Volunteerism & Design

Sometimes giving of yourself is the best way to understand others. For our most recent project, we’ve embraced volunteerism as a way to get to design concepts.

A big player in the tech world recently challenged Kicker Studio to design around women in Third World and Emerging Markets. They didn’t want to spend a lot of money on research. After all, they had big teams of researchers already involved in statistically relevant studies. At the same time, we all agreed that Kicker would need an intimate understanding of what it means to be a woman living in Third World cultures for our designs to have any relevancy. Just talking to women from those areas would not be enough. We had to experience life there for ourselves. So, we came up with a great solution to our client’s challenge: a series of volunteer trips with Cross Cultural Solutions to various Third World countries across the globe to inspire innovative design solutions.

Villa El Salvador, Lima, Peru

In 2004, I went on a life changing, cultural immersion experience to Lima, Peru, with a non-profit called Cross Cultural Solutions. This wonderful organization sends international volunteers to local country run NGO’s for long- or short-term placements. Volunteer placements vary on local need but tend to be in education, health, or human services. CCS also provides daily activities to provide the volunteer with cultural understanding. The curriculum is a mix of lectures from local professors and activists on economy, education, politics, history, and women’s issues with guided field trips to museums, landmarks, and religious institutions. Volunteers are also provided with language lessons to encourage independent interactions. What better way to get fully immersed and inspired by a culture?

Teaching computer in Delhi, India

For the first trip of this project, I spent the month of December in Delhi, India. At my daily placement, I taught women from the slums how to use computers at Vidya School in Papakalan. The experience was not only deeply moving, but incredibly rich with firsthand inspiration for design concepts.

On the 23rd, I leave for the 2nd adventure. This time, I’m taking Kicker Studio Managing Director, Jennifer Bove, with me to Salvador, Brazil. We’ll be working at Mother Thersea’s Home for the Dying and Destitute. Stay tuned for future posts on our experiences there!