious outcomes.

It is important to distinguish between the archetype of a toolset, as conceived by an expert for use generally, and a particular instance of use of that toolset, for which an appropriate system of use is needed for relevance in context, owned and controlled by engaged actors. (Bednar and Welch,2014)

On the other hand, one notes Bednar and Welch’s emphasis (2014) on context of use and the importance and relevance of the context of the operating environment (the specific kitchen, to use their analogy). Whereas, in my body of work, the context itself is predetermined as that of the informal economic system, as prevalent in East Africa. The challenges faced by market entrants or organizations tend to occur when this context is not recognized as relevant or influential enough requiring any kind of mapping or analysis prior to introduction of innovation or interventions, much less expertly designed tools



Bednar, P. M., & Welch, C. E. (2014). Contextual inquiry and socio-technical practice. Kybernetes, 43(9/10), 1310-1318.

Posted in Design, East African Community, Innovation Planning, Kenya, Literature review, Mama Biashara, Perspective, Process, Strategy, Sub Saharan Africa, waymarkers, Work in Progress | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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