Comprehensive user insight to improve technologies for development

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Our paper on the PhD research of Annemarie Mink, has been published in International Development Planning Review.

Free downloadable from See also our accompanying web-site


Many of the Design for Development outcomes which are unsuited to the users and their environment are based on poorly defined needs and preferences. Product-design engineers are trained to take the user perspective into account, but not to conduct ethnographic research. Thereby, they have limited time and resources to explore the user context. This paper describes the development of a systemic approach that urges designers to move beyond the investigation of product–user interaction and supports them to efficiently and rigorously explore their potential users’ context and their valued beings and doings. By using this approach, design engineers are guided to make informed design decisions and to improve the accessibility, applicability, acceptance and adoption of the technologies that they develop. To develop this approach, analytic guidance was derived from Sen’s ‘capability approach’, and practical guidance was derived from the domains of product design and rapid ethnography. Design teams using the Capability-Driven Design approach in the field indicated that the approach enabled them to rapidly understand participants’ culture and priorities, supporting them in design decision making and providing them design inspiration.