In June of 2017, I graduated from OCAD University with a Masters of Design in Inclusive Design. Thinking as a designer allows me to see any given problem as a worthwhile challenge. This is a core lens that I use, not only in design but in film and management as well. All problems require an iterative solution process and can always be improved.
Inclusive design builds on the design process by putting emphasis on valuing diversity and individuality. By designing alongside outliers, an inclusive design process results in a design - be it a product, service, or policy - that is more efficient at serving diverse needs.
CASE: UNITY Charity in Northern Alberta
UNITY is a national charity that uses hip hop to improve young people's lives. Ultimately, UNITY aims to create healthier communities across Canada. UNITY visits and works in northern Alberta each year, where there is a greater relative population of indigenous peoples than in the GTA. I used an inclusive design process to make recommendations to UNITY of how they could improve their programming so that it would be more effective and sustaining.
The first step I took was to understand the problem. Research taught me that less than half of indigenous youth under fourteen live with both parents, unemployment for indigenous youth is twice as high as non-indigenous youth in western provinces, and the incarceration of indigenous youth is wildly disproportional. Additionally, by participating in two tours to northern Alberta with UNITY, I was able to gain considerable access to teachers, youth, and community leaders about the effectiveness of hip-hop in improving the lives of indigenous youth.
By taking into account UNITY Charity’s theory of change, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s guidelines, as well as the primary research I was able to conduct, I felt confident in making the following recommendations:
- Allow schools to customize programs
- Adapt evaluation methods for communities with lower literacy levels
- Ensure there are multiple modes of engagement in any given workshop to facilitate diverse needs
- Ensure community is culturally represented in the artist group
- Provide indigenous culture training to all artists working in northern Alberta
- Actively promote originality and individuality
These recommendations would allow for an improved program for indigenous youth, but not only so. These same recommendations would also enhance the program for non-indigenous youth, which proves the value of an inclusive design approach. By focusing on the vulnerable user, the resulting design can have a broader impact. Having had a successful presentation in July of 2017, these recommendations will be soon be shared with all staff in September, along with an inclusive design workshop.
CASE: Virani Law in Evacuated Communities
Virani Law is my brother’s law firm, which he opened specifically to help people who have experienced a house fire or flood. This was inspired by our experience helping my uncle after a devastating fire put four family members in the hospital and took the life of my Uncle Sammy.
After the recent uptick in forest fires and community evacuations, we realized it would be valuable to share our knowledge and empower the homeowner, regardless of whether they needed the law firm’s services.
We began by creating an online resource centre, but learned that an offline version was needed. It quickly went from a folder with loose pages to a stitched booklet with matte pages, which helped make the resource easier to hold on to, more useful in that you could write in it, and it reduced costs by nearly 50%.
The content was tested with several individuals, including past clients, spanning different literacy levels and education levels. We simplified the content into checklists and included empty note pages. We focused on making it easy to use as the people using it would likely be under extreme stress.
This approach, reiteratively engaging the user in the design, has resulted in an effective tool for anyone experiencing a fire or floor. The Red Cross recently solicited us to create and design a package to train volunteers on the basics of accessing home insurance during a wildfire or flood, validating our inclusive design approach.
An Exploration of Youth Unemployment in Hlotse, Lesotho
Facing extreme odds including a high prevalence of HIV, an unpredictable political climate, and significant unemployment, Basotho youth are especially disenfranchised. This master's thesis study used a two-lens kit – the wide-angle of global development and the telephoto lens of inclusive design – to explore youth unemployment in Lesotho. Through interviews with 26 youth in Hlotse about their ambition, challenges, perceived future, and possible supports, light is shed on the themes that matter to them; education, mentorship, employment, entrepreneurship, drugs and alcohol, and governance. This is a first step in enabling youth to co-design solutions for the economy in which they live. Recognizing diversity in positionality between the interviewer and participant and the adoption of an inclusive process to reduce barriers of engagement are each highlighted as facilitators of inclusive ideation. Below is a short video of me presenting the thesis at the OCAD U 3-Minute-Thesis competition. I was fortunate to receive the first prize and audience choice award.