Addressing second- and third-world poverty is a continuing struggle for philanthropic organizations. Common responses, such as sending financial aid and supplies, can often be “parachute” solutions, which lend help, but do not provide sustainable solutions for countries who cannot support themselves monetarily or in terms of natural resources. At PSFK CONFERENCE LONDON, Johnathan Ford of Pearlfisher explained how designers and creative companies can use low-tech innovations to transform poverty and barren space into an economically sustainable and thriving resource in a community. Citing the work of the Haller Foundation in Mombasa, Kenya, Ford stressed the importance of ethical design within a project or corporation and how this sort of innovation could change perceptions surrounding design and encourage knowledge transfer.
“Releasing Potential” is the underlying theme of the Haller Foundation – working to enfranchise and rebuild slum communities, the group teaches local residents how to develop barren land, grow food, create fish farms and keep perishable food cool without refrigerators. One particuliar innovation combines several of these needs: a sprinkler waters plants that are in a raised bed; the residual water passes through the soil, through small holes into a tank holding fish; the fish feed off of the nutrients of the plants and their droppings, along with excess water, pass into a layer of charcoal and earth; this layer purifies the water, which is fed back to the top of the “machine” through a solar-powered pump, starting the process over again. This sort of process uses recycled or derelict containers, costing the village and designers very little – a wonderful example of design.
Some highlights from the talk:
- Low tech innovation is the future.
- Release potential from freely available resources.
- Today’s commodity is tomorrow’s luxury.
- Big businesses with short-term returns and shareholders squelch the creative process, creating an unrealistic timeline.
- A high level of attention to detail and design experience are crucial to making innovative, sustainable change.
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