Getting Started With Designing in Social Development: Part 1

Between the logical and the creative halves of the brain there lies the commonness of generating thoughts, understanding and cognition. This commonness in practice brings the person to be unique in his/her approach, expression and response. This uniqueness if designed to change the social evils around us, then we could place millions of innovations to tackle hundreds of prevailing problems. Designing for Social Innovation is the interaction between people that takes responsibility for positive, systemic impact. It takes place within the communities and systems it’s working with, not outside them. Here the grassroots organisation plays an important role in hosting the community change development process.

Creative and logic parts of our brain
Creative and logical parts of our brain. Photo Credits: Shutterstock

This is an experiential-based learning, sharing and designing story of me facilitating a session with the social development leaders of my Host Organization, Srijan Foundation. Srijan Foundation is the grassroots level organization that works in the communities for the social issues around women empowerment and children rights. Let’s begin this series of a journey into Designing for Social Development through a basic definition of what is a design.

“Designing is an art of understanding, cognition and expression. This starts with a simple mistake and travels to being a silent ambassador of innovation.”

̴Shashi Kumar

The Need

I strongly believe in the saying by Johann Kaspar Lavater “He alone is an acute observer, who can observe minutely without being observed.” To practice this, I keep my senses active to observe and empathetically listen from my ecosystem. Since the very initial days into the engagements with my host Srijan Foundation, I have learnt a lot from the people, processes and field engagements. Into this, with my keen observation, I found that people at Srijan Foundation have a deep connection with the purpose and field implementation.

But they find difficulties in the expression of their ideas through the form of regular documentation, designing and sharing of works effectively. A few of the challenges they face include making structures for writing, sample design demonstrations, lack of feedbacks, no handholding support to try innovations and many more. All this converge towards making documentation and designing a tough and time-taking task, leading to either less designing or no designing.

Social development designers can play a catalytic role in society with frameworks to discover, define, develop and deliver for the social problems prevailing around them. They must be grounded to the people’s needs with the approach of collaborative contribution in disruption to the status quo. The social design should help the practitioner to become mindful of their role in society, to design for self-expression to ease the common understanding & possibilities to bring about social change.

The Planning

In some of the discussions with my supervisor Swapan Manna and guide Rajiv Ranjan, they praised my creative writing skills, designing and technology-enabled work. Also, they highlighted developing and have a session with some of the project team heads. This exactly matched my interest and passion to design a session and facilitate it among team members for effective documentation and introduction to designing through Canva- an online designing tool.

Thereafter I planned a demonstration facilitation session with the following objectives to serve:

  1. Establish set the significance of content designing and effective documentation.
  2. Introduction to Canva- online (web and app-based) designing tool.
  3. Demonstration of designing online with live explanation, tips and solving queries.
An infographic about the session.
A detailed infographic about the session for sharing among the participants for overview. Picture Credit: Shashi Kumar

With this, I developed the following session resources: A session infographic, online Google Meet Invitation, session presentation, few self-made design samples and feedback Google forms to assess the efficiency and participation.

The Session

Post my planning and session content development, Mrs Pooja, President of Srijan Foundation invited the core team members, every Unit In-charge, Project Coordinators and team members responsible for documentation from the organisation. With the assignment, I gave pre-work to the participants to share their best-designed document, report, presentation or any piece.

Session invitation for participants.
The invitation poster for the participants for the “Getting Started With Designing” session.                            Picture Credits: Shashi Kumar

Then finally on April 12th, 2021 the session was started with an engaging introduction (sharing their name, the associated project with location, choosing a design from the presented samples and giving a small reason behind) round among the 18 organizational leaders. Then I started the introduction with the definition, noted the challenges the participants faced while designing, the purpose, the journey of designing and the introduction of Canva. The user-friendliness, effectiveness and tools available in the Canva tool were highlighted through demonstration of live sample designing. After this, I took questions and tried to resolve everyone’s queries. This was followed by consolidation of the session through discussing the way forward for the leaders.

Post the session, the participants gave their feedback through Google form. The session was quite interactive, activity-based and everyone decided to design an effective document by the coming week. The suggestions and the feedback are highlighting the fact that they found this worth applying into actions for better designing.

A snap from the session on Designing hosted on Google meet.
A snap showing few organisational leaders of Srijan Foundation participating in a session for designing hosted on Google Meet. Photo Credits: Shashi Kumar and Srijan Foundation

“Shashi, first of all, thank you very much for taking the Canva and Documentation session to the participants in a very simple, live and lovely manner. We greatly appreciate your creativity and innovation in technology. We have received responses from the people that are quite positive, especially it will get you blasted from the feedback form responses.”

̴Rajiv Ranjan Sinha, Manager (Programs), Srijan Foundation

The Follow-up and Way Forward

Post the designing session, I mailed the participants package including the resources developed for the session and useful external links to refer to. The team members had discussions with me for the next couple of days to seek support in their practice for designing and have also shared a few of their designs with me to review. In a way forward, I have initiated steps to register the organization profile on Canva Pro (under free for Non-profit’s initiative of Canva). This will surely support the organization to sustain the designing efforts and work in teams to effectively design their social development activities.

Consolidation of way forward benefits of Designing in Canva
Consolidation highlights the way ahead benefits for designing in Canva.                                            Picture Credits: Shashi Kumar

It has been an honour to get a chance to facilitate a session on “Getting Started with Designing” among the senior leaders and professionals of my host organization Srijan Foundation. Being passionate about designing and with my role as a strategic initiatives consultant, I always look for possibilities to empower people around me with the skills while enhancing mine and demonstrations. I am delighted and happily satisfied with the experience of lovely facilitation.

References

1. “Is Design Just for Products, Buildings and Services: An Introduction to Social Design.” YourStory.Com, 24 Apr. 2019, https://yourstory.com/2019/04/an-introduction-to-social-design/amp.

Shashi is serving as an American India Foundation (AIF) Clinton Fellow with Srijan Foundation in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand. For his fellowship project, he is developing strategic initiatives to inform women farmers about various models and organic farming to increase production and ensure household-level food and nutrition security through better income and livelihood opportunities. Shashi was born in Aurangabad, Bihar, and brought up in Jaduguda, in Jamshedpur, an uranium township of India. He completed his schooling in Computer Science from the Central School. He graduated in Mass Communication in order to connect with rural people. During his studies, he enjoyed learning about photography, documentary making, advertising, public relations, rural development and new media. With this, he started the Garib Samachar initiative with three peers to make social documentaries of communities on varied social issues. He served as a Gandhi Fellow in the Transformation of Aspirational District Programme of NITI Aayog in Begusarai, Bihar. This equipped him with proper professional skills, capacity building, and provided him with a platform to work on quality education. He supported 129 government schools in two block-level education departments through capacitive building of block officers, cluster coordinators, head masters, teachers and community on more than 6 school processes. Later he was selected for a special project to support the Jehanabad district administration in documentation and strategy creation for Jal Shakti Abhjiyan under the guidance of the District Magistrate. After the successful completion, Shashi released a self-made documentary about Jal Shakti Abhiyan Jehanabad by Shri Barun Mitra, Ad. Secretary, Defence Production with Jehanabad DM and district administration. He wants to serve communities in their development (physical, cognitive, social, and spiritual) process and public policy to witness the change. He wants to promote stories of change through the means of storytelling and social documentaries. He believes in the power of stories to transform lives in the context of India.

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