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Circular economic service system design for community based flood resilience: Integrating systems design and behavioral science to address a public sector challenge from within

Das, Bhaskarjyoti and Nahar, Praveen (2018) Circular economic service system design for community based flood resilience: Integrating systems design and behavioral science to address a public sector challenge from within. In: Proceedings of RSD7, Relating Systems Thinking and Design 7, 23-26 Oct 2018, Turin, Italy.


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The role of a designer is gradually being believed to be that of a social scientist and a leader who designs or facilitates innovation of newer ecosystems of products, services and systems; developing social capital along with resource effectiveness and economical benefits. The social and environmental imperatives have compelled designers to look beyond satisfying human desires, from merely creating problem-solving products towards focussing equally or more on generating overall well-being in the society — both individual and societal, and thus engender meaningful interactions of users with their surrounding environment through corresponding product-service-systems. As Professor MP Ranjan, a notable design educator blogs, “…(design offerings) are synthesized and developed in such a way that they vibe with the context and add value to the social, geographic and historical situation that is being addressed.”

In current times, emerging world issues like climatic aberration, exponential increase in population, heavy product consumption, it’s post-usage waste generation and poor resource management have been gradually leading to chronic problems of sustainability, such that the vision of a plausible tomorrow questions the mere existence of humans and the symbiotic relationships it share with its surroundings. With multiple causes and its complex interdependencies, these problems are deeply entwined within our lifestyle behaviours, aspirations, desires, social beliefs, and our response to the evolving environment. Shifting from the linear process of resource usage, consumption and disposal, circular economy believes in the core principle of re-circling material resource and preserve existing stock for a sustainable and resource abundant tomorrow. Enabling resource effective ecosystems today by ensuring collaborative usage, shift to renewable sources of energy and improved manufacturing processes and logistic cycles, Design-for-Circular-Economy (DfCE) is one of the first stepping stones towards creating future ecosystems of well-being living.

As a part of an academic applied design research project, this paper explores design of a circular economic service-system to facilitate community based resilience and enable a well-being ecosystem among the annually flood prone communities of the Brahmaputra Valley in the state of Assam, India.
Threatening a sustainable lifestyle and scope for socio-economic development, the villages in the Brahmaputra Valley of Assam, India, experience massive floods annually, leading to basic need deprivation, impoverishment, weakness and extreme social, physiological and cognitive vulnerability. Primary ethnography and design research revealed that being exposed to an annual vulnerability to basic survival needs, accompanied by the absence of adequate and permanent flood resilience systems, these communities have been completely dependent on external aid for relief and rehabilitation.

This dependency, however, has reduced the overall desire and capacity for self-reliance and the community’s resilience to such situations of emergency.

Approaching through holistic design thinking and system oriented design intervention, this project attempts to collaboratively design a service system to facilitate an ecosystem of self-reliance, effective community interactions, resource effectiveness and participatory local innovations for flood-resilient village development.

Understanding and mapping the process of systemic circular design intervention

In order to understand and decipher the methodology and process of thinking and designing holistically, several social design methodologies, community well-being design frameworks, philosophies and narratives were studied to create a design artefact, 10-Q-2-d-i. The tool enabled to evaluate a generated design concept or idea from multi-stakeholder design development perspectives.
Analysing various case studies of circular economic design interventions, a set of circular economic design trends have also been compiled and segregated as idea trigger cards — ‘Design Intervention Cards for Design-for-Circular-Economy (DfCE)’ to engage into participatory design ideations. These cards, as initial design directions, focussed on the design objective of enabling circular economy in a given context and aid designers and design students to channelize concepts generation process.

Exploring circular economic design opportunities for cultivating well-being among the flood prone communities of Assam, India

As primary research and end-user design inquiry, ethnographic research was carried out in three flood-prone areas of Assam to understand the current lifestyle scenarios, the severity of experienced problems, perceptions of well-being and prevalent behavioural biases of the primary stakeholders. Design dimensions for well-being and social sustainability ecosystem generation were mapped to the principles of circular economy in order to generate a system design approach framework. This framework was used to identify the leverage points for design intervention in the contextual system. Subsequently, a trans-disciplinary co-creation workshop was curated for idea generation, concept segregation and collaborative design development.

Contributing to flood-resilient village development: developing a collaborative grain storage and service system through social entrepreneurship

Using the system design framework, a social entrepreneurial model was conceptualized for the flood prone communities of Assam to facilitate and enhance self-reliance of food availability. Collaborative Grain Storage and Service (CGSS) System enables a user family to effective plan their farm-produce consumption patterns, and have on-demand access of food grains during any emergency scenarios like floods. The different service touchpoint implementation strategy was further developed and validated with the users.

Effective implementation of circular economic behaviour today in terms of collaborative or shared services that generate higher numbers of livelihood opportunities, effective user experiences, and aids communities to adapt renewable energy sources that reflect visibly on their household expenditures will make communities and villages in India evolve to a more resource effective system.

Within the contextual constrains, service system design can be approached through stakeholder participation and systemic design methodologies. The paper/presentation highlights how system oriented design can work on complex social problems by creating product-service-systems that enables the stakeholders in their capability-building, addresses local sustainability issues and creates a global implication through its replicability.

Item Type: Conference/Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: System Design, Service Design, Social Entrepreneurship, Social Innovation, Sustainability, Design Democracy, Design for Well-Being, Design for Circular Economy
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Date Deposited: 24 Jun 2019 18:51
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2021 16:16
URI: https://openresearch.ocadu.ca/id/eprint/2701

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