Exploring the Endless Possibilities of Simplicity

On 24 and 25 May the Centre for Frugal Innovation in Africa (CFIA) attended and co-organised the Amsterdam Live Event of What Design Can Do. CFIA collaborated with Philips Design in setting up a workshop focused on Frugal Design Thinking, wherein the coming together of design and frugal innovation was investigated.

In a full house, Elsie Onsongo (CFIA) and Simona Rocchi (Philips Design) presented on the theoretical approaches and the practical implementations of frugal design. In a context with little (access to) resources, one has to be creative with whatever is at hand. Frugal innovation can in this setting be interpreted as a mind-set, turning scarcity into opportunity. Philips has implemented this way of thinking, for instance in designing a High Risk Pregnancy toolkit. This toolkit focuses on pregnant women and helps them in determining their own and their baby’s health. Another, more comprehensive, example are the Philips Community Life Centres. These centres are a community’s central point in receiving primary health care, but performs a variety of adjacent functions at the same time.

Participants, mostly designers, were then challenged to innovate in low resource settings. On the topics of food, water, lighting, school facilities and transport, solutions were sought for resource scarcity in terms of electricity, materials or infrastructure. However, participants learned that local knowledge provides a well of problem solving abilities. Also, an innovation should never be copied and pasted from another context. That was the biggest take away of the workshop: there is no one-size-fits-all solution. In these contexts, you have to work together, learn and engage in order to find truly sustainable solutions.

Thanks to all who made this workshop a success!  

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